Maheen Iqbal of The Defiant Movement talks about 2020, global politics and more with The Gen Z Collective!
Tell us all about you and your organization! Hey! My name is Maheen Iqbal and I am a 16-year-old from Toronto, Canada - and the founder of The Defiant Movement, a digital magazine dedicated to allowing young people to dissect politics and social issues. — Following the divisive 2016 American election, the ripples of which were felt across the world, I knew I could no longer stay silent. As a woman, as a person of color, as a child of immigrants, as a human being - I had the obligation to do something. I created The Defiant Movement when I was 15-year-old, in March of 2019, to “defy” the belief that young voices are not valuable or are unimportant in the national conversation. Just over a year later, we have staff members from all across the world, have interviewed countless activists and changemakers, and have cultivated an online community of passionate young people committed to enacting societal change. Aside from our social media and digital magazine, we’ve held events across the Toronto area for our readers and community members; from panels about post-secondary education, to creating care packages for disenfranchised youth struggling with poverty. —I’m so incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished together in the first year of our launch, and I’m so excited for everything to come!
Why do you think it’s important for your generation to let their voices be heard? Fundamentally, I believe that young people are no longer the leaders of tomorrow - but the leaders of today. As young people, we will go on to bear the burdens of irresponsible climate policies, education cuts, and inept leadership. With this in mind, we must have our voices heard and valued. I take issue with the stereotypes often associated with our generation; we’re “lazy” or “entitled” or “too idealistic”. As a matter of fact, Gen Z is by far one of the most socially conscious and socially aware generations to date; we aren’t afraid to have our voices heard, or stand firmly in the values we believe in. I find that so refreshing, and always seek to amplify young voices in my work.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? The more I reflect on this, I recognize that the future is not black or white. On some days I feel really hopeful and uplifted, on others, I feel drained and discouraged - either way, our actions or lack thereof will be indicative of the future ahead. Progress is the only way forward, and it is something I will never stop fighting for. Even on the darkest of days, where I am overcome with pessimism, I remind myself that I just have to work harder and do more to achieve the change I wish to see; let the anger, the frustration, and the passion drive you.
What are the most important issues facing our world right now? And in the future? If I had to pinpoint one issue that I think is one of the most critical in the world right now, it would be climate action, and understanding the disproportionately devastating impacts it has on disenfranchised communities. Without understanding the magnitude, urgency, and consequences of climate change, people will continue to die and suffer at the hands of inept and vacuous leadership. As well, I think climate change also exposes countless societal flaws, whether it be racism, classism, or intergenerational poverty. As such, I always try to consider the intersectionality of every social issue, and how it impacts communities of color in a far more disastrous extent.
What does your organization offer that helps the world be a better place? I truly believe that representation is salient in building a more empathetic, understanding, and equitable world. In the political/media realm, I seldom see young, diverse voices bring a fresh and much-needed perspective to the table; giving young people of color a platform to voice the concerns that matter most to them is powerful. I still remember the first time I saw someone that looked like me represented in politics, in media, and in positions of leadership. Young people need to feel heard, and represented; their voices are important to the national conversation - and we want to amplify that.
Will you be voting in the next election? I’m actually based in Toronto, Canada so I will not be participating in the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. As invested I am in American politics because of the evidently international ramifications the election poses, I am grateful that Canadian politics have never been as divisive or ugly. Our federal elections are always notably more civil and unified; although we have our own unique set of challenges as a nation, I’ve always been proud to call Canada my home. Canadian politics are genuinely more liberal overall and I appreciate the fact that Canadian voters collectively more often likely to shut down leaders who spew hate and division. That being, I absolutely plan to vote in Canada’s next federal elections in 2023 - when I’ll FINALLY of voting age.
Please tell us all about your current campaigns, projects and endeavors. We are always highlighting youth organizations and activists on our website and social media accounts, and our feature content submissions are open 24/7! You can apply to have your work featured by visiting www.thedefiantmovement.org/apply.
Tell everyone where to find you online and on social platforms. You can find us on Instagram @thedefiantmovement, and Twitter @defiantmovement!