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Women Leading Change: Manjusha Kulkarni's Journey & Intersectional Advocacy

Updated: Apr 1

By Hafsa Jamal

March is Women's History Month, a time to honor the achievements and contributions of women throughout history and in society. In celebration of this important month, I had the privilege of engaging in a conversation with the remarkable Manjusha Kulkarni, my esteemed South Asian American Studies Professor from UCLA. As an advocate for gender equity and civil rights, Manju graciously shared insights into her journey, inspirations, challenges, and triumphs.

Having a South Asian professor for the first time in my academic journey was incredibly impactful. Seeing someone who resembled me who  achieved such remarkable accomplishments served as a source of inspiration and motivation. From her personal narratives as a child of immigrants to our discussions about culturally rich foods, I found myself deeply relating to Manjusha's experiences. Witnessing her achievements as a woman of color instilled within me a sense of empowerment and reinforced the notion that representation truly matters. Learning about her extensive contributions to uplifting marginalized voices underscored the substantial impact we can collectively achieve through advocacy and solidarity.

Throughout her illustrious career, Manjusha has been at the forefront of advancing gender equity, particularly within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. As the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and the executive director of AAPI Equity Alliance, her tireless efforts have garnered recognition from renowned publications such as the New York Times, NPR, and CNN. Her impactful work extends beyond national borders, as she has shared her expertise with institutions like the Aspen Institute, the World Bank, and the United Nations. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Duke University and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law, Manju has been honored as a TIME 100 Most Influential People and Bloomberg 50 awardee. Additionally, she received the 2021 Webby Social Movement of the Year award and was named to the prestigious 2022 Forbes 50 Over 50 list for her leadership in advancing the Stop AAPI Hate movement. Her impactful work continues to shape conversations and drive positive change on a global scale.

In the most recent podcast episode of JCI’s podcast ‘Civic Encounter’  our conversation delves into the challenges and successes of promoting gender equity and empowerment in the AAPI community. Manjusha discusses the challenges and triumphs of promoting gender equity and empowerment within the AAPI community. From combating anti-Asian hate to advocating for the rights of refugees and immigrants in California, Manjusha sheds light on pressing issues facing these communities. Drawing inspiration from trailblazers in the fight for social justice and paying homage to her mother's courageous stand against discrimination. By challenging societal norms and supporting one another, Manju believes that women can overcome barriers and achieve their full potential.

As a mother herself, Manjusha reflects on balancing professional commitments with motherhood and instilling confidence in young women. By setting a shining example for her daughters and prioritizing self-assurance, she endeavors to inspire the next generation of women leaders. In her closing remarks, Manjusha imparts sage advice to young women and aspiring advocates, urging them to cultivate confidence in their abilities and cultivate supportive networks.

As we celebrate Women's History Month, let's take inspiration from Manjusha Kulkarni's journey and commit to championing gender equity in all aspects of society. Together, we can empower women, confront injustice, and forge a more inclusive and equitable world for generations to come. Be sure to tune in to the podcast for more enlightening insights from this extraordinary conversation.


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