The final months of university are busy for every graduate. But not every graduate needs to schedule in addressing the United Nations.
That’s what Bhanvi Sachdeva (BSc 2023 UTSC) was occupied with in April. The Plan International Canada youth ambassador was invited to participate in the UN Economic and Social Council Youth Forum.
“I spoke about the negative effects of poor menstrual hygiene on access to education, employment, well-being and migration,” she says. This is one of the areas of focus of her non-profit, Articulate, along with girls education and climate change.
Sachdeva graduates from U of T Scarborough with a bachelor of science degree in behavioural neuroscience and a minor in gender studies. The two subjects provided a stark contrast. “In gender studies, I read feminist literature, but in neuroscience there was little mention of women or women of colour.” In science classes, she found there were relatively few female classmates. “It made me realize the participation of girls and women in STEM is still an issue.”
The campus offered a supportive environment, helping her with funding to ensure she could attend the UN forum and offering her research assistantships. Although her university experience took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and she returned home to Calgary for her second year, she was back on campus in her final two years. She worked as a residence engagement facilitator, organizing activities for residents, and was a writer and editor-in-chief for U of T’s Margins magazine.
One of Sachdeva’s supporters is Professor Aarzoo Singh who recalls her former student expressed a keen interest in gender issues including access to health care for immigrant women and victims of domestic violence. It was in Singh’s class that Sachdeva won an undergraduate research prize.
“She was always enthusiastic and engaged, her energy often positively influenced her peers which proved her to be a leader amongst her classmates,” says Singh.
Sachdeva’s community service work won her recognition as a Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada from the Women’s Executive Network and on Alberta’s 30 Under 30 List from the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.
This year she is pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She was accepted to six American universities and chose Columbia University. “It was the right place for me,” she says.
Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school specializing in neurosurgery. “Public health is a natural fit with my advocacy work and my interest in public policy as it affects marginalized populations,” she says. She is confident it will also be useful once she has a medical degree.
Sachdeva’s interest in marginalized populations comes from her own experience. She spent her childhood in Punjab, India, where she says there was limited support and opportunities for women to receive an education as well as high levels of violence towards women.
She came to Canada with her brother and mother twelve years ago with only enough money for a first month’s rent. The family settled in Calgary, where Sachdeva adapted and thrived.
“Calgary was a wonderful home for me. I found a community that supported all of my endeavours from working in a research lab at Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the age of 15 and starting my own non-profit,” she says.
Reflecting on how far she has come, Sachdeva is grateful for her mother’s influence. “My mom has been a key support getting me to this point. She is a single mother, so accomplished, and has provided me with unwavering support in all of my decisions.”
More than anything, Sachdeva is looking ahead to her next challenge.
“It’s just starting to hit me how much I’ll miss Canada. I have a community of friends in Scarborough,” she says. “Leaving feels scary, but I’m really excited for what New York holds.”