By REENA RATHORE, India-West Staff Reporter

Girl Scouts Devika Kumar and Rajvi Ranka have been named the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of the USA.

While Kumar introduced women in rural India to menstrual hygiene, Ranka helped farmers in California conserve water during the drought. 

  • By creating positive change to address society’s most pressing issues, such as supporting girls’ menstrual hygiene in rural India, and creating water conservation technology to help farmers in California, Indian American students Devika Kumar and Rajvi Ranka have been named recipients of this year’s National Young Women of Distinction honor.


On Oct. 3, the Girl Scouts of the USA recognized ten Gold Award Girl Scouts from across the country as the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction.

Every year, the organization recognizes ten girls as inspiring leaders who have transformed an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact at the local, national, and global levels.

For her Gold Award project, Kumar, 18, from Girl Scouts of Central Texas, took menstrual hygiene education to girls in rural Rajasthan, India. While visiting India, the Austin teen discovered that 23 percent of girls in rural areas of India quit school because of the lack of information and resources to support menstruation. Almost immediately, she was compelled to take action.  

Kumar, now a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is majoring in international relations and global studies, raised funds in her local community to purchase sanitary pad machines from a local Indian engineer, which she then took to remote villages in Rajasthan. These machines grind cotton, press the cotton into pads, and disinfect the pads. The women villagers were then taught how to operate the machine and create a business from selling the sanitary pads. The machine is made to be self-sustainable.

Additionally, Kumar also visited surrounding villages, where she conducted mini-workshops. She showed educational videos on menstruation and menstrual hygiene, answered questions, and discussed how the machine works.

Girl Scouts of the USA notes that not only did she provide these women with critical information and a safe space to discuss menstrual hygiene, she also made sure to provide them with a way to make a small income to sustain their lives.

Ranka, 18, from Girl Scouts of Northern California, developed soil moisture sensors and readers to help farmers conserve water and use less groundwater for her Gold Award project.

The sensors are planted into the soil; they allow farmers to read and determine the moisture level in the soil. Based on the Cupertino, Calif.-based teen’s technology, farmers on average saved 25 percent of their monthly water use and were able to better sustain their businesses during the California drought, notes Girl Scouts of the USA.

Ranka, who is now studying environmental engineering at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, has since received a provisional patent on her product and is now working to make it accessible for all.

Her project is available on Facebook and YouTube as a video log to show people how the technology works and how they can replicate it globally in areas affected by drought. She has also made it cost effective so that farmers in rural or underserved communities can benefit from it.

Ranka also got an opportunity to share her project at Oracle OpenWorld, one of the leading technology conferences in the world.

AuthorBonjour Jolie