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20 in Their 20s: Navya Naveli Nanda

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A health-tech entrepreneur promotes gender equality

Navya Naveli Nanda grew up around strong, powerful women—her grandmother was one of the first in her family to start her own business. But she knows that isn’t the case for everyone, particularly in her home country of India.

That’s why the 2020 Fordham College at Lincoln Center graduate has made it her mission to support women. She co-founded Aara Health, a health-tech platform and line of products focused on “stigmatized women’s-related issues, like menstruation,” she says.

“I think for me, as a woman, it is really important to stand up for the wrongs that women face—whether that’s silence or accessibility to health care,” she says.

Nanda also launched the nonprofit Project Naveli, which aims to provide women with access to resources and opportunities that promote education, legal awareness, and both economic and social development.

“I think that the way in which the Indian social impact ecosystem is growing—we have a lot of young people coming up with a lot of innovative ways to give back to society,” she says. “I want Project Naveli to be one of those organizations that sets an example for how we can do social work that goes beyond just a financial exchange to help support and build ecosystems.”

From Mumbai to NYC and Back

Nanda says that attending Fordham in New York City helped inspire her creatively.

“I think just the experience of living in a city that is so full of different kinds of people, different cultures, different ideas was really good for me at that age, when I was still exploring what I wanted to do professionally,” she says. “I think it kind of pushed me to work a lot harder and be a bit more independent.”

Nanda, who majored in digital technology and emerging media, recently launched a podcast, What the Hell Navya, with her grandmother and mother to discuss topics like financial security, friendship, and health. She also uses her social media presence (including 1 million followers on Instagram) to generate awareness of women’s issues and her own work.

“I’ve always tried to use it to highlight and talk about some very serious causes and things that I work on—issues that are important to me,” she says. “And that’s also a trend that I see, at least with young people in India today, is that they’re using their platforms to talk about things that we really want to fix or we want to change.”

It’s that youthful energy that Nanda said makes her hopeful for the future.

“I come from a country where we have a very large youth population, and I think that will really bring India to the forefront of a lot of decision-making, a lot of policymaking,” she says. “I’m just excited to see what the youth in India does in the next 10 to 15 years.”

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