U of T grad delivers UN address during the final months of her studies
Bhanvi Sachdeva’s final months at the University of Toronto were particularly busy – thanks in part to a speaking engagement at the United Nations.
As Plan International Canada’s youth ambassador, Sachdeva was invited to participate in the UN Economic and Social Council Youth Forum in late April.
“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 recently graduated from U of T Scarborough with a bachelor of science degree in behavioural neuroscience and a minor in gender studies. She says the two fields were a study in contrasts.
“In gender studies, I read feminist literature, but in neuroscience there was little mention of women or women of colour,” she says, noting there were also fewer female students in her science classes. “It made me realize the participation of girls and women in STEM is still an issue.”
Sachdeva says U of T Scarborough 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.
Aarzoo Singh, an assistant professor, teaching stream, in the department of historical and cultural studies, recalls Sachdeva 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,” Singh says.
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 Top 30 Under 30 list from the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation.
Up next? She plans to earn a master’s degree in public health at 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, adding she is confident a public health degree will 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 women had limited support to pursue an education and experienced high levels of violence.
She came to Canada with her brother and mother 12 years ago with only enough money for a single 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 [the University of Calgary’s] Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the age of 15 [to] starting my own non-profit,” she says.
Sachdeva says she 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.”