Meet Elanie Paredes: Reproductive Rights Activist and Founder of Ignited Voices

School & class:  Barnard Class of 2019

Major: Political science

Hometown: NYC

1. Tell me a little about yourself. What are your favorite hobbies and interests?

I really enjoy dancing and meditating.

2. A few years ago you started a non-profit called Ignited Voices. Would you mind telling me a little bit about what Ignited Voices does? 

Ignited Voices is a reproductive justice collective for and by young women of color. Ignited Voices aims to provide an avenue of self-expression through an online support system, group workshops, and trainings. Members learn about sex education and leadership development through a mentorship fellowship. College students will serve as mentors to the young women. We are currently recruiting mentors and plan on launching the program in the Spring.

3. What motivated you to start Ignited Voices? 

I always felt like sex education was inaccessible to me. I there was a lot of shame surrounding sexual and reproductive health in my community. After graduating from high school, I decided to work for Planned Parenthood of New York City to learn more about reproductive rights. Since then, I developed Ignited Voices, a 501(c)(3) organization that services young women of color living in Upper Manhattan neighborhoods.

4. Have you always been passionate about women's rights? 

Yes, however, I officially learned about women’s rights when I was a junior in high school when I attended the ANNpower Vital Voices Leadership conference.

5. As non-profit's founder, what are your short and long-term goals? 

My short term goals for Ignited voices are to establish its first chapter at Columbia University and launch the mentorship program in the spring with 10-12 fellows. My long term goals are to establish multiple Ignited Voices chapters across the country and to expand programming.

6. What are your plans for Ignited Voices after you graduate? 

After I graduate I plan to continue managing Ignited Voices, however, I will be looking to increase the staff and leadership of it.

7. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own non-profit? 

My advice is to identify a few people to join your team to make your vision happen. It is very difficult to start a non-profit without help from others so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

8. Earlier this year you attended a conference titled "Young Women Leading the Way: Strategies and Solutions to Breaking Barriers for Girls and by Girls" at the White House..congrats! What attracted you to this particular conference? 

Thank you! I was invited to this conference through a non-profit called Girls for Gender Equity and immediately accepted the invitation. I was attracted to this conference because I wanted to partake in the conversation about uplifting the voices of young women and particularly young women of color.

9. What was your favorite part of the conference? 

I was happy to see that the young women in the room were leading the conversation. My favorite part was when multiple women in the room made sure to highlight the ways in which the organizers of the conference could have been more inclusive and offered suggestions for improvements.

10. How was your experience in the White House? 

My experience in the White House was bittersweet. I was excited to be at the White House but I also thought about how the White House has been and is a symbol of oppression for many people in this country and around the world.

11. Who is your biggest role model? 

I can’t say that I have one role model, however, a person that has influenced the work I do is Amanda Matos. Amanda is a Columbia College alum and has done a lot of work towards achieving racial and reproductive justice. I met Amanda when I began working for her at Planned Parenthood of NYC as a community organizing intern. Amanda is the founder of a non-profit called The WomanHOOD Project and is a leader in uplifting the voices of young people. I view her as a mentor, role model, and friend.  

12. If you could make one change in the world, what would it be? 

It’s difficult to identify one change I’d like to make in the world because it is impossible to isolate one issue from another. However, if I could I’d want to make make safe and affordable health care available to everyone.

13. If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

If I could have lunch with anyone in the world I would have lunch with Michelle Obama. I want to have lunch with her because she is brilliant and inspirational. I hope to influence and inspire others in the way that she does some day.