Vedha Sitlani, a Grade 11 student at GEMS Dubai American Academy, wanted to inspire students to give their best again after the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: Screengrab

Dubai: Seeing fewer girls than boys in her computer science class, a Dubai student launched an initiative to motivate more girls towards science — and business and arts too.

Vedha Sitlani, a Grade 11 student at GEMS Dubai American Academy, also wanted to inspire students to give their best again after the disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year of networking, emailing, phone calls, virtual meetings and preparation, she launched an international virtual competition called ‘Girls’ Symposium’ for high school girls to pursue innovation and creativity in their field of interest, in STEM, Entrepreneurship, and Arts.

Student teams in grades nine to 12 from dozens of schools pitched their ideas to judges online and the top three won prizes in March.

‘I was shocked’

“I want to make the girls of today the leaders of tomorrow, and I believe that is just what has transpired through Girls’ Symposium. I was shocked by the level of engagement. I had close to 200 teams registered from six different countries: the UAE, India, Oman, Iraq, Bahrain, and Qatar. I was privileged to have leading female entrepreneurs and artists judge this competition,” she said.

Cash prizes, internships

The three winning teams of the first edition of the competition have won Dh3,000 each towards their project and an internship with the judges, who include Joy Ajlouny, founder of Fetchr; Mona Ataya, founder of Mumzworld; Donna Benton, founder of the Entertainer; Dana Baki, founder of MUNCH:ON; and Dana Dajani, a leading Palestinian actress, poet, and humanitarian figure.

Vedha, whose family is from the Indian state of Gujarat, plans to organise a second edition of the competition in September.

Going global

“I was able to secure seed funding — through the sponsors of the first edition — for all the top teams to make their ideas come to reality. I left this competition feeling more inspired than ever. The quality of the girls’ ideas fuelled me to make this competition even better, to reach even more girls. I have decided to scale it to reach even more schools and teams. I am driven by a desire to create a platform that allows girls to unleash their creative skills and entrepreneurship drive in front of the whole world,” she said.

Future plans

“I’m very involved in girls’ empowerment in general, so I’m planning to start a charity soon based in India for funding girls’ education. Also I’m big on theatre, I act a lot. I’ve been involved in productions and I take theatre as a subject, so that’s a massive hobby of mine as well.”

Vedha also like economics, which she wants to pursue at university. She would like to be an entrepreneur one day.

In brief: Girls’ Symposium winning ideas


Team Tasker “help your children a click away”. Tasker in an app that allows children to engage in productive and entertaining activities which aims to improve the life of work-at-home parents. It works through a point collection system wherein parents can schedule activities/chores for children with assigned points associated with each activity. It functions through an in-app subscription model with a special activity box with specialised toys/activities for the children.


The winner of the STEM category was ‘The Inclusion Series’. The Inclusion Series targets those who are physically disabled, aiming to build a global community that accommodates the needs and situations of all. They have created innovative designs of a walking stick, wheelchair, and smartwatch that makes life easier and the world more accessible to the physically disabled.


The winner of the Arts category was a painting about racism — against racism in the time of COVID-19. Created by a young Chinese high school student, it is symbolic of the impact of racism against Asians during the pandemic and the manner in which it can impact a person.