What are the causes that are important for you and the youth today and why?
The social and behavioral health of youth has always been extremely crucial in my opinion because it plays such a large role in their everyday lives. For instance, teen dating violence is prevalent among US adolescents, and the ways schools respond determines how much support they receive even throughout the rest of their lives. Moreover, LGBTQ+, BIPoC, and students of low socio-economic status comprise an abnormal majority of those who struggle with mental health, bullying, and harassment. There are a myriad of intersections within this vast topic; I believe that striking conversations about it is the first step toward de-stigmatizing and dismantling systems of oppression.
What was the first moment of enlightenment that encouraged you to take action for the society you live in?
A significant moment for me was when I was a 14-year-old high school freshman at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown. My grandmother used to tell me stories about how she was a social worker for village girls in India who suffered from child marriage and critical reproductive health concerns. After doing more research on issues related to global gender inequity, I couldn’t bear to keep quiet. That year of 2020, I founded my high school’s Girl Up Club, where I believe my journey “officially” began.
What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin?
Find a topic that interests you, that you could spend days upon days researching, and do something about it. I found that starting chapters or becoming members of existing organizations gave me ready access to larger platforms and resources. However, it is also great to develop your own initiative to expand and share. Attend webinars, read books and articles, and always ask questions. Most importantly, work with other dedicated, like-minded people to advance your goals.
How can we make intergenerational collaboration between young people and decision-makers happen?
We need decision-makers who listen to people of all communities, especially the smallest and least represented. Young people can reach out to leaders and vice versa in order to build relationships, form trust, and help youth attain platforms. Rather than viewing youth as dependent on adult leaders, we must start seeing them as valuable contributors to society.
Natanya Kharat (she/her) is a high school senior from Northern California with a strong passion for local and global advocacy. She is currently one of ten representatives on the Sacramento County Behavioral Health Youth Advisory Board and has co-developed and co-hosted a workshop at the 2022 Girl Up Global Leadership Summit. Natanya aims to study social and behavioral health and policy in order to help achieve a more equitable future.
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