L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth honours extraordinary women who are making a difference in their communities. The nominations have come to an end, and nominees have been narrowed down from 100+ to ten incredible honourees! From now until March 3, you’re invited to cast your vote for ONE honouree who will receive $10,000 to go toward their desired cause.

To help you out, we’re profiling a few of the honourees to learn more about their beloved causes. First up is Ishita Aggarwal, founder of Mom’s The Word

A devoted advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, Ishita launched Mom’s The Word with the goal of breaking down barriers for new and expectant mothers who face financial, medical, and social hardships. Ishita’s personal journey has led her to believe in humanity’s capacity for love, change and acceptance. Ishita built a non-profit organization that works to navigate roadblocks in the healthcare system and connect qualified and empathetic care providers to women of low socioeconomic status (SES).

SDTC: Can you share with us when & why you decided to start Mom’s The Word? Was there a particular life event, or was it a slow build?

IA: Mom’s The Word was launched in April 2016. It was a slow build. My parents were big influences. My mom is a big believer in proper health education and answered my questions openly and honestly when I became old enough to ask them. My dad has always pushed me to explore new opportunities and try my best. As I grew up, I became interested in sexual, reproductive, and maternal healthcare and was eager to make a difference in any way I could.

Can you please share with us some of the services/resources you provide to new moms?

We host free three to four hour-long workshops for low-income and homeless pregnant women. They are led by qualified healthcare professionals and are held close to where our clients live and work. Topics include healthy lifestyle choices, mental health and coping mechanisms, labour and delivery, and substance use during pregnancy.

We also run services that connect sexual assault and rape victims with community resources and services, and we recently started assembling and delivering prenatal kits.

What’s the number one barrier that women face?

This is a tough question to answer. A major reason low-income women are more likely to struggle is because multiple barriers exist that often have a compounding effect. If I had to pick one, it would be accessibility to traditional care. It can be difficult or even impossible for low-income pregnant women to take time off work to travel by car or transit to doctor’s offices during working hours. At MTW, we try to take prenatal care information to our clients, rather than expecting our clients to seek it out.

What’s something you recently discovered, either about yourself or the world, that has shifted your thinking in a positive way?

We are constantly bombarded with bad news and at times it can seem as if the world is moments away from imploding; however, I recently learned that the opposite is true. Generally speaking, the world is getting better. The number of people living in extreme poverty is declining, child mortality rates are falling, and life expectancy is rising.

There is still work to be done; however, we should be proud of the progress we have made thus far and should find comfort in the fact that humanitarian and community-led efforts do lead to measurable change.

What’s a piece of advice you refer to often?

Be the best version of yourself. And it will be enough.

What do you want to say to an expectant mother or new mom who is currently struggling? 

When you are struggling, it is normal to feel like you are the only one who is. That is never the case. The supports are available, but you have to reach out. Asking for help is a sign of bravery, not weakness.

Click here to cast your vote for Ishita Aggarwal. Women of Worth Honourees will be celebrated at a star-studded Awards Gala in Toronto on March 8, International Women’s Day.