Born after 1996, Gen Z is coined to be the first generation of true digital natives. This inextricable tie to the digital world means we have a powerful influence over how people relate to everything - whether it trends, social causes, or even how we perceive brands. When I think of Gen Z figures like Greta Thunberg or Emma Chamberlain come to mind, and whilst I stan them both, I think it’s time we add a splash of diversity.
For this week's issue of #Trending we're talking about how South Asian Gen Z is paving its way as a force to be reckoned with as change-makers in the 21st century.
In 2019, Pranjal Jain started a digitally-connected community called “Global Girlhood.” Her goal with the platform was to create a global community that uses storytelling to revolutionize representation in media, education, and leadership. Before founding Global Girlhood, Pranjal worked with her school, local libraries, and even a past district attorney of New York to refine the cyberbullying curriculum at her school. She started advocacy work around age 11 or 12 because of her own experience with cyberbullying. In a feature piece for Seventeen, she says, “I like to think of Global Girlhood as my love letter to the world. Growing up as a formerly undocumented South Asian immigrant, I felt like I never really saw women who looked like me, who had similar backgrounds as me, doing the kind of work I wanted to do.”
I came across Kavita Rai’s work when I read her article on the Farmer’s Protest in India on Brown Girl Mag’s website. From there I discovered that at 19 years old she’s a public speaker and storyteller that uses journalism as a platform for activism. Aside from being a politics contributor for Brown Girl Mag, she’s worked alongside a UN foundation, called Girl Up, as a youth consultant to advise on advocacy strategies and also founded Justice in the Classroom (JITC). JITC is a student-led organisation that advocates for racial equity in public schools across Ventura County. In case you needed an extra reason to be impressed (which you probably don’t), she’s also the youngest person to work with Nithya Raman (Los Angeles City Council Member for the 4th District) to help draft city policy.
In case you were ever wondering what DMs between Kaneeka (Chief Coordinator for Pardesi) and I look like, it's usually us fangirling over Desi content (Exhibit A below).
Anyways, besides Malavika Kannan being the first-ever South Asian Gen Z that I’ve seen to be featured on Instagram, she’s a 19-year-old author and advocate for girls changing the world. At 17, her Indian mythology based book titled “The Bookweaver's Daughter” was published. Other amazing projects Malavika has taken up include co-creating a viral poetry campaign which was released by Refinery29 and founding “The Homegirl Project," which is a 3000 member-led organization that empowers and trains WOC and non-binary in political organizing.