The Power of Stories for Social Change
Anushka, 21, is a college student in California and the co-founder of GEN-ZiNE, a publication dedicated to addressing contemporary issues through the eyes of Generation Z. Anushka is passionate about encouraging deep and critical thought about the world and to educate and inspire action. She is committed to designing media for social change and believes in the power of storytelling to empower communities by echoing unheard voices.
How did you get started in the work you do with GEN-ZiNE?
When I was in high school I wanted to be the Creative Director/Editor in Chief of a magazine that regarded social change. In my mind, I would influence culture and norms through fashion and already aspirational visuals. I know the power of media and its influence on the way we perceive the world––my freshman year of college, I learned that the term for this is “Designing Media for Social Change” when I took a class that explored that exactly.
At the end of the semester, we were asked to create our own piece of media that explored the topic of gendered violence, and GEN-ZiNE was born. Although my initial interest was in visual culture, GEN-ZiNE revolves heavily around written content.
How would you describe yourself as a changemaker?
I consider myself an advocate, and that to me is also a form of activism. I also organize within my community, but GEN-ZiNE and my advocacy are vehicles for change, conversation, and awareness around issues. Disrupting traditional conversations and stories to me feels like a step toward social change.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of creating a space for students [who don’t consider themselves] writers and “non-activists” to share and highlight issues they care about as well as personal stories. It’s an opportunity to think critically as a writer, or a space of empowerment for confronting a personal issue. I am also proud when people tell me they were challenged by an article or learned something from it. I want to do that on a larger scale too.
What do you hope people get from GEN-ZiNE and the stories you share?
I hope people get a wider view of the world. I hope they see problems that don’t exist in their individual lives, and I hope they can meet those problems with compassion and empathy. I hope that people see that the world is bigger than they are, yet we all play a part in making it a better place.
What do you want other young people to know about engaging in change?
It can start from wherever you are, and in whatever field you work in. Activism and advocacy are sometimes made out to be this extreme burden that one has to take on––but if everyone can self-identify as an activist and put in the work one way or another, the burden lifts and it becomes an integrated part of all of our lives.
When you envision the future what do you see?
I envision my own future filled with deep connections––of new and old friends. Community is all we have at the end of the day. For our nation, I envision going through some painful times of recovery and polarization for the next decade or so. However, in the long term, I am hopeful that when my generation becomes the holders of power, we will be able to really make long strides towards a more equitable world.
When it comes to our earth, I have no idea how I envision our planet in the future. At this moment, my beloved state of California is burning down around me. I feel like we will get used to this life of wearing masks and staying inside, not just from the pandemic but because of our deteriorating climate. All of the social issues I care about-–do they matter if we don’t have Earth?
How are you staying connected to peers, networks and ideas during the pandemic?
COVID-19 has allowed this unprecedented access to new networks and people because we are all connected by technology now more than ever. I root myself in using technology as a collaborative tool, taking the time to use it as a vehicle to get to know others and connect! The new ideas flow from there.
How do you self-care?
I read, journal, run, yoga, eat well, spend time with friends. I’ve adopted the entire list of “self-care” activities. However, at times even that doesn’t feel like enough. The most important thing through it all is to listen to what my mind and body are telling me. Just because I do these activities in my day-to-day life doesn’t mean that I am safe from being overwhelmed and out of balance. Those moments still happen often and the most crucial habit is to just respond to what my life is asking from me.
Civic engagement: Why is it important to vote?
Some people think that their vote doesn’t matter—but voting is a privilege. Whether or not you think your voice matters, voting is a way to ensure that you are heard. It is the least we can do, and the smallest and first step of civic engagement. Civic engagement happens in our day-to-day lives, not just through one action. To me, voting is the bare minimum if you have that luxury.
What gives you hope?
Being a student gives me hope. Having access to what feels like infinite knowledge, and this unparalleled curiosity and freedom to explore the world. And this is a mindset I want to keep with me throughout my life, not just for the next year.