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Meet Arora Akanksha: the woman who's determined to shake up the United Nations

The 34-year-old wants to change the world

arora akanksha
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In February, Indo-Canadian United Nations staffer Arora Akanksha announced her candidacy to be the first-ever millennial woman Secretary-General.

As a grandchild of refugees, with experience growing up in India, Saudi Arabia and Canada, Arora calls herself a "global citizen", and feels it's about time younger generations got a seat at the table.

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Speaking to HELLO!, the 34-year-old believes younger generations are consistently cast aside. "We are the missing link that hasn't been able to be a part of international organisations in a meaningful way," she said. "When will our generation graduate from visitation rights to participation rights?"

Speaking about her motivation to run for Secretary-General, Arora expressed her concerns about how the UN serves its people. "The UN only caters to the one per cent. One per cent of the largest countries, one per cent of the richest philanthropists, one percent of the top NGOs but what about the rest of us?"

arora akanksha

Arora Akanksha is hoping to be the first-ever millennial woman Secretary-General © James Mooney

Her campaign has sparked important conversations regarding the legitimacy of the United Nations and has received widespread acclaim on social media (@arora4people). "For every dollar [the UN receives], 30 cents is used for the cause, and when it comes to the climate, that number is even worse, 15 cents to a dollar," she told HELLO!. "The rest [of the money] goes to bureaucracy," she added.

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Arora also revealed the exact moment she understood the self-serving nature of the international organisation. "I went to Uganda on a work trip and I saw a child eat mud. It was a devastating image for me because I was living in a hotel where I could afford anything I wanted," she said. On returning to New York and questioning a senior official about this, she was left speechless when he simply said, "Mud is good for children, it has iron."

arora akanksha colourful dress

"Are we proud of the UN we have today? Are we proud of the results we've achieved in the world? Not really," said Arora © James Mooney

With no previous diplomatic experience, however, Arora's candidacy is unlikely to get the state endorsements it needs to succeed, and it's largely expected that, like tradition, the incumbent Secretary-General António Guterres will be re-elected. However, she's determined to break through the noise of sexism and ageism.

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"For 75 years we've given the profile of Secretary-General to one group of people, all diplomats, all older men and where are we today? The results speak for themselves. Are we proud of the UN we have today? Are we proud of the results we've achieved in the world? Not really.

"There is no title, I agree, but I have demonstrated [my experience] through my dealings. I've sat through the meetings, I know how the negotiations of countries work."

arora akanksha close up

Not everyone is convinced of Arora's candidacy though © James Mooney

Despite her confidence, though, not everyone is convinced. Former UN official Edward Mortimer said of her candidacy, "I'm sure she has no chance, and equally sure that she knows that."

Speaking to HELLO!, Arora said such comments were derogatory and disrespectful. "This is what the culture of the UN is and anyone who's associated with the UN," she said. "If I was a male, this comment would never come up. I believe in my candidacy. I know my generation deserves a seat at the table," she added.

One of Arora's biggest priorities is tackling the refugee crisis, and she has first-hand experience of how much value they can provide. "Coming from a family of refugees, I think what I've realised is refugees have so much to contribute," she said. "They are so resilient, they just need opportunities. My parents are doctors and it's my grandparents' sacrifices that have allowed my parents to contribute to society, and then for me and my brother to contribute."

arora akanksha prayer

"Coming from a family of refugees, I think what I've realised is refugees have so much to contribute," she said © James Mooney

Parting with her own advice to the youth of today, Arora said, "Don't wait for anyone to do anything for you. If you are passionate, just do it. Secondly, be open, and don't shy away from being honest in how others are treating you. A lot of times, as women especially, you just want to say the right things, do the right things but then men get away with certain behaviour.

"It's important to also say that our politicians are politicians first and leaders second, it's our job to make them good leaders. So I would say don't be afraid to call them out because a lot of times we live in a bubble."

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