Manat: Building confidence through storytelling
By embracing empathy at a young age, Manat started on her journey of changemaking. She embraced this power in middle school, which helped her start her own social venture to promote confidence in young girls. Bright-eyed, Manat’s story represents a generation of young people determined to build each other up so everyone can be successful, happy, and healthy.
Manat remembers being very involved in the classroom from a young age, actively engaging in science labs and raising her hand in math classes. However, in middle school, she felt that the girls around her were changing. In order to be popular, she noticed a pressure to drop her love for math and science. Manat also didn’t have any female role models in STEM for inspiration and guidance.
Manat shared this apprehension with a few of her friends and discovered that she was not alone. After talking to her parents and teachers, Manat discovered a need for an organization in her community to help girls with their confidence. Without confidence, Manat believes that girls won’t pursue their passions and fear being negatively labeled for their interests.
Finding the confidence in herself at the age of 12, Manat started a social venture, Object, to promote confidence in young girls. The name Object signifies “objecting to female stereotypes.”
Manat was nervous for her first workshop, unable to sleep the night before. The next day, she was overcome by the enthusiastic engagement between the young girls and the female role model hosting the workshop. From there, Manat was energize to amplify her work.
Once girls started to participate, their parents followed. As a result, Manat organically developed a network of adult allies eager to make a difference in their community.
Today, the venture has monthly workshops where female role models share their stories of success and struggle, offering mentorship and community building amongst young participants. “Being able to see other women role model's experiences, promotes the feeling of: if she can do it, so can I,” Manat shares.
As a syndicated young journalist, Manat values the impact of stories. She considers storytelling a means to bring people together and relate to one another’s experiences. “I think listening to others, hearing their stories and their experiences and being able to empathize and connect with them, creates a deeper understanding.”
Teamwork, collaboration, and failure are reoccurring themes during the workshops. Manat also emulates these these principles in her own venture through team of five other young girls who coordinate social media, speakers, outreach, and organizational building. The venture has recently expanded to India and Palestine, involving over 1,500 young girls during the 2018-2019 school year.
However, Manat’s journey in changemaking didn’t start with Object, but with little actions she took along the way. In 5th grade, Manat’s best friend was diagnosed with diabetes and her life dramatically changed. Refusing to allow her friend’s medical condition to dictate her ability to be social, Manat sat with her everyday at lunch in the nurse’s office. Together, they would eat burrito bowls and laugh, fostering a lasting friendship.
Object’s growth has come with its share of challenges. “Self love is just critical,” Manat reflects, “things are bound to go wrong, but if you can accept that and move forward, it's just very important because everyone's going to make mistakes but you have to learn how to cope with that.” She recognizes that changemaking is not easy, but it is the future.
"If everyone was a changemaker, Manat says “we’d listen to each other, we’d empathize with one another…that would just be critical to fostering a safe environment where girls, guys, everyone, they're comfortable to take risks. They're comfortable to put themselves out there to fail. And as a result, I think we'll see so much more innovation. We'll see just a happier, healthier society.”