The future is here and Jathusha Mahenthirarajan’s time is now.
By Sarah Fox
Photography by Jesse Lozier
Jathusha Mahenthirarajan is staking claim on the future for the next generation of change-makers.
The Richmond Hill resident set her eyes on this goal at a young age, back in Grade 9 when she began to ponder her own purpose in life. With a little internal digging, she discovered her happiest moments centred around on helping others find their passion.
For Jathusha—who wants to see us all reach our full potential—the journey between pinpointing one’s passion and actualizing it into something that benefits the wider world is where this young woman’s skill set comes in handy.
At 18 years old, the teen has already founded two youth-engaging initiatives. The first being Ontario’s first chapter of Girl Talk—a mentorship program that pairs high school girls with middle school girls—and the second being L.I.G.H.T. (Lead, Inspire, Grow, Hope, Transform), a youth-led organization focused on community reform, initiating everything from mental health walks to tutoring for low-income and newcomer families. In both instances, her success has been the direct consequence of perseverance. “I had to relentlessly pursue stakeholders to actualize my visions for our [Girl Talk] chapter,” she recalls. “This built resiliency in me and prepared me for the countless hours, persistence and confidence I needed to bring the vision of L.I.G.H.T. alive.”
Jathusha’s efforts have not gone unrecognized. Last year, she was honoured as a leader within her province and celebrated as the “Leading Girl” at the Leading Women, Leading Girls, Building Communities awards.
But the awards go beyond honours. As Jathusha shares, her work with Girl Talk programing has given her the opportunity to create a support network for peers in her community. From the stance of a mentor, she proudly watches girls “explore, challenge and take action against issues such as body shaming, racism and mental health stigma.”
The enlightenment gained from experience opened Jathusha’s eyes to new opportunities and verified the power of youth action.
And then came L.I.G.H.T. As Jathusha describes it, the grassroots organization “was born out of my devotion and passion to build resilience in youth.” Once again, as the person who called kids to action, she “witnessed youth from all different walks of life come together for a shared sense of purpose with their best foot forward.”
Eager to facilitate improvement in the world around her, Jathusha is especially passionate about building public awareness around intersectional feminism. Moving forward, she says, “I commit to bringing unaddressed intersectional issues and voices to the forefront of spaces I am part of—a feminism that is transformative, not trendy, and that makes a better, safer world for marginalized folks every day.”
Looking ahead, Jathusha hopes Canada will have the courage to stand out as a global leader. Read on to find out how the country as a whole can work to accomplish this goal.
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
As an activist, I strongly believe in the power of the collective. Investing time, money and energy into lifting each other elevates us higher than where we would have gotten on our own. A vision will never manifest on its own; it takes a village to wholeheartedly stand with it.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
The reason I am who I am today is because of the sacrifices of my parents, the unconditional support from teachers, the loyalty of friends and the empathy of strangers who believed in my leadership and vision so much that they were willing to get their hands dirty, pouring their heart and soul—and countless hours—into making them come alive. They didn’t stand behind me; they stood with me.
Fill in the blank: Moving forward into the next 150 years, our country needs [blank] in order to build a more caring and compassionate Canada.
Canada needs the courage to disturb the status quo as a trailblazer—to provide spaces for marginalized narratives to lead the change and bring forth justice. It is easy to turn a blind eye, ignore privilege and blame others for the result of systematic oppression, but we need Canada to take the challenging route of championing for accountability with bold action, rather than sugar-coated promises.
Nominate someone you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.
I am lucky to witness a countless number of youth working tirelessly to make sure tomorrow is better than today for Canadians. From organizing book drives for homeless shelters to bravely sharing their unique narratives through spoken-word to starting innovative eco-friendly initiatives, young people are doing it all. They are truly a testament to the saying “age is just a number.” Youth are not the problem… we are the revolutionary solution.
What’s one action you would like people to take in order to build a better country?
Create a legacy that outlives you by mentoring someone. Whether you are 12 or 50 years old, each of us have the ability to give—to help someone reach their dreams and become the best version of themselves.