Shining a spotlight

Neyha Thandi (left) and Olivia Hemmings, the hosts of ‘The Female Focus’.

Franklin High School students Neyha Thandi and Olivia Hemmings have taken to Instagram to feature stories about inspiring local women under the handle @thefemalefocus.

From doctors to lawyers and fitness coaches, the highlighted women range from various professions and are often found discussing topics like gender equality in the workplace, pay disparity, women’s rights, and the health and welfare of women.

Neyha said they both share a passion for female empowerment, and they wanted to virtually spread information about feminism and women empowerment.

“We have been good friends since middle school and we always bonded over our passion for contributing to the worldwide feminist conversation,” she said.

At school, Neyha founded a local chapter of Girl Up, the oldest United Nations Foundation’s adolescent girl campaign, where girls empower each other and where she had been managing and planning activities.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neyha had a goal to hold an event for the community where women from varying careers would be invited to share their stories with local youth.  Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the club was unable to hold the in-person event, so Neyha had to pivot and find creative ways to share the stories of various inspiring women.

During the summer, Neyha worked with Olivia on finding alternative ways to broadcast their message and that’s where the idea of @thefemalefocus was born.

Since the inception of @thefemalefocus, Olivia and Neyha interviewed eight people, ranging from the former State Superintendent of Public Education Delaine Eastin to their most recent guest, Avery Gudel, who is an inspiring fourth grader who shared her experiences being diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 5.  The interviews are posted on their Instagram page and they are currently working on additional interviews.

“Being able to see so many different women from various backgrounds who are all unique in their respective ways and who share their stories” has been most rewarding says Neyha.  “We are two high school  students doing our best to navigate our education and prepare for our future, however this project/blog has become so important to us. Learning from these women and their experiences continually teaches us so much valuable knowledge that we also wish to share with others.”  

Due to the fact that Instagram is prominent social media platform, Neyha acknowledges the ability to reach more people, with even more consistency.

“Due to this social media platform we can reach a wider audience and update contact instantly,” Neyha said.  

Neyha said they have received an overwhelming amount of support for our project from the community.

“We have had numerous young girls and women who have reached out and told us how they were inspired by reading the stories on our page, which makes everything we do feel so rewarding,” she said.

Led by a community of passionate advocates raising awareness and funds, Girl Up’s efforts help the hardest to reach girls living in places where it is hardest to be a girl.

They have participated in the 2020 Women’s March held in downtown Sacramento and a Holiday Product Drive, where they hosted a drive at  school and collected feminine products and diapers for the women and children at My Sister’s House in Sacramento - a safe haven which serves Asian and Pacific Islander and other underserved women and children impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking by providing a culturally appropriate and responsive safe haven.

“Although our plans for the in-person Female Focus event were canceled, we still enjoyed the experience of collaborating with City of Elk Grove Councilwoman Stephanie Nguyen to share ideas about the event.  We look forward to working together on future events,” Neyha said.

As high school juniors, Olivia and Neyha are both still in the process of figuring out what careers they want to pursue in the future; however, they know for certain that they want to be powerful, educated women who inspire others.  

“No matter where we end up after high school, we will continue to educate others about women empowerment and gender equality,” Neyha said.

Check out the amazing and inspiring stories @thefemalefocus, and if you would like to recommend someone that they should highlight on their account, email femalefocusblog@gmail.com.