Oh good afternoon everyone. I’m gonna just keep it here huh good afternoon everybody. This is Ava she’s 16 years old an age, where girls should be enjoying their innocence and joys of their youth, but she at such a tender age understands the importance of being a voice for her peers and advocate for young girls and women around the world who may not have the opportunities that US sitting over here have so receiving this honor from a hero like her makes this so much more exceptional so thank you good afternoon and thank you and wow I am so privileged and so honored to be sharing this afternoon with all of you and these incredibly amazing women that are being honored today I’d like to extend my congratulations to each one of you Octavia.
Michelle Kelly Patti and all 50 women that have been included in the impact report your achievements not just inspire me but also so many others to work harder to be better and to make a dent wherever we can so I’m very very proud to be standing alongside of you so in life you know there are moments when you stop and ask yourself how did I get here like why am I standing here?
Well this is definitely one of those moments for me and I find myself going back to the beginning back to my roots I was born to incredible parents amazing parents who served as doctors in the Indian Army I was the first born and as far back as I can remember I made my parents very proud and happy 99% of the time okay slight exaggerations of personal achievements are allowed from time to time don’t you think my brother was born a few years later and even then nothing changed for me.
We were both given equal opportunities and I want to emphasize this I want to really emphasize this for you because I don’t think a lot of people might understand that being equal might seem very normal but where I come from India and a lot of developing countries around the world more often than not this is an exception it’s actually a privilege my first experience of the glaring disparity between boys and girls came at a very very young age I grew up in a middle-class family with extremely philanthropic parents who constantly reminded me and my brother how lucky we were and how giving back to those who were less fortunate was not a choice.
It was a way of life simple I was seven or eight years old when my parents started taking me on these visits in a traveling clinic to developing communities around and villages around the city that we lived in called Verrilli we were packed into this ambulance and would my parents would provide free medical care to people who couldn’t afford it my job at the age of eight was assistant pharmacist so I would count all the medicines put them in an envelope and give it out to patients and I really took my job very seriously very seriously but the more I went on these expeditions the more I began to notice the simplest things that distinguished a boy from a girl or a man from a woman.
For example, girls were pulled out of school when they hit puberty because they were considered ready for marriage and babies that’s 12 and 13 while boys still enjoyed their childhood or basic human rights such as health care were denied just because they were women let this let’s call this whole experience trigger number one for me fast forward a few years and many many triggers in between like a producer-director for example early on in my career I must have been about eighteen or nineteen telling me that if I didn’t agree to the ridiculous terms or painfully low salary in his movie that he would just replace me because girls are replaceable in the entertainment business that was a memorable one made me decide to make myself irreplaceable.
But I think what really moved the needle for me and ultimately led me to create the Priyanka Chopra foundation for health and education and around the same time partner with UNICEF was an encounter with my housekeepers daughter about 12 years ago I came home from set early one day and she was sitting in my library reading a book and she must have been eight or nine years old and I knew she loved reading so I asked her I was like this is I mean it’s a weekday why aren’t you in school and she said oh I don’t go to school anymore.
So I went and asked her mother and I said you know why isn’t she in school and her mom said that her family couldn’t afford to send her and her brother to school so they chose the boys the reason she would eventually get married and it would be a waste of money I was completely blown and it shook me to my core eventually I decided to cover the cost of her education so that she could continue to learn because education is a basic human right and a huge necessity especially today from that point on I was determined to make a difference in as many children’s lives as I could in whatever big or small way that I could contribute there’s a really really beautiful quote. That I read recently and I think it’s absolutely appropriate to say to explain what I’m trying to say today the hand that rocks the cradle the procreator the mother of tomorrow a woman shapes the destiny of civilization such is the tragic irony of fate that a beautiful creation, such as a girl.
Child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity girls have the power to change the world it is a fact and yet today girls are more likely than boys never to set foot in a classroom despite of all the efforts and progress made over the last two decades more than I’m just gonna give you a stack more than 15 million girls of primary school age will never learn how to read or write compared to 10 million boys primary school it’s the beginning of our future over the last 11 years I have witnessed firsthand the incredible work that UNICEF does for children around the world especially victims and survivors of child marriage displacement war sexual violence but there is still so much work to do and for me that is the fuel to my fire.
The reason I’m so committed to this cause and that is where my passion stems from because I know that a girls education not just empowers families but communities and economies a result of her education we all do better it’s just as simple as that as entertainers and influencers sitting in this room I feel that is our social responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless which is why I applaud each and every woman in this room for being such a badass for using your platform and your voice to contribute to change and for ensuring that there is not even one lost generation as long as we are alive I’d like to thank variety and all of you for encouraging me and all of us in this room to keep going and fighting on. thank you so much.