El Paso High senior Simran Haribhai hoped to stir conversations and help members of her generation when she launched Youth for the People — a digital platform to share stories and perspectives about humanitarian issues facing the world today.
Already, the response to her efforts have helped her grow tenfold.
“We are tomorrow’s future leaders and it’s so important to have that global mindset, compassion and empathy for others, so when our generation has the power, they can keep that in mind to make the world a better place,” Haribhai said. “Youth for the People is dedicated to educating young people about pressing global issues that I don’t think get enough media attention. Humanitarian crises, human rights violations, global movements are all things we cover through blogs podcasts and art.”
The Youth for the People website and social media platforms tackle global issues by interviewing professors, think tank members, experts and others with direct knowledge of the individual situations. Artists also contribute to the site’s gallery of art and multimedia section with their depiction of these pressing issues.
The platform can be found online, via this link or on Instagram at @_youthforthepeople.
So far, the organization has 13 contributors – both locally and internationally – and more than 1,500 Instagram followers.
Haribhai hopes the website and social media platforms continue to grow as more people become aware of their forum. She and her team continuously share and work with similar organizations to increase engagement for the platform. Students can apply to participate by going to their website or direct-messaging Haribhai through Instagram.
“We have covered everything from the civil war in Yemen to instability in Venezuela and femicide in Turkey,” she said. “My eyes have astronomically been opened to the world around me. I feel I did have a global perspective because I’ve always been interested in international affairs, international relations and but this has just put things into perspective.”
But more closely on her mind these days is the podcast she did in May with Dr. Habida Sarabi, the first woman to become a governor in a province of Afghanistan. Haribhai keeps reaching out to Sarabi through WhatsApp to check on her safety as a result of the American forces withdrawal and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan but hasn’t heard back.
“She’s my personal heroine,” Haribhai said. “I compare her to Harriet Tubman in a way because in the late 1990s, she helped run an underground network of schools for girls in Afghanistan. The Taliban was taking over, and you saw a complete oppression of women. They weren’t allowed to go to school, so she risked her life traveling between Afghanistan and Pakistan to run this network of schools for girls. She’s a trailblazing figure for women’s rights.”
The group is already planning future blogs and podcasts to further examine the situation in Afghanistan to offer a broader perspective to their peers on recent and historical events.
“It’s about having more awareness of what’s happening the world around us,” Haribhai said. “Everyone has problems but when people are physically clinging on to planes to escape, it kind of puts things into perspective.”
At El Paso High, Haribhai is getting more students involved including Gabriela Fuentes, Sarah Cortez and Kalista Fong who contribute content and help run the organization that she started during the pandemic.
Sharing responsibilities is especially important now that school is back in session. The AP Capstone student and High Q team captain is staying focused on her studies. She’s currently undecided on what college she wants to attend for undergrad, but she knows law school is in her future.
“I want to become an international human rights lawyer, so I can defend victims of humanitarian crises and human rights violations,” Haribhai said. “I see myself working for the United Nations or International Criminal Court in The Hague.”
The podcasts and interviews have influenced her career path and her desire to make a difference. One piece of advice stuck with her from the interview with Zeycan Rochelle Yildirim, who she spoke to for her piece on femicide in Turkey.
The internationally known activist, entrepreneur and philanthropist told her: “You are never too insignificant to make a difference.”
Haribhai plans to continue Youth for the People through college and work with her team to create chapters worldwide and share more stories and awareness with Gen Z.
“That’s opened my eyes as to what we can do as youth,” Haribhai said. “We’re the future. It’s important to be up to date with what’s going on in the world. There are people everywhere that are suffering. It’s up to us because we’re on cusp of getting that power to make change for ourselves. It’s important to be aware of everything going on and to work to make it better.”