Adrija Jana is the young and one of the most acclaimed activist

If you wish to meet 17 year old Adrija Jana on weekends, you might probably have to make a circle around Kolkata, as that is the time she devotes to taking care of stray animals on the streets. On weekdays, she can be found at conferences, symposiums, or teaching underprivileged children, both online and offline.

Since a very young age, Adrija has been known as somewhat of a rebel figure in her local community. The voice of protest, not even the smallest injustice could get past her. From someone purposely stepping on an ant, to a senior bullying a junior- her voice could be heard wherever she felt it was needed. At the same time, she was very kind hearted and empathetic- from saving motherless young crows to helping out classmates who had fallen out with her- she stepped back from nothing. Eventually, she came to be known as “Mom of the Batch” in school and “Young Mother Teresa” among friends and family.

As her literary and leadership talents came to be known in school, the circle of opportunities expanded. In Grade 8, she became the English Literary Head and an Editor of the quarterly magazine of the school for Middle school. She also won the distinction of being an ASSET Talent Scholar scoring above 95th percentile in an international level Olympiad. She was also awarded the Principal’s Award for Outstanding All Round performance.

Later on in Senior School, Adrija represented not only her school, Mahadevi Birla World Academy, but also her country during a week-long reciprocal exchange programme with Kunming No. 8 High School based in the Yunnan province of China. She attended the school for a week and lived with the Chinese family, and later received her Chinese partner in her own family in India for a week, contributing to the improvement of India-China diplomatic and cultural relations.

In early 2020, like many others, Adrija had just completed her class X board exams and was full of ideas about how to spend her final two years of high school when the lockdown due to the Covid 19 pandemic suddenly began. The initial excitement of being able to stay back home turned into frustration as even resting became tiresome. Looking for a productive way to channelise her energy that aligned with her interests, Adrija joined an NGO for the very first time, Yeh Mera India, devoted to education equity, climate change activism and women empowerment.

Since then, there was no turning back. Just a few months into the pandemic, cyclone Amphan struck West Bengal and other East Coast areas, wreaking havoc. Adrija not only mobilised thousands worth of relief material for victims, but also organised fundraisers and donation drives to support Yeh Mera India’s “Feed One Feed All” Covid relief campaign feeding 2500 people everyday during the pandemic.

In Grade 12, Adrija became the Secretary of the Student Council, Chief Editor of the English Literary Department of the School Editorial Board, Deputy Secretary General of the MUN Board, and led various Clubs, inter school fests and events as a Core member. She was also a peer mentor for her juniors and organised workshops on Creative Writing for them.

This was also the time Adrija realised that her writing had a voice too. Her poetry started reflecting and protesting against issues she cared about- domestic violence, marital rape, education inequity, period poverty and menstrual stigma and the rights of refugees. Numerous times attempts were made to harass and threaten Adrija into silence, but her voice remains strong as ever.

Adrija has been a part of the Colonization Collective’s Winter Arts Mentorship and has attended The Kenyon Review’s Writers’ Workshop on a full scholarship. Adrija’s poetry has been published in several literary journals including the Diana Award winning Empower magazine, The Global Youth Review and The Youth’s Voice Magazine. She has also been interviewed by several organisations regarding her activism efforts like “Forever Blooming,” “Empower,” and “A Gen Z’s Take” and spreads awareness through the same. She attended and was commended at the 2020 Policy Symposium on “Crimes Against Women” organised by Utpravan Youth Foundation and Girl Up International, meant to urge innovation in policy by think tanks and government organisations in India.

Adrija has also been featured by the Telegraph, a national daily in India. Her poetry collection, Shackles, was recently published by Notion Press. She was placed second at the Roundpier International Poetry Contest 2021 and won an honourable mention at the International Cultural Connections Writing Competition organised by “The World in Us,” U.S. Her piece regarding her experience during the pandemic is to be published along with a very few select other pieces by ISM Youth Files, MediaRites, based in Portland, Oregon, supported by the Miller Foundation and the Oregon Community Foundation and led by Dmae Lo Roberts, a two-time Peabody award-winning documentary producer, filmmaker and writer and the executive producer of MediaRites.

