Singapore — Two university students have taken it upon themselves to shed some light on the social problems faced by minorities in the Singaporean context — be it racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
They began the Instagram account @MinorityVoices, which serves as a platform for minorities who have faced discrimination to come forth and share their experiences.
TISG had a sit down with the two co-founders to talk about their own experiences and what prompted them to begin this venture.
Beginning of Minority Voices
“Oh, where’s Sharvesh, we can’t see you, only your teeth.”
“Do you smell like an Indian?”
These were the types of comments Sharvesh L., 23, was subjected to during his time at the School Of The Arts (SOTA), and sadly, not one of his first encounters with racism.
It was what eventually spurred him to begin the @MinorityVoices Instagram account with Veena T., 22, in April 2020.
In the span of two months, Minority Voices has accumulated a whopping 8,500 followers and it shows no sign of slowing. Minorities, of every age, gender and orientation have come forth to share their struggles in a bid to open the eyes of the majority to the underlying snippets of discrimination they face in their day-to-day lives.
Minority Voices is not the only thing these two go-getters are exclusively focussed on. Sharvesh is pursuing an internship at Pathlight School, where he works on the ground with autistic children, and Veena is juggling integral roles in two start-ups.
Minority Voices was born when Veena came across a song on YouTube, almost unbelievably named The Curry Song. It featured East Asian children singing about making curry and, worryingly, appropriating Indian and Malay culture. She was then put in touch with Sharvesh, marking the beginning of Minority Voices.
Looking back, Veena spoke about her own brushes with discrimination.
“I never felt like I was Singaporean. It always felt like I was lucky enough to call Singapore my home because I moved here and I wasn’t exactly born here.”
By beginning this venture, they hope to put these stories in the forefront and make people reflect on what is right and what is wrong.
“It’s not just about name-calling but more of dismantling stereotypes and, more importantly, the system.”
In a more local context, with regard to the recent General Election, they expressed their disappointment with the way the People’s Action Party handled minority representation.
On a global level, Veena felt the Black Lives Matter movement was the catalyst in opening up discussions about race and discrimination in Singapore.
“I think people just began calling out Singaporeans who spoke up about BLM but couldn’t understand or contextualize racism in Singapore,” said Sharvesh.
Also, he felt the recent General Election highlighted the underlying racial divides and kickstarted many conversations about discrimination among Singaporeans.
Minorities in Singapore will never be able to understand the struggles of the racism faced by the black people in America, but he hopes that this will, in the very least, get Singaporeans talking about the local discrimination faced by minorities.
“I’m well aware that Sharvesh and I cannot eradicate racism entirely but in the long run, we hope to live in a country which is more open to having these types of conversations and also more importantly, where the necessity for these conversations does not exist, due to it being an equal society,” said Veena.
In the future, both Veena and Sharvesh hope to see their work materialise and, more importantly, make a positive impact. Sharvesh, especially, hopes to speak in a TedTalk one day.
With regard to Minority Voices, they would like to expand into charity work and public service and hopefully get the chance to interview more influential people of colour in the future.
More about co-founders
Sharvesh L is a Counselling major and a trained storyteller. He is interested in the intersections of gender, race and sexuality and challenges those norms in his storytelling performances that focus on Indian folklore, myths, legends, etc. Sharvesh is the co-founder of Minority Voices, an initiative dedicated to shed light on the stories of everyday racism and discrimination faced by oppressed groups in Singapore. He is currently rediscovering and redefining his identity as a 23-year-old queer, brown, Tamil man living in Singapore and hopes to feel Singaporean without needing to assimilate to Chinese-ness.
Veena T is currently a 22-year-old law student at Durham University who intends to specialise in human rights and climate change. As the other co-founder of Minority Voices, she is keen on the improvement of law enforcement and legislative reform and is also passionate about politics, dismantling racism as well as discrimination of any kind. Ultimately, she aspires to make an impact on a global scale by working in governmental organisations and eventually aims to join the United Nations to support and aid people around the world who are in need of help.
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