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News 2 > Global Student Prize - Finalists > 2023 Finalists Global Student Prize > Vinisha Umashankar

Vinisha Umashankar

Vinisha is a Grade 11 student in Tiruvannamalai, a rural town in Tamil Nadu, India with over 200 small farming villages. However, she is also an artist, a TEDx speaker, an innovator and an environmentalist. Her journey began with the solar ironing cart she invented when she was 12 years old. In India, ironing vendors still burn charcoal to heat their irons for pressing clothes – but using charcoal as a fuel harms humans and animals as well as polluting the land, water and air. Charcoal had been used for so long that nobody thought twice about it until Vinisha produced an alternative – the solar ironing cart – which uses solar power and eliminates the use of charcoal.

Videos about Vinisha and her solar ironing cart have been viewed over 15 million times, including “Indian Teenager Bags Global Climate Award” by Brut Media which has been viewed over five million times on social media. As a result, Vinisha received an invitation to speak alongside Prince William, Prince of Wales as part of the World Leaders' Summit at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021. Her five-minute speech to an audience of over 3,000 public figures (including Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi, Scott Morrison, John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates) got global attention due to the standing ovation she received, going viral on social media and being seen over 30 million times.

Vinisha has also had a huge positive effect closer to home in India. Under the Indian government’s "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" scheme, the Tiruvannamalai District has appointed her the local champion to be a role model for girls and promote the importance of educating girls in the rural villages of the district. As part of this role, Vinisha has visited several schools and spoken with girl students about their worries and concerns. They discuss government aid to help with these issues as well as the value of continuing in education. Whenever Vinisha hears a girl say she wants to become a scientist, she is happy!

Vinisha’s efforts on behalf of the environment and her peers have won her a number of international and national awards. At just 12, she was the youngest recipient of the Dr. Pradeep P. Thevannoor Innovation Award in 2019. In 2020 she was the recipient of the Children's Climate Prize – an initiative of the Children’s Climate Foundation awarded to students aged 12-17 who have taken extraordinary actions for the environment and climate. If Vinisha wins the Global Student Prize, she will put the funds into a high-interest savings account and only access the interest earned, which will be spent on (a) designing a custom-made graphene-based battery for the solar ironing cart for lighter weight, higher capacity and fast charging; (b) educating two girls from the tribal community near her town; (c) providing a girl and a boy with bikes to go to school; (c) providing sanitary kits to help girls stay in school; (d) planning a dental check for a rural school near her town; (e) helping ten elderly people in a rural village access cataract surgery; and (f) donating footballs to five primary schools in a tribal area.

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