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Anya Thakur: How I Became An Advocate for Women At 15 Years Old

Teen celebrity journalist and UN Women advocate Anya Thakur on advocacy, inspiring and uplifting.

Anya Thakur on the cover of "Anyatha."

Anya Thakur, an award-winning teen celebrity journalist in the Los Angeles Times and multiple other outlets, poet and artist, and activist and UN Women advocate, is helming a movement. An advocate for the increased visibility of underrepresented minorities in arts and entertainment, she is spearheading the mission to elevate women and diverse voices. Through her pieces, she spotlights actors and change-makers helming meaningful projects and globally released blockbusters, and celebrates the importance of the art of storytelling and representation in film.

She opened up about what she described as a “time of change and a watershed moment” and what it meant to her.

“I’m beaming!” Thakur said. “We have made so many breakthroughs recently, such as with incredible women in multi-faceted female roles like Lana Condor to Constance Wu and Gemma Chan or Priyanka Chopra onscreen and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to witness and share their stories. Representation is powerful, meaningful and a vital catalyst for change and empowerment. As an Asian-American and a young girl, I’m proud that women’s voices and Asians are sharing their stories with tremendous audiences.”

Currently fifteen, she has pioneered a global organization aiming to advocate and uplift women and girls, underrepresented minorities such as Asian-Americans and South and East Asian women and diverse voices. ShePower aims to uphold UN Women’s mission to ensure an equitable future and opportunity for all through fighting for representation and visibility while empowering and elevating. Furthermore, ShePower hosts empowerment, leadership and self-defense workshops for women and girls in Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, and Munipur in India and has spearheaded dozens of outreach efforts. Through her work, Thakur creates, celebrates and curates women’s stories.

“When we empower women, we empower communities,” she said. “Women are powerful and have incredible potential. We need to help them realize that potential, which is what I aim to accomplish through my organization, ShePower, which I developed in partnership with MetoWe and my work with UN Women and GirlUp.I’ve been able to lead empowerment efforts for opportunity and equity for women and girls in Delhi, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Munipur, and other parts of Tamil Nadu and right here in Dallas, as well as Los Angeles, where I moved from.”

Thakur imparts advice to teens like her and shares the greatest obstacles she has overcome.

“Breaking out of my comfort zone and overcoming fear,” she said. “But I’ve made these word my mantra, ‘You must never be fearful of what you are doing when it is right,’ from Rosa Parks. And it’s helped me to triumph over so many inner obstacles of doubt and fear and to be fueled by genuine passion and a burning desire to enact change for not only women and girls but people.”

Young leaders have reached out to her, inspired by her work or seeking guidance.

African-American studies scholar-activist and Huffington Post writer at Columbia University Andrew Wang reached out to share a message with Thakur. “I appreciate that you care about Asian-American representation across so many disciplines. There aren’t too many of us, but we’re here,” he wrote.

The UN Women advocate was also recently reached out to by Celine Foster, the Vice President of Marketing for Stanford Women in Business and this year’s Stanford University sophomore class president, for her experience in journalism as she sought advice and expertise on starting an interview series at her school, who praised her “amazing journalism experience.”

And a Stanford University Computer Science major, who has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, introduced herself to Thakur, connecting on their mutual interest in social good. “I’m Madeline, a CS major at Stanford. Firstly, I just want to say that I love what you do; it’s amazing that you combine your passion with activism. Thank you so much!” she wrote.

Thakur remains passionate about change and progress.

“Change starts with me,” she enthused. “It starts with you. It starts with us. And being the change and helping to shape an emerging generation, break barriers in my fight for representation and inspire and educate girls is the most gratifying journey I’ve ever embarked on.”

Thakur has profiled a host of celebrities, game-changers, actors, artists, and activists including Malala Yousafzai, Emma Watson, Oprah Winfrey, Gal Gadot, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Rupi Kaur, Constance Wu, and many more as well as written poems and pieces on social good, women’s advocacy and activism here on Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global, a platform to promote awareness and mental health and one of the top fifty startups in the United States, and the Los Angeles Times. As Medium’s Women’s Voices Editor and an Arts and Entertainment journalist for LinkedIn, she continuously seeks ways to empower and elevate underrepresented voices. Nationally, she has been recognized as a Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Gold Medal winner in Carnegie Hall for her poem, ‘Mother’s Voice’ on embracing and championing her culture and finding her voice and by the National Student Poets Program. She hopes to continue her work and “empower and inspire.”

“I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I will bring to this world,” Thakur shared. “But I continually aim to inspire and empower and hope that what I have done and my level of impact is filled with substance and purpose. May we empower and inspire each other and lead the way to a brighter future.”

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