“Everyone can be a change-maker for gender equality by educating themselves about the prominent issues and showing respect for diversity.”

-Vivian Kwan

Age: 26

Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta

Currently Residing In: Edmonton, Alberta

Affiliations: Centre for Race and Culture, UN Women, Edmonton Mental Health Awareness Committee, World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community, Lieutenant Governor’s Circle for Mental Health and Addiction

Tell us about yourself!

Growing up in a traditional Chinese family, I was never encouraged to speak about mental health. However, in my third year of university, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and I lost friends to suicide. These experiences prompted me to become vocal about mental health issues, especially mental health in a cultural context. In 2015, I was inspired by my peers to run for student government and was elected as the Vice-President of Student Life with the University of Alberta Students’ Union. I was surprised to find out my willingness to share my vulnerability and put myself in the spotlight encouraged other females to challenge the status quo.

How does your work promote gender equality in Canada and around the world?

My first experience opening up about my personal struggles made me realize how powerful dialogue is to addressing mental health. As a result, I committed myself to opportunities where I am able to interact with underrepresented populations to talk about stigmatized topics like mental health. As a summer intern with UN Women, I created a summer magazine feature highlighting stories of female interns from different demographic backgrounds who struggle with mental health issues, providing inspiring tips for enduring difficult times. Furthermore, I also helped work on the HeforShe social media campaign by featuring young men’s views on gender equity in Canada. In January, I will be joining the Centre for Race and Culture board to work on initiatives specifically in reducing inequalities and building strong institutions.

What change would you like to see in the world by 2030?

My biggest dream is to be able to witness a change in history, such as being alive to see the very first female secretary general being appointed to the United Nations. A lot can happen between now and 2030, so I am hopeful that we will be able to make progress if we work together. I also hope to see an increased awareness for mental health in ethnic communities. It would be amazing to see mental health become a mandatory component of the school curriculum for young students.

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