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Gen-Z Activist and Award-Winning Director Kasha Slavner Inspires Change through Storytelling
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Gen-Z Activist and Award-Winning Director Kasha Slavner Inspires Change through Storytelling

Kasha Slavner is the founder of the ‘Global Sunrise Project’, a youth-led social enterprise which creates media content and workshops to empower youths to make positive impacts in their local and global communities. The workshops have reached over 500 youths and Kasha’s first feature-length documentary ‘The Sunrise Storyteller’ has screened internationally at 60+ festivals and won 30 awards to date. 19-year-old Correspondent Toshaunae Norris from Jamaica interviewed the Commonwealth Youth Awards finalist about what inspired her to embark on these initiatives.

In a world filled with so much negativity and darkness, Kasha Sequoia Slavner is a ray of sunlight. Kasha, the founder of the Global Sunrise Project, is a young filmmaker, photographer, storyteller, and entrepreneur using media to inspire changes in communities. She and her team believe that by sharing the stories of people who have overcome adversity and are addressing societal issues, others will be empowered to take action in their own communities.

Kasha realized from an early age that she could combine her passion for photography and filmmaking with social justice and advocacy “to build a platform for others to share their own stories”. At only 16 years old she embarked on her journey to do just that through her first full-length film, The Sunrise Storyteller, which was released in 2017. Having completed that multi-award winning project, Kasha has a new goal in sight.

Her second documentary, 1.5 Degrees of Peace, aims to show the interconnectivity between climate action (Sustainable Development Goal 13) and peace (Sustainable Development Goal 16). While she acknowledges that these two issues are usually seen as distinct, Kasha believes there must be a correlation between them since many countries considered most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are also experiencing some form of violent conflict. So, the film “follows young people who are bridging the gap between peace and climate justice,” she explains.

Inspiration

For her initiatives, Kasha has drawn inspiration from older activists who were involved in peace work for decades. She joined the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) at only 14 years old and represented it as a youth delegate at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York. After hearing and seeing the works of many other changemakers addressing the obstacles faced by society, she was empowered to start her own initiative, the Global Sunrise Project. 

Today, the now 23-year-old says she is encouraged by the “people in the Commonwealth Youth Awards who are doing incredible initiatives to make the world a better place”. She adds that she is “energized and motivated by the collective power of young people who are also addressing the world’s challenges and taking action in the ways of existing that are more sustainable, equitable, and more just for all”. 

Kasha shared that she received support at an early age for her initiative because she spoke up, and showed up when others would not. She believed that if she persisted with her projects, then others would eventually be inspired and get on board. The support she received from her mother, Marla Slavner, who accompanied her on trips around the world to gather inspiring stories, was also fundamental to her success. 

Like she has done, she believes young people should reflect on the talents and skills that they have and find ways to use them to make a positive impact in their communities. Even within the pandemic, Kasha encourages youths to use online media spaces and technology to continue pushing for positive change and to find ways to address social issues.

In my conversation with this brilliant young woman, two things became clear: we all have the right to offer perspectives and solutions to the problems affecting us, and through bold and inclusive activism, we can start the change we want to see.

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Photo Credits: Kasha Slavner

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Toshaunae Norris:  I am a former sixth-form student of Campion College, Kingston, Jamaica. I enjoy writing articles and poems. In 2020, I wrote an essay as a participant of the CARICOM Competition Commission Regional Youth Competition and received a top honourable mention in the 16-19 age category. I have leveraged my insights from this experience to enter other essay writing competitions like the John Locke Institute Essay competition 2020 and the Harvard Crimson Global Essay Competition 2021 which allowed me to build on my critical thinking and expository skills. I also hope to become an Astrophysicist and a future writer and later executive editor of the New York Times.

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The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work highlights the contributions of young people who are making a difference in their communities and celebrates their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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