LAKELAND, Fla.– Florida Polytechnic University alumna Anita Silwal ’19 received one of the most prestigious awards given to women in Polk County for making a difference in girls’ lives.
She won the “She Knows Where She’s Going” award, presented each year by Girls Inc. of Lakeland and Bartow to celebrate women for their commitment to the community and mentorship of girls and young women.
Silwal, who earned a master’s degree in innovation and technology with a concentration in data analytics at Florida Poly, was recognized during a luncheon held May 16 at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.
“It was such an honor just to be nominated alongside many accomplished women of Polk County, especially for a young woman like me who comes from the other side of the world,” said Silwal, who grew up in Nepal. “This recognition keeps me motivated and reminds me that I can be a positive example to so many girls.”
Silwal founded the non-profit Welcome Womanhood with the mission of empowering girls through education and media. The organization offers mentoring sessions, academic scholarships, and feminine hygiene awareness programs. It also produces a show called Hometown Sheroes, a digital storytelling program to help girls influence and encourage others.
Silwal, who is now a senior planner with the City of Winter Haven, was honored alongside Albertha Whitley-Tabron from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and Evelyn Berrazueta from the Lakeland Police Department.
Other nominees included Jeanette Albino and Vanessa C. Johnson from the Lakeland Housing Authority, Dorcas l. Crumbley from Essential Catering Solutions Inc., community volunteer Erica Ray, Nadia Lewis from Polk County Public schools, and Nicole Travis from the City of Lakeland.
Get to know more about Silwal’s Welcome Womanhood organization and how her time at Florida Poly positively impacted her mission of helping others.
Tell us about your non-profit organization and what it is doing.
I established Welcome Womanhood in Florida with the mission of empowering girls through education and media. We have the ambassador program in Nepal, Kenya, and Malawi. We offer mentoring sessions, academic scholarships in partnership with various other organizations, and feminine hygiene awareness programs. We also produce a show called Hometown Sheroes, a digital storytelling program to help girls influence and encourage others.
How has Florida Poly empowered you?
Receiving my degree from Florida Poly has empowered me tremendously. I am a strong advocate for girls’ education and Florida Poly has fueled me not only with the academic knowledge, but also with the confidence to move forward with that mission. As our commencement speaker said, ‘No matter what field you choose as your career, with a STEM degree you are always one of the smarter ones.’
How are you applying what you learned at Florida Poly to continue helping young women?
I am working on expanding Welcome Womanhood towards teaching girls how to code, use data analytics software, and other STEM-related programs. We have great resources in this country. If we come together and gather those resources, there are no limits in the ways we can empower girls here and in other countries. In some parts of the world, STEM is still considered a man’s subject. We need to change that and help introduce more STEM programs to girls at a younger age. That would certainly make an impactful difference.
Why is it important to continue empowering women through community efforts?
Educated women are agents of economic development. As a journalist, I had an opportunity to report and see the condition of girls and women, from poor to rich, in developed and under-developed nations. I saw female engineers, pilots, designers, scientists in those countries, but only if they were provided with the resources. Educated women like us should contribute to changing or positively influencing societies to make this world a better place.
Assistant Director of Communications