Dear Technovation Community,

This is only the second presidential election I have voted in. I missed three elections in India and three in the US. Now I wish I hadn’t. I told myself that I didn’t have time for politics, and my vote didn’t matter.

I also lacked humility. I lacked the humility to recognize how hard-earned that freedom is, even though I thought I cherished it. There is nowhere else that would have welcomed a young woman with no experience and encouraged her as she started an organization based on nothing more than an idea. Or supported her to grow it to reach thousands of young people around the world.

I spent the past few years studying the history of the United States and the incredible people that have fought for the rights that I have the privilege to take for granted. I learned that the US is the oldest continuous democracy in the world—and as its citizen, I feel the heavy mantle of responsibility we all wear to keep it so. Our democracy depends on our participation.

A mere 12 years before I was born, a woman in Virginia – Annie E. Harper – was not allowed to participate in our democracy. She was unable to register to vote because she couldn’t afford to pay the poll tax. She filed a lawsuit against the Virginia State Board of Elections, fought it all the way to the Supreme Court – and won! I find this so inspiring – one person can fight for justice and amend the constitution to bring justice not only for herself, but for others like her, and for future generations. Of course, I have to note that the case Annie E. Harper brought against the state of Virginia was just one step necessary to secure women of color (and particularly Black women) the same access to the ballot box that white women had won half a century earlier. This progress is long, slow, and hard-fought – and the fight isn’t over.

The story that impressed me most is from 1963, when thousands of children braved clubs, police dogs and firehoses to ask for equal opportunity and human dignity. I learned about fifteen girls who were jailed for 45 days for challenging segregation laws in the Leesburg Stockade.

The activism of thousands of African American children contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year.

Leesburg, Georgia. Arrested for Demonstrating in Americus, Teenage Girls Are Kept in a Stockade in the Countryside, © Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Leesburg, Georgia. Arrested for Demonstrating in Americus, Teenage Girls Are Kept in a Stockade in the Countryside, © Danny Lyon/Magnum Photos, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Such stories of incredible courage throughout history fuel and inspire us to care, to take action, to stand up for one another. COVID presents a challenge for each one of us. COVID-19 is exposing long-standing structural injustices. At times the weight of these injustices seems unbearable, but we are unique creatures in our ability to hope, and act on our hope, and care.

Earlier this year, I almost lost hope. I didn’t know what I could do as an individual. But I gained so much strength from stories of fighters – young and old – who just kept getting up. Voting is an act of hope. Educating our children is another. We must do both.

Our actions today will shape tomorrow. Technovation’s community of diverse girls and families represent the future. They are already shaping that future through civic engagement and harnessing the power of technology. With our votes we can help them create a more promising future that honors the history of our democracy, and the future our children deserve. As John Lewis remarked, “Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.”

More and more we see Technovation girls all over the world using the power of technology to educate, empower and amplify the voices of those who are not heard, and especially the voices of young people like themselves. A team in South Korea developed a mobile debating platform to power real life social and political moments. A team in Nigeria developed an app that would help people cast votes from the safety and comfort of their own homes, developed in response to electoral intimidation, fraud, rigging and other corruption. A team in New Zealand created a mobile game to teach users about politics and how their national government functions to target the 40% of 18 to 24 year-olds who do not vote. A team in the United States created an app to increase voter turnout by informing users about different candidate’s positions on the issues. Another US team created an app that allows teenagers too young to vote to participate in mock elections as a way to learn about local and national politics. See examples of ways girls all over the world are creating technologies to empower individuals and communities to vote.

We need to connect our actions, our impact, and our will to create significant environmental and social change. We as individuals can make great change. Our collective behavior as families, and communities, can make monumental change. No action or thought is too small. Hope is what will drive us forward – and making sure that girls and women are given the tools and the reins to lead us.

With hope,

Tara Chklovski
Founder and CEO, Technovation