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GSWS alumnus Sharvesh L advances anti-racism through storytelling
By Casey McCarthy
Sharvesh L (MA, 2023), a queer, anti-racist activist from Singapore, is bringing awareness to the relationship between inclusion and mental health.
Coming to Simon Fraser University (SFU) with the goal of furthering their education, L chose to pursue their master of arts in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (GSWS) to gain insight into the complex social issues impacting LGBTQ2+ youth and minority groups in their community.
“I have a bachelor’s degree in guidance and counselling, and I want to work with youth facing some of the challenges I also faced growing up,” says L. “GSWS provided me with an education that was not available to me in Singapore. Coming to SFU gave me a place to discuss social justice, so I can understand how I can help.”
With a background in the performing arts, L sees storytelling as a powerful medium to transform the public’s perceptions and attitudes about groups in society that have been marginalized or misunderstood. “I attended a performing arts secondary school, and for a decade of my life, that was my focus,” says L. “My activism draws on the public speaking skills I developed as a performer. Storytelling allows me to communicate and reach people in a different way.”
During the pandemic, L drew upon their gifts as a storyteller to create Minority Voices, a platform using social media to advance anti-racism in Singapore by sharing experiences submitted by locals.
Along with encouraging empathy and allyship, Minority Voices also educates the public about the impact of discrimination on our psychological wellbeing. “The context in Singapore is unique,” says L. “There is stigma around talking about mental health and seeking help — it is important for people to know they’re not alone and that support is available.”
As part of their coursework towards their master’s degree, L collaborated with the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) to lead anti-racism workshops.
“It was exciting to work with AWARE, an organization dedicated to women’s rights in Singapore,” says L. “The workshops I developed were part of AWARE’s ‘Growing Up Indian’ initiative. As a course intensive master’s student, I created an activist statement and call to action about anti-racism in Singapore, based on my work with AWARE.”
My activism draws on the public speaking skills I developed as a performer. Storytelling allows me to communicate and reach people in a different way.
Becoming involved in the campus community also provided L with opportunities to contribute their skills and knowledge to advance social causes. “I really enjoyed being involved in the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)," says L. “I used storytelling and social media to mobilize knowledge. I interviewed activists and researchers who are doing amazing work related to anti-racism, mindfulness and other topics that speak to me.”
As a teaching assistant, L was also able to meet people on campus and gain exposure to new ideas. “My undergraduate degree was very specific, so as a teaching assistant, I had the chance to learn about a wider range of subjects while teaching,” says L. “I had the opportunity work with GSWS, as well as other departments and programs at SFU — like Global Asia and Labour Studies — that are relevant to my interests.”
After graduation, L plans to use their skills as a facilitator to continue their work furthering equity, diversity, and inclusion. “I am interested in working as a consultant with corporations and Non-Governmental Organizations in Singapore,” says L. “I plan to apply to a master’s program in counselling. I want to use my knowledge from GSWS to work with LGBTQ2+ youth and minorities in my own community.”