June 30, 2022
Rise Up first met disability rights activist Tanzila Khan from Pakistan back in 2017 when we selected her as a Youth Champion. From the moment Tanzila began her journey with Rise Up, it was evident she was a big-picture thinker full of light, unafraid to innovate and push boundaries. Fast forward to this year—our hearts swelled with pride when Tanzila received the inaugural Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award in the United Kingdom for her advocacy work around menstrual health.
“The award is significant because it puts menstrual health and sexual and reproductive health and rights for women with disabilities on the global map,” Tanzila shared with Rise Up.
Tanzila is the founder of Girlythings.pk, a mobile application, website, and hotline that connects menstruators with menstrual health care across Pakistan.
Tanzila applied to become a Rise Up Youth Champion with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation because people with disabilities lacked representation in discussions about sexual and reproductive health and rights—and she was determined to change that. She credits her Rise Up experience with helping her develop and launch Girlythings.pk.
“As a female who grew up with a disability and who has the lens to understand what’s missing from the narrative from reproductive health rights, I don’t see much about disability anywhere,” Tanzila said. “Growing up, people would ask me, ‘Can you have children?’ All of these questions would really bug me. The idea of menstrual health care and to have access to reproductive health care services is important to grow and thrive to be part of the world.”
With funding and support from Rise Up, Tanzila created Theater of the Taboo, a path-breaking initiative to combat the stigma associated with sexual and reproductive health and rights for young people in Pakistan.
During her time as a Youth Champion, Tanzila also built strong relationships with fellow young leaders from countries around the world and found that the problems they were facing were not that different. This influenced how she thought about advocacy and her decision to lead with a global perspective.
“Every time I am designing the strategy, I am thinking about someone in California or Rwanda,” Tanzila said. “We cannot just focus on our boundaries and borders, we need to have a more holistic, global approach through our advocacy.”
We know Tanzila will continue to innovate and inspire—and Rise Up will be there to support her and cheer her on every step of the way. You can follow her incredible journey on Twitter @Tanzila__Khan.