Anya Thakur: No better time to shine a light on empowerment and representation
Inspired by the words of “#WhenIWasFifteen” by philanthropist and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss, the founder of Kode with Klossy, which empowers girls to code and become leaders in technology, hosting workshops for thousands of young women from diverse backgrounds
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I recently turned fifteen and as I look back, I see a year filled with purpose and wonder as I found my tribe and sought to empower and uplift women and girls in media and everywhere. Through my work with UN Women and as a celebrity journalist advocating for representation, I stand shoulder to shoulder with all the women who speak for and stand for what’s right and my belief in the power we have is continually reaffirmed.
From the stories of Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, and Awkwafina and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’s Jenny Han and Lana Condor, I hope to continue to share Asian-American voices and champion underrepresented minorities. These films represented a watershed moment for representation, diversity, and visibility. And it is crucial that these gates remain open.
On that day, as I captured a Polaroid of my mom’s arms wrapped around me in an embrace and watched and made a wish on a dancing flame, I thought of all the girls around the world whose stories are yet to be shared, but are just as impactful and meaningful. The gold-kissed sweets and shining coils of Indian jalebi, as if poured down from the liquid sun, laid out before my family and friends captured the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures that I was – born to immigrant parents who raised me to be a global citizen with my heart open to others and eyes open to sometimes harsh realities – and the fragrance of incense and rich chocolatey syrups mingled in the air.
The flickering light, specks of white-hot and caramel-tinged fire, was momentarily reflected in my wide brown eyes, alive with a distinctive luminosity, and as I blew out my candles, it was so clear what was important to me – as a daughter of immigrants, a girl, an activist, women’s advocate, a first-generation Indian American, and a change-maker.
UNICEF estimates that an average of 353,000 babies are born each day around the world. And as I’ve championed through UN Women and GirlUp in passion and purpose-fueled speeches with nerves quelled by moments of unbridled fearlessness, equality and empowerment for women and girls is essential to uplifting communities globally. I hope that each child born that day as part of a new generation can grow up in a world where they feel seen, heard, and represented and that I can be a part of making that a reality through creating, celebrating, honoring, and championing stories of substance and value.
Immense progress has been made and as we look back and celebrate, we realize the power we have to continue driving change and breaking through. And the desire to make a meaningful impact and drive change is what will continue to motivate me, whether today or five years from now, as I share women’s voices and advocate for underrepresented minorities such as Asian-Americans and South and East Asian women and global empowerment and representation.
There is no better time to shine a light on women’s voices, visibility for all minorities, and to bring out the light within ourselves.