Richa Gupta, the founder/editor-in-chief, recently interviewed Ziad Ahmed, the founder and president of Redefy. Devanshi Khetarpal and Trivarna Hariharan, two Moledro editors, are also members of the Redefy team. We believe that Redefy's mission to defy stereotypes strongly aligns with our theme, The Shadows Stalking Society.
Read the conversation below!
R: Most of the time, there is a sudden spark that leads to a rush of inspiration. Ziad, what was the spark that prompted you to start Redefy?
Z: It is a common assumption that there would have been a sudden spark that led me to be the activist that I am today or to found redefy, but that’s far from the case. My passion for justice has been developing since I was a kid, and Redefy was just that idea being realized. I grew up in a household where I was taught to ask the question “how am I going to make a difference?” rather then “if I am going to make a difference?” I grew up in an American-Muslim household with my mom and two sisters, while attending an all boys Catholic School, and the juxtaposition of those worlds made me acutely aware of my own identity and the diversity that exists in our world. Furthermore, going to a coeducational school in 7th grade made me even more aware of the rigid gender norms that existed during a time when anti-Muslim bigotry began to characterize our political climate, and I looked around me, and I said enough is enough. I got to a point by eighth grade when I realized too many people were being inhibited because of society’s perception of who they were, and thus Redefy was born. I knew that people weren’t excluding people out of malice but rather ignorance, and it was only going to get worse in high school, so I created the organization with a nebulous idea in mind of using education to end prejudice, and I never could have predicted what would come next.
R: According to you, what is the most urgent challenge you’d like to solve with your team at Redefy? Why that, in particular?
Z: I hope that the Redefy team can get to a place where it runs efficiently, smoothly, and continuously with or without my leadership. I think right now the issue is people are still trying to figure out their role in the organization, and my most urgent challenge is continuing to adapt and to restructure in order to ensure that every person knows exactly what they are doing and has the incentive to work diligently to advance the organization. There’s so much passion, talent, and drive within the time, and I’m just excited to continue to refine our internal processes in order for us to truly be a finely oiled machine. The plan is for me to move on to Chairman of the Board when I go to college, and for all day-to-day activity to be conducted by high schoolers. My greatest challenge is to ensure that Redefy will not only continue with the same efficiency, but will be in a place where it is even stronger and better then. There is so much work to be done in regards to social justice, and for that reason—ensuring our longevity is of paramount importance.
R: It can be very difficult to “defy stereotypes, embrace acceptance and tolerance, redefine our perspectives positively, and create an active community” (as given on your website). How does Redefy implement this ambitious mission?
Z: Our mission statement is incredibly ambitious, broad, and encompassing by nature, but I think that is a testament to our underlying philosophy. We are an organization committed to working towards equality and justice for all, and that takes A LOT of work that isn’t easy or remotely easily definable. However, to address the fact that we do have to take actionable steps for change, we have decided to have a yearly focus. For example, within that mission, this year we are focusing on gender equality. In this way, we believe that step by step — change will come.
R: Your team consists of youngsters across the globe. What do you think is the importance of global diversity at Redefy, and how do you believe it helps further your mission?
Z: Our global diversity is fundamental to our mission. We are an organization that is committed to championing values of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance, and moreover, having a diversity of opinion, perspective, and voices is essential to our goals. We would be nothing as an organization if we didn’t have team members all around the world. The fact that we have a team with over 10 countries represented means that we have the ability to reach that many more hearts, and more importantly— it means that we have the capability to learn from that many more hearts.
R: Redefy has become a huge sensation! When you started it, did you believe that it would grow this fast, and reach so many corners?
Z: This question is easy, I could never have dreamt in a million years that Redefy would grow to be what it is today, but for that—I am forever grateful. We have been fortunate to have a lot of success in our endeavors, but this is only just the beginning, and I couldn’t be more ready to impact more change as we develop, evolve, and dream in order to affect as much positive change as possible.
R: Right now, this interview is being read by youngsters across the world. Do you have any advice for them?
Z: I think advice is taken best when its concise, heartfelt, and actionable. So, my advice to all young people is simple and three-part. The first step is to reject the notion that our age should ever limit us, and to instead embrace the idea that we can do anything — irrespective of our age, and if anything — our voices are that much more powerful because of our youth. The second step is to dream — fully and completely. Allow yourselves to picture what you most want to change in this world, what you most want to accomplish, and what you want your kids future to look like, and don’t let that image go. Lastly, realize that you can make that image possible, and stop at nothing to make it so. If you have a passion, run with it — full speed, with the wind passing through your hair, and only stop to look back to see two things; how far you’ve come and if you’ve left anyone behind. And there’s the caveat, if you do see you’ve left anyone behind, you run back full-speed, and you carry them on your own back forward. That’s what we need more of in this world; dreams, compassion, and sacrifice — that’s what Redefy is all about — that’s what tomorrow needs to look like.
R: And a bit more about you—what are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Z: I try to keep myself very busy between running Redefy, engaging with politics, being a part of community service efforts, leading through various school endeavors, and always looking for opportunities to fight for a better tomorrow. That’s not to say I don’t have fun though as I’ve actually have found so much joy in the work that I do. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t have proper fun either. I spend way too much time consumed in the worlds of Olivia Pope, Meredith Grey, and Lucious Lyon. I laugh fully with my friends every weekend. I scroll through my social media feeds far more than I’d like to admit. I’m certainly busy, but never too busy to not be a teenager. It’s important that we all balance our work with time to breathe, and I’m still figuring that balance, so this is definitely an answer that keeps on changing.
R: With respect to Redefy, what is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? And what was your greatest achievement?
Z: I’d like end with brevity. My biggest challenge has been the apathy that seems to permeate so many corners of this world, and I don’t have one singular greatest achievement, but rather I have hundreds of greatest moments in the form of every time someone comes up to me to say “thank you for making my experience better,” “thank you for changing my perspective,” and “thank you for giving me a voice,” because in their voices — I find my motivation — I find myself.