The Obvious Secret

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Image of Alisha Aslam

How do you become a leader? There’s a myriad of ways I can choose to answer this, but the simplest answer is to just start. From yearning to represent the elementary class, I now represent much more than that. I’m a youth provincial riding representative, I deliver needs to marginalized youth who aspire to go into STEM, magazine writer, advocate, and a young Muslim woman, which those three words yet alone the ensemble of those 3 words, is seen as anything but successful. Most of all, I’m a storyteller. I share my experiences through my own writing, just like right now. Believe me yet? Awesome, enough about me, I’m here to answer the question I posed earlier.

It isn’t enough to be an advocate for rights. I’m legally allowed to live in my country, but I work to make it more inclusive for people like me to not only survive, but thrive. 

Think about your peers, your friends, your brothers and sisters. The only thing that all youth have in common is that we are youth. This might be alarming, but throughout this I want you to think of what I’m saying as an amber alert because something has gone missing and that’s our future. I know it’s more abstract than climate change, for example, but bear with me.

We aren't heard. We have people creating organizations, accounts, but we aren't getting real change and that's the elephant in the room it’s a problem when you have older people, also known as boomers, making decisions that will have long-lasting effects, longer than their own lives, about a generation they don't know about, and these effects will leak into our present and future. Everyone's different, but doesn't that mean anyone can fit in?. By the end of this, society shouldn't seem like your old friend who moved away and took your teddy bear, it should be your community and you must put the unity in community because you are a member of society. It’s not in your best interest to refer to it from the third person.

Performative activism, while effective in raising awareness on issues these days, is like the man with the sign account you’ve seen on Instagram. It says, “here’s what I think. Read it and do something”. If people read things and did something, students would be passing classes with flying colours, every home cook would be excellent, and robots would be replacing emotions. This means there is a fault in the system we’ve created, and I’m here to address that but also urge you to act on it. We all know classes at school are a thousand times more effective after our experiences with online schooling, and this applies for activism as well.

And while I’m saying this I don’t mean to tell anyone to stop, but we often let the barrier of performative activism replace real and raw activism, and doesn’t allow us to sympathize with our friends and peers who go through harassment or discrimination because most of the time, the reason someone is reposting on social media is because the problem is far away. Obviously people who want to change have already changed and people who haven't may continue, but we can make sure we have equitable people representing us. You see, don't @ me but I think social media activism can be harmful when activism begins and ends with social media. Therefore, social media activism is important if and only if it is used as an entryway to a conversation, but it cannot be the extent of that conversation.

Talking about issues worked before, and I wish I could calculate the percentage of drop coming for youth in the future but because it isn’t possible, no one’s paying attention to it. Keep in mind, you don’t have to become a CEO or co-founder of anything. From my experience, I have joined so many councils and been in rooms where I was the only female, the only kid, and my personal favourite, the only one rubbing her sweaty hands on her pants, worried with backup plans for backup plans just in case my ideas were invalid. I now know, and it’s what I’m going to tell you, there is no such thing as an invalid idea. It is scary, there is no doubting that, but an idea is simply a thought that has a purpose better or worse, like right now, and what purpose is for you, well that’s subjective and for you to find for yourself. 

Progress is slow, but it only drives us towards change and when we see women getting paid as much as men, genderfluid people being treated as equal as others, when we see people being who they want to be, it shouldn’t be appalling it should be adapting. As kids we’re always taught, be who you want to be, and we have that same amount of wonder in our eyes since birth, although I’ve noticed it’s the ones who truly go out to change things are the ones who keep it. Even Barbie’s motto is “anything is possible” but as soon as an Uyghur Muslim walks by being who they want to be, they find themselves in a concentration camp and those childhood thoughts are forced to die. As people in this room, you need to take it upon yourself. Not allowing others to be educated on inclusivity will only breed exclusion.

