Seema Kumari, 18, from India has been named among the top 10 finalists for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021, a new USD 100,000 award to be given to one exceptional student who has made a real impact on learning and society.
Seema, who hails from Jharkhand, has started studying at the Harvard University, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world.
She overcame the child marriage norm of her conservative village upbringing and went on to focus on her studies with the help of women’s empowerment organisation Yuwa.
“I am excited to be in the Top 10 for the Chegg.org Global Student Prize and I hope to get more help for Yuwa and help more girls escape child marriage like me and be financially independent,” Seema said on making to the final 10.
Seema began playing in a football team run by Yuwa and when it opened an all-girls school in 2015, she was able to pay the school fees by using her skills by taking football sessions in her spare time.
At first, she found the new lessons difficult because they were in English, a language no one in her village knew. She stood her ground against societal pressures and as a result has had a huge positive effect on her community.
All six of her cousins have followed her and joined Yuwa football teams, with five also joining Yuwa School.
Seema leads workshops for younger girls on topics, including life skills, helping them gain confidence as well as reporting and resisting abusive behaviour in their villages.
In 2019, she became one of 40 students selected from across India to complete a full academic year in the US, as part of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study programme, finishing her year with straight A grades. In 2021, Seema began her studies at Harvard University on full scholarship. If she wins the Global Student Prize, Seema says she will use the money to launch a small business helping women in her village make and sell rugs – providing them with legal work in a safe environment.
“Seema and all our finalists represent the courageous and hardworking students all over the world that are fighting for their future,” said Lila Thomas, head of Chegg.org – the non-profit arm of edtech firm Chegg.
The Varkey Foundation launched the Chegg.org Global Student Prize earlier this year, a sister award to its USD 1 million Global Teacher Prize, to create a new platform that shines a light on the efforts of extraordinary students everywhere.