During the pandemic, Adrija also devoted her time to teaching underprivileged children as a fellow at the prestigious Teach for India Teaching fellowship, and as a facilitator at her school’s Outreach programme, Masti Ki Pathshala. Currently, she is a mentor at the Refugee Outreach Programme of the Refugee Empowerment Project. Adrija is also the Senior Chapter Coordinator at the Diana award winning non profit Period Society fighting against menstrual stigma, and has been recognised for her exemplary contribution to the organisation.

An already versatile young leader, Adrija’s interests expanded even further during the pandemic. Apart from writing, theatre, dance and music, she found herself strongly drawn towards filmmaking, research, public speaking and MUNs. Adrija has won several debates and MUNs at the inter-school, national and international level like Heritage School MUN, Lakshmipat Singhania Academy MUN, Speakbold MUN and Change Dystopia MUN and has served as a Chairperson and Executive Board member at conferences like MBWAMUN and Week for World Parliament (WWP) 2021. She was also the recipient of the Global Scholar Scholarship Award at the International Cultural Programme organised by “The World in Us,” U.S.

She has acted in plays for Theatrecian, a BB4 recognised theatre company and served as a Project Coordinator with The Red Curtain International, an international theatre groups. She has also taken part in theatre workshops led by prominent personalities like Mr. Ananda Lal, Ms. Ramanjit Kaur Ms. Dana Roy and Mr. Tathagata Chowdhury. In public speaking, she has trained under Mr. Raju Raman.

Adrija was selected to be a part of the Summer Film Cohort at Youth Media Academy, The Representation Project, based in California, United States. Her documentary, Shh! It’s a War Zone, on the plight and rights of refugees, has been accepted to International Film Festivals like “Home is Distant Shores,” U.S., “Dirigo International Student Film Festival,” U.S., “Duemila30,” Italy, “Independent Video Film Festival of Youtube Art Club,” Greece, “Kalakari Film Festival,” India, “One Earth Awards,” India “Lift Off Global Network First Time Filmmaker Sessions,” U.S., and has been appreciated globally.

Adrija has been a two-time Research Fellow at the International Socioeconomics Laboratory, affiliated to Harvard University, and has completed their Econ 50 and Econ 70 Undergraduate level course. Her team’s research, “Opiod Crisis in Arizona,” was commended by the Arizona Senator Ms. Christine Marsh, and received the Best Data Analysis Award at the 2021 ISL Symposium. Her research on Palestinian migrants received a won at an inter school conference and was published by the International Journal of Social Science and Economic Research. She has also been a research fellow with Pre-College Research Institute led by Harvard alumni and ICreate Youth’s Research Fellowship and has been awarded a full scholarship of INR 25,000 to attend the International Summer Research Cohort of “Young Leaders for Active Citizenship”, India. She earlier had delved deeper into Activism with YLAC’s “Counter-Speech Fellowship Programme.” Her research efforts have been recognised by “Bichitra Pathshala” with a citation at their International Conference.

However, this journey was not without adversities. In early 2021, her mother and grandmother both suffered fractures and had to be operated on. Other family members were down with Covid. Meanwhile, two consecutive heavy cyclones destroyed her family’s fishery business. Adrija managed the other family business while earning from other sources to help run the family and pay her siblings’ school fees. Meanwhile, this was also the time the Covid graph in India was at its peak. Adrija worked as a Covid volunteer to reach oxygen, blood hospital beds and other resources to Covid victims, and made sure hundreds of orphaned children were taken care of. Even so, she performed excellently in academics and handled all her responsibilities with extreme sincerity and efficiency.

Later on, Adrija received the $2500 USAA STEAM scholarship at the “Educating Children of Color” annual conference for her higher education. She was entered into the “Inkzoid Book of World Records” for being the “Youngest Individual to Win Awards in Most Fields Within Two Years.” She has been selected as a finalist at the prestigious 12th Kyung-Uhn Scholarship Speech Contest, U.S. and is a Weaver at the first Weavership Cohort of YouthxYouth.

Adrija finds solace in Chinese music, journalling, and innovating eccentric new recipes. When asked about her message for youth, she said, “Believe in yourself. Believe that you have the drive and determination to reach the goal you have set for yourself, and you’re already 90% there. In case you find yourself blocked, remember, as I always say, when you cannot move ahead anymore, push yourself just one step further.”