When she was 15 years old, Sejal Hathi was diagnosed with anorexia. During her treatment, she learned a lot about herself, but she also realized something larger about the culture she grew up in: “Through the conversations I had with other young women with depression, eating disorders, and other psychosocial problems, I realized that so many of us were suffering from a lack of self-love and this crazy desire to be perfect,” she says. “That realization and empathy—the realization that I wasn’t alone—pushed me to do something about it.”
The result? Sejal founded Girls Helping Girls, a nonprofit organization that partners girls in the United States with girls in developing countries so they can help each other solve problems in their communities. “It started as a very small group of girls who met regularly in my neighborhood,” Sejal remembers. “Then we created a website and the media got involved. It grew and grew.”
Now a student in the MD/MBA program at Stanford, Sejal says that CTY is another organization that helped her develop her potential. She took multiple math and science CTY online courses, and says that she spent “one of the best summers ever” at a CTY summer program in California. “I absolutely loved it,” she remembers. “We read everything from Virginia Woolf through Shakespeare, and we wrote every day. My writing dramatically improved, and it definitely helped me in life and, of course, in college.”
Above: girltank co-founders Tara Roberts, Sejal Hathi, and Heather Burke at a meeting in New York City.
And during her sophomore year of college, Sejal co-founded a new organization, girltank, which essentially created a community of female entrepreneurs and helps connect them to institutional and organizational donors through crowd funding. The organization has 1,800 members, and many more attend girltank events. In 2013, Sejal was named one of Forbes' 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.
After she graduates, Sejal plans to combine her medical training with her experience working with social enterprise. “I see myself doing something at the intersection of medicine and social development,” she says. “I’m interested in improving both care and access to care for marginalized groups globally. Historically, for me, that has meant women and girls, but that focus could also be broadened.”—Kristi Birch