She aspires to connect people: Anmol Irfan
“Anmol is a Muslim Pakistani journalist and the Founder of Perspective Magazine. Her work focuses on global feminist movements, media diversity and representation, and culture with a focus on reporting in South Asia. She also tweets – mostly about everything other than work.”
1. Tell us about yourself?
I’ve gotten so used to introducing myself for work that I now have a standard line that comes to mind when someone asks me this question ‘I’m a Muslim Pakistani freelance journalist and the Founder of Perspective Magazine,” but I’d like to think I’m more than my work. I am also a bookworm – I still very much prefer books over movies – I am also fond of traveling, exploring new places, and experiencing adventure. I like to think that words have an irreplaceable power over people and I hope that my words can bring comfort or enlightenment for my readers. My work is more than just a 9-5 routine for me because it is focused on the things that I am most passionate about and truly believe in. I often struggle with switching off. When I do, I prefer to indulge in activities like cooking, visiting friends, or reading that keep me away from my screen.
2. What compelled you to launch Perspective Magazine?
Perspective came at a time when I needed it the most for myself. As I was just about to start my final year of university in the fall of 2019, I found myself desperate to connect to Pakistani society on a wider level and be able to find platforms that explore it beyond click-baity headlines but was unable to do so. Perspective was always started as a community-platform but I know that a part of me was very dependent on it as well, because initially, it was my way of finding meaning in my community. The platform never was, and still isn’t about numbers, likes or engagement. It was always meant to be focused on people who wanted to find media alternatives to help them explore their voice and challenge the patriarchal lens through which we as Pakistanis are taught to view society. Over the last two years, multiple people have reached out and become regular contributors to our digital community, and have found comfort in the stories we share – and that’s what the essence of Perspective Magazine has always been about.
3. How did you venture into writing?
I’ve always been creative at art, and up until my A-Levels, I channeled that into painting, but I had always dabbled in writing and blogs throughout my school years. There were times when I considered entering the media industry but there was something about mainstream media in Pakistan that I knew wasn’t right for me and when I graduated, I still wasn’t too clear about what I wanted to do. What helped was reflecting on my stint as the Editor-In-Chief of The London Globalist – a global student-led magazine at LSE – because I realized that this was the kind of work I felt most connected to. Getting into freelance journalism wasn’t the smoothest but research and finding support and resources through university connections aided the process. I like to think that some part of the writer in me is still the same as the 15-year-old who used to write vivid creative writing stories. I once wrote a story about a bazaar through the eyes of a baby in a stroller. I still approach writing with a lot of hope and I can only hope to take that forward throughout my career.
4. What social issues from Pakistan do you think need attention and must be addressed?
This isn’t an easy question. I would also first like to say that I am hardly qualified to talk about social justice in Pakistan especially when I look at some of the brilliant activists working on the ground all across the country. But for me, the most important issue revolves around representation and inclusion. We are so obsessed with having this perfect homogeneous narrative that we brush everyone else’s issues under the rug. Whether it be gender equality, religious diversity, or working-class rights – we like to paint everyone with the same brush that we understand the most. Diverse voices need to be given space in media. Whether it be women from low-income backgrounds in feminist discourse, amplifying the Khwaja Sira community, giving students a better education, or moving our narratives outside of Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad – diversity is crucial to a better society.
That being said, freedom of speech and media awareness are also critical issues in this digital age. The shockingly low digital penetration in Pakistan and frequent misinformation need to be targeted on a structural level, both in politics and education. Education in itself is a sector that I believe has the power to bring a lot of change but is unfortunately neglected. As you can see I can go on a lot more – but I would urge readers to associate with on-ground activists and social workers who are working around these issues to get a better understanding of what needs to be done
5. During your academic journey at the London School of Economics, you were the Editor-In-Chief of the London Globalist PR, Blog Editor for LSE SU Women Leader’s of Tomorrow and Secretary of the LSE SU Pakistan Society. Share with us about your experiences in holding such prestigious positions as a student?
When I went to university, I wanted to do everything that I knew wasn’t available to me back home – the most important of which was joining a diverse range of groups and broadening my understanding of the world. I learned a lot mostly by engaging with a wide range of people and pushing myself to unlearn what I thought I knew only to relearn it from new perspectives.
6. In your opinion, where should our youth keep their focus to achieve personal and professional success?
A bit of an unpopular opinion here but I firmly stand against hustle culture. I don’t believe work should take over anyone’s life and personal wellbeing is crucial to both personal and professional growth. That being said – focus on what matters to you, because it’s important to be passionate about what you do. I’m still at a very early stage in my career but what helped me a lot is taking guidance from the people that inspire me, and building support networks personally and professionally. After experiencing it personally I know you can’t achieve anything if you’re burnt out so it’s okay to put your health and wellbeing first. Also, people will ALWAYS talk, so its important to tune out gossip and useless opinions.
7. How can online communities address prevailing social issues?
The digital world offers us a great opportunity to connect with people globally. I’ve worked with people across the world and learned so much. Locally, online communities are a great way to engage with conversations that may be taboo or are not yet common in our social circles. Still, online activism is just a first step in increasing engagement and must be understood as such – it cannot and should not replace on-ground activism and should be seen as a support to that work
8. Your message for the youth of Pakistan
At 22, I’d like to think I am a part of the youth myself, but I am so inspired by the people I see around. I would advise the youth to surround themselves with people who inspire them and don’t be afraid to build bridges and connections. If we build ourselves and our societies together, we can go a long way!
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