We need to come together and embrace our differences, not try to find a spell to get rid of them.You are not dishonouring your culture or country by supporting another. If this world is as diverse as it sounds then this must be true. I refrain from using “success” because success is not final and failure is not fatal, so as long as there is progress, we’re good. People are too busy using a bird’s tweet on Twitter and forget that they have a voice, and it can be used by encouraging your leader groups to go to government. If that doesn’t work, start your own initiative and when there is no seat at the table for you, you have to pull a chair and make room. As youth, we need a new plan to create positive change and use  our old traditional methods involving our voices to help tackle new problems. A few years from now, I want you to say to yourself, “everyone is different, but doesn't that mean anyone can fit in?” and this “theory” will not only be theoretically proven by a thought experiment like I’ve done, it will have been experimentally proven to real life.

The world is getting worse in countless ways, but it's also getting better. More inclusive. Less stereotypical.

In these times, I feel it's important to raise your voice. 

YOU are a member of society and society won't change until you do your part. Our generation has power, please don't forget to use it.

The children in my family are girls, and when someone found out from us, they almost pitied us and said they hoped we would get blessed with a boy, almost in the sense he would save us, to which I couldn’t stop thinking about it after. Save us from what? Is two independent girls not enough? Just why? Women are people too and are such strong beings. Make it normal for a woman to have a family but also do her job with her whole heart. 

Please keep doing the good despite your gender identity and excel for the people who might never be able to, for the girls in third world countries who are forced away from an education. Even for a family member who's spent their whole lives adjusting to stereotypes of their gender, or for your parents who've worked so much emotionally and mentally to give you space to pave your own path for yourself.  Let’s make this “Our Dream”. Remember, just reposting isn’t activism, retribution isn’t activism, violence is not change, and nervousness is not fear. There's no room for stereotypes anymore. Hopefully we can create a more equitable world for all. You’re in control of your choices, but the outcome part is where we all must keep hope as I feel my own voice gets so buried, and to be heard we must continue fighting until the voices burst out of the sea in gasps of air. The outer success can’t come from anywhere but yourself. Education merely gives you an education which is highly important, but it doesn’t provide a key to success, and the education (including respect) is what remains after. There are so many opportunities, and I’ve learned you must feed yourself, and keep going because when I observed the parliament in grade 8, there would be two people in the chamber, and the countdown started for a 3-hour speech which goes to say your work never goes unnoticed. There’s always someone who benefits from it.

Now, how do you become a leader? As Harry Potter was told, it’s the wand that chooses the wizard, but I think it’s important to remember you influence your sorting hat, and your power is within your control only. So, the answer to the question is:

You already are.

It isn’t enough to be an advocate for rights. I’m legally allowed to live in my country, but I work to make it more inclusive for people like me to not only survive, but thrive.
If people read things and did something, students would be passing classes with flying colours, every home cook would be excellent, and robots would be replacing emotions. This means there is a fault in the system we’ve created, and I’m here to address that but also urge you to act on it. We all know classes at school are a thousand times more effective after our experiences with online schooling, and this applies for activism as well.
Don't @ me but I think Social media activism can be harmful when activism begins and ends with social media.
There is no such thing as an invalid idea. It is scary, there is no doubting that, but an idea is simply a thought that has a purpose better or worse, like right now, and what purpose is for you, well that’s subjective and for you to find for yourself.
Progress is slow, but it only drives us towards change and when we see women getting paid as much as men, genderfluid people being treated as equal as others, when we see people being who they want to be, it shouldn’t be appalling it should be adapting. Not allowing others to be educated on inclusivity will only breed exclusion.
As youth, we need a new plan to create positive change and use our old traditional methods involving our voices to help tackle new problems. YOU are a member of society and society won't change until you do your part. Your work never goes unnoticed. There’s always someone who benefits from it.
Education merely gives you an education which is highly important, but it doesn’t provide a key to success, and the education (including respect) is what remains after.
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