While standing in the queue of UBC’s Loafe, I met the fierce and fashionable Jalini Paramsothi, AMS’s Equal Voice president. We had our introductions, grabbed our drinks, and as if by a twist of fate, a table opened up for us in the busy café. Jalini is a fourth year student majoring in GRSJ (Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice) and will be graduating in the spring, a milestone she is both scared and excited for. This is her first year as president of Equal Voice, a society which aims for greater representation of women in politics.
Before we started the interview Jalini wanted to state her acknowledgement “I am on the occupied, traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples – specifically the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh (Slay-wah-tooth)), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations.”
HCUBC: I wanted to start by getting to know you a bit better! When did you become interested in politics?
Jalini: "To be honest, I wasn’t interested in politics when I was in high school. During my second year, I was talking to one of my friends and they asked me if I knew MIA and I said that I didn’t, and she was like ‘how do you not know MIA, you’re Sri Lankan? You need to watch Paper Planes!’ So I did. Then she told me to take this political science class, which I did, and I realised, wow, everything that goes on around the world is very interconnected with politics. That’s when I started feeling that there is a lot of power in these ideas.”
HCUBC: I understand that Equal Voice is an organisation that aims for more representation of women in politics. What kinds of things are you hoping to accomplish in the upcoming academic year in light of these aims?
Jalini: “Last year was the first year of Equal Voice at UBC and we organised the coolest event. We got a group of women to shadow a female MLA in parliament so they could see what it was like. Women empowering each other is the best thing to see! Women shouldn't have to be stuck in one place, we want to empower all women. I'm also really passionate about intersectionality. If politics serves society, then it should represent it."
Jalini explained that she is definitely planning on doing the MLA shadowing once again, as well as starting a workshop so women can feel more confident and prepared going into the political field. She also says that this year the club will be looking to gain further momentum and attract more members as well as connecting with other clubs.
HCUBC: Has the response been positive from both men and women?
Jalini: “We are an all inclusive club. We do try to include men. And saying that, some people do not identify as male or female, as gender is not binary, and we really want to include as many of these voices as we can. Women of colour, women with disabilities, and LBTQ women all need to have their voices heard in politics. Like I said before, if politics serves everyone equally then they need to be represented. But, with men, it’s important that they understand their privilege. We do not need them to speak for us, but we want men to stand with us and be our ally.”
HCUBC: As president, what does your role mostly consist of?
Jalini: “Being president is not really about me. What I really like about the role is connecting with other people. I want to work with other people to find out how we can use this club to impassion women.”
HCUBC: I’d like to end on a fun note. Is there any particular female activist or politician who you admire?
Jalini: “MIA- she’s a bad ass woman. She doesn’t care, she does what she feels. I like that. I admire Michele Obama as well. When she was asked whether Barack could have made the presidency without her, she said of course not. No matter what society says is right or wrong, these women are pushing boundaries. I admire any woman that is pushing those boundaries. I love it - we need more of it!”
Make sure to check out AMS Equal Voice's Facebook page and reach out if you're interested in joining the club!