Rania Lateef. Learning and Achievement for All. Thriving Futures. Futuros Prosperos.

Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School junior Rania Lateef won first place at the District 5 Virginia History Day Contest for her original essay, “The Abolition of Sati in India: A Struggle Shaped by Resistant Traditions, Indigenous Reform, and British Colonialism.” As the district winner, Lateef advanced to the state-level competition, where she won the Asian American History award.

Influenced by her deep interest in psychology, gender studies, and human rights, Lateef shared her belief that, “History can teach abundant lessons on how these [three] topics deeply influence each other.” Lateef experienced this intersection first-hand, and it inspired the topic of her essay.

“Growing up in America, with part south Asian heritage, I am fascinated by the role of culture in dictating gender specific obligations and how historical events can impact such a relationship.”

Lateef further explained, “I stumbled upon the topic of Sati in my readings of women’s rights movements across Indian history. Sati was a practice where Indian widows were expected to burn themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres. The abolition of Sati in 1829 is rightly hailed as a landmark moment in Indian history, under British colonial rule. The British East India Company and indigenous reformers played a pivotal role in the abolition of Sati, and this marked one of the early instances of colonial intervention to reform certain social practices in India. Yet it was Indian women who definitively stamped out the lingering flames of Sati in the 20th century. The abolition of Sati also brought the issue of women's rights and social reform to the forefront of public consciousness in India. This paper represents my quest to learn the truth of countless women whose voices were forever silenced.”

High school students from several neighboring counties competed in the District 5 Virginia History Day Contest, and at the state level, Rania competed against 470 students. The Asian American History award she received from the Asian and Latino Solidarity Alliance included a prize of $250 for a project submission that offers the best promotion, research, preservation, interpretation, and information about Asian life, history, or culture.

Lateef credits taking Matthew McDonald’s Advanced Placement U.S. History class with showing her the important role historical research plays in understanding modern-day gender roles for women as well as understanding the struggles women have faced throughout history.

In recent news, her paper was accepted for publication in “The Concord Review,” a highly prestigious journal that accepts single-author history papers written by high school students. From their website, this quarterly journal remains the only one in the world that publishes academic history papers by secondary students.

Her advice for a classmate or peer who is interested in participating in the District 5 Virginia History Day Contest but is hesitant to get started is, “Don’t be afraid to explore your interests through a historical lens and check out the variety of ways you can showcase your research through National History Day.”