Chilliwack slam poet heads to the UN in the New Year

Gautham Krishnaraj is gearing up to fly to NYC in March to participate in the 59th session of UN Commission on the Status of Women

Gautham Krishnaraj



Gautham Krishnaraj of Chilliwack likes to take on global topics with the creative twist of the spoken word.

The student and slam poet has been advocating for international issues like girls’ education, and has presented at local schools like G.W. Graham and Sardis secondary.

The 20-year-old is the co-founder of Raise Your Voice, and he’s gearing up to participate in the 59th session of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), from March 9-20, 2015 in New York City.

“As a young male, advocating for gender equality and girls’ education is something I find to be very important, and I am anxious to meet with the key world stakeholders and partake in valuable discussions,” Krishnaraj told The Progress.

The enthusiastic, bilingual student is in 3rd year microbiology and immunology at McGill University in Montreal, and lives on Promontory Heights in Chilliwack.

“He’s been actively involved is serving his community since he was in Grade 6,” said his mom, Thilaka Krishnaraj.

He doesn’t sit around and wait for other people to ask him to join an effort, she explains. He forges ahead and does it on his own.

“To me, he’s a leader,” she said.

He is excited to see what will happen at the UN session he’s preparing for in the new year. It’s especially timely because it’s been 20 years since the adoption of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. And 2015 is all about implementing the lofty goals they drafted in Beijing.

“I’m glad to see the focus this year is in on tangible action,” he said. “People always say the UN is only about talk, but this is about action.

“That is very important and Raise Your Voice was founded with this in mind.”

He once spoke before a crowd of 20,000 at the Me to We event in Vancouver in 2011, as part of Tedx Victoria, so it won’t be the first time he discusses the power that young people have to change the world.

Krishnaraj launched the non-profit, Raise Your Voice, two years ago, with his friend, Nik Carverhill, when they were at Pearson College UWC on Vancouver Island. The volunteer-based RYV aims to “empower youth with debate, spoken word poetry, and education.”

They partner with schools and communities to provide outreach to the most vulnerable youth with messages of empowerment. They fund girls’ education scholarships and are helping three students currently studying in Malawi.

“Raise Your Voice is about getting marginalized youth involved in the public discourse,” he said.

The UN session he’ll be participating in March will also address “opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women” and will look at the post-2015 development agenda.

It is also timely in the context of HeForShe, the solidarity movement for gender equality, he explained, which features men standing up for women’s rights worldwide.

The HeForShe.org has an online “commitment” which asks signatories to agree that: “Gender equality is not only a women’s issue, it is a human rights issue that requires my participation. I commit to take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls.”

In March, he’ll attend the 59th session of the CSW, with the Canadian permanent mission, representing the International Relations Student Association at McGill (IRSAM).

Krishnaraj will also be representing his home community and his non-profit group, Raise Your Voice, which advocates and sponsors girls’ education around the world.

“The themes will includes youth engagement and women in diplomacy,” he said. “It’s a unique space that we will fill at the UN.”

He wants to represent not only his own views when he gets to New York, but those from youth in his communities of Chilliwack and Montreal as well. So he’s asking people to email him directly with any ideas and comments to gauthamkrishnaraj@hotmail.ca.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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