Although I had volunteered from age eight, my life changed dramatically when I was sixteen years old. The fact that children of my age and younger were being bought and sold like chattel in brothels was outrageous and intolerable to me. This sparked a fire within me. I felt obligated to reach out to the world’s most vulnerable children. My road to social entrepreneurship, leadership, and humanitarianism had just begun.

At age seventeen, I journeyed to Sri Lanka and successfully executed a three-and-a-half month self-investigation. Partnering with the National Child Protection Authority, I participated in a risky sting operation as the decoy—posing as a fifteen-year-old child in prostitution, which led to the successful apprehension of a forty-year-old offender.

Never was it so apparent to me the extent to which children suffer from exploitation and the need to foster protective environments that guarantee safety and dignity. These experiences taught me a valuable lesson: Freedom is more than the absence of exploitation, it is also having a voice and being listened to. The realization that the presence of youth voices is essential for a balanced view of children’s rights prompted me to identify a void in the child rights arena: a youth-driven organization to provide tools, training, and meaningful opportunities. At age nineteen, I founded OneChild, and have strived to maintain a high degree of professionalism, positive relationships, a strong work ethic, and a successful track record of inciting change and social activism.

While serving as a member of the Canadian Senate Committee against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth, chaired by Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, I also served on the international advisory councils and judging panels of World of Children USA, Do Something USA, and FLARE Magazine for several years. I also participated in the Women’s Executive Network expanded WXNWisdom Peer Mentoring program.

Channeling my earnings towards startup funds for OneChild, I persevered towards success in both academics and activism. I contended with the common perception that youth lack the intellect and experiences to make meaningful contributions, as well as an adult-run organization undermining my efforts. I searched for advice from mentors and allies to endorse me, utilized my friendships, and developed a network of professional contacts. At twenty-seven, I continue to focus on the successes and forge ahead.

What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?

Explore career paths based on interests, education, personality, skills, strengths, aspirations, and economic trends. Have an overall vision and a strong passion.

Take on challenging jobs, be confident, focused, results oriented, hardworking, and a good communicator and listener. Improve your knowledge, credentials, and transferable skills. Overlook criticism and prejudice. Suggest innovative ideas.