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“Giving South Asian Girls a Voice”

Teen Mindset Magazine had the honor of interviewing Srinithi Srinivas (@srinithi_ks), the founder of Empowering Your Desi (@empoweringyourdesi). Read the interview below to learn more about Srinithi and her journey through creating Empowering Your Desi.

What is Empowering Your Desi?

“EYD consists of an Instagram page (@empoweringyourdesi) and a website. Our website- empoweringyourdesi.wixsite.com/mysite – houses all of the blog posts that girls write for us, and our Instagram page contains infographics and collaborative posts that we create. 

We currently have 1000+ views on our website and 600+ followers on our Instagram page. To date, we have published 12 blog posts, and have many more lined up.These posts range from informative articles about social issues, Desi customs, and traditions to personal narratives about people’s experiences and relationships with their identities.

We have released posts on cultural appropriation, the BLM movement, mental health, mask-wearing, career pressures, body image, and colorism, all in correlation to the Desi community. These posts have been shared by our followers in order to spread the message that it’s okay to be imperfect, even if the Desi community has a tendency to pick out flaws.

One of our initiatives also involved a collaborative post, where we asked our followers a simple question: “What does being Desi mean to you?” and collected responses. Many of our followers were eager to provide their input on their Desi identity. We also collaborated with a local art account to create an appealing and aesthetic graphic to hold all of these responses. It was really fulfilling to see all of our respondents proudly share their responses on their stories.”

What inspired you to create Empowering Your Desi?

“Earlier this year, a friend and I were on a Zoom call. At one point, she brought up the struggles she had been facing, balancing her Indian identity at home and her American lifestyle through Zoom meetings and calls. It seemed to her like she was playing a constant game of ‘code-switching’, and wished she had a way of knowing if other people were experiencing the same thing.

That’s when the idea of Empowering Your Desi struck me – as an Indian/Desi teenager myself, I knew the struggles of having a complicated relationship with your identity. I started the EYD Instagram page in order to help girls just like me spread their stories and share them with a community of people who were grappling with the same problems as them. Many of our followers also want to share the great parts of Desi culture, highlighting the positive aspects that can often get buried in the sea of struggles.

Our website/blog houses all of the blog posts that people write for us. I have received so much positive feedback from the community – so many girls have been enthusiastic to share their story and have told me that it feels so good to get it out there.” 

How have you been impacted by the stories published on your blog?

“Receiving DMs from people wanting to be a part of our organization, or other activists reaching out! It’s been so great to be involved with a community of passionate individuals, and I’m so grateful to have found a place online to learn about and share new perspectives. 

I think one of my teachers said it best when she told me: “Remember that to meet amazing people, you really just need to see people as amazing. I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions of humans; we assume people aren’t special. Spending some time talking to them and seeing their potential rather than making assumptions, and you’ll find that you can always meet truly incredible and inspiring people.” Social media is often seen as a way to get quick likes and comments, but I think that the most rewarding part of posting is getting to meet new people and spending time talking to them and engaging in dialogue about current events and our personal lives. 

Another thing I just love is reading people’s blog posts! I relate so much to all of them and it’s really eye-opening to know that many other girls feel the same way. Best of all, these are all girls that I would have never met or talked to if not for this organization. Meeting a diverse group of Desi girls from all around the world has filled me with so much pride for my Desi identity.”

What was the process like creating your blog?

“In our technologically dependent world, people often see things online that are far from the real story. This ends up being really harmful, especially as they grapple with their self-perceived imperfections. Having a space where everyone can share their raw stories without any fear is so important. A lot of our writers come to us after reading and being inspired by another post on our page and wanting to share their own thoughts. It’s so amazing that people are able to inspire each other so deeply when given a means to do so.

Once someone reaches out to write for us, we send them a few general details, such as possible topics and the submission process. We usually give our writers a week or so to email their post to us, as well as provide a cover image if they are comfortable. Afterwards, I create a post on our website and create a graphic for our Instagram with their picture and snippet of their post. It’s a super easy process, and it’s great to see so many people interested in reading each other’s stories.”

What advice do you have for other youth who may be interested in creating an inspirational blog?

“Personally, as I began, I just had to talk to people. I made it a point to DM at least 10 accounts each day and engage with them, learn about their mission, and share it. They did the same for me, which helped my account grow as well. Although I don’t DM as many accounts now that I’ve grown a bit, I think that the level of personalization and interest in others’ initiatives really helped me learn more about my own and expand my reach. 

I also think it’s important to put work into the graphics/posts you put out. Since I work independently for most of the posts, I had to spend at least an hour researching a topic before I even began creating posts. The time commitment is so important. From making my website to growing my Instagram, I always see the best results when I spend quality time on my work.” 

What obstacles have you faced while creating Empowering Your Desi? How did you overcome them?

“When I first began, I was so hyper-focused on getting followers that I kept cranking out posts. Every single day. And as you might guess – they weren’t all the best. I think it was about 7 posts in that I asked myself “What was the point of this post?” 

I began realizing that it really wasn’t about the amount of content you put out, but the intent behind it. Even the most well written blog post can come off as dry if there isn’t passion sparking it. After this instance, I’ve definitely been okay with waiting a week to post, or connect back with someone, if it means that I will be more present and passionate when doing it. 

In terms of the future, I can’t say that I don’t get worried! Sometimes, I just think about how my whole platform could fizzle out in a matter of weeks, or have days where I feel unmotivated to do anything at all. At the end of the day, I think that learning to be present and really just focus on the “here and now” has helped me a lot to continue pushing and make the best of the time that I do have. There is really never a guarantee for how long any community/initiative will last, but it’s helped to know that although the physical impact may one day vanish, the emotional impact our community makes will always live on.”

What are your goals for Empowering Your Desi?

“Although I’m happy with EYD so far, I really want to push it to reach a whole other level. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas – a webinar with a Desi guest speaker, a conference for my followers to meet each other, or collaborative posts to do with some of the incredible accounts on Instagram. There is still so much more progress to be made in breaking Desi stereotypes and uniting our community. I hope to continue expanding EYD, reach many more Desi girls, and help amplify as many unique stories as I can. This journey is far from over!”

What is your ultimate dream? How are you starting to achieve it today?

“In terms of dreams, I’d love to be a teacher someday. Even if it’s not a formal career, but just serving kids outside of school! My teachers are my absolute role models – I would be nowhere if not for the sacrifices and hard work that they put into their jobs. Through my years in high school, I’ve taught both writing and music, which have given me a lot of insight into how much I love interacting with and teaching children. 

I run an online writing tutoring business (shameless plug: Triangle Writers Studio), and have taught students in the community for quite a while now. I really just love spreading knowledge and witnessing the light bulbs go off in other people’s heads. It’s so amazing to take the knowledge you know and pass it on to other people. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!”

What overall advice do you have for youth who have big dreams?

“Just keep an open mind! I feel like a lot of people hope that their posts go viral right away. However, that’s far from reality. It takes so much time and effort to grow before you can even hope for one of your posts to get that much reach. Never give up, and keep pushing! Your goal should truly just be to get your message out there. Whether 10 people see it or 1,000, be sincere and true to the mission of your organization. You’re making a difference!”

Thank you Srinithi for interviewing with us! You are such a role model for other youth have similar passions. Not only are you doing something you love but you are making a difference as you do it. Also, thank you for all the great advice and insight you gave during this interview! As a fellow publisher, Teen Mindset Magazine related to much of the advice you gave. Keep supporting your fellow youth and doing phenomenal things!

Keep in Touch with Srinithi and EYD

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