Synopsis:A quarterly series of articles, reporting on the volunteers of the 8th Zoroastrian World Youth Congress (8ZWYC) to be held in London during 2023.
This series of articles aims to provide an insight into the profiles of the individuals who will be organising the 8th World Zoroastrian Youth Congress (8WZYC). Each article will detail on how they are trying to inspire and motivate the future generation of young Zoroastrians. We hope that these profiles will provide readers with an insightful perspective on the aim and vision of the 8ZWYC and some of it’s challenging goals through the eyes of the organizing volunteers.
This first article looks at the journey of the two congress Co-Chairs and how they use their voice to represent the community and add value to bring about progressive change through a communal voice.
Sheherazad F Kapadia and Sanaya Khambatta are both from London, England and are together chairing the 8WZYC. In 2019, they took over the UK Young Zoroastrian (YZ) committee as Chair and Vice-Chair respectively and are committed to representing the voice and views of young Zoroastrians in the UK.
Both Sheherazad and Sanaya come from Zoroastain families who have been strongly involved in their Zoroastrian communities. In the past, Sheherazad’s father was the 2WZYC Treasurer and her mother was a teacher for Zoroastrian Children’s Fun Club. Sanaya’s family has been prevalent in the Delhi Parsi community and several charitable causes. As a result of their families involvement, Sheherazad and Sanaya have both been active in the Zoroastrian community from a young age.
In this article, they hope to shine a light on their journey in representing the YZ community and planning the 8ZWYC.
Why do you wish to be involved in the community?
Sheherazad- At age 10, my family and I moved to the Middle East which seemed like a scary decision at the time. We never thought we would find a Zoroastrian community as vibrant and loving as our London group. However, looking back, it may have been the best choice my parents ever made! Within the first month of moving, my family and I were introduced to a group of expatriate Zoroastrians who called themselves, the 'Abu Dhabi Bawa Gang’. From then on we enjoyed communal weekly dinners, outings and celebrations. The Bawa Gang taught me so much, but most importantly they taught me that wherever you go in the world, whatever you do and no matter how scared you may be of the future, your Zoroastrian community and faith will always be there for you. As soon as I returned to London to study, I felt a sense of responsibility to give back to my Zoroastrian roots and so I joined the YZ committee. Beyond that, I truly hope that through the 8WZYC I can help give youth all over the world a sense of belonging, empathy and a voice. Afterall, a community that cares, is a community that makes for a brighter tomorrow.
Sanaya- Growing up, my family always ensured that I had a strong sense of community and as a result I always had Zoroastrian friends and engaged with them socially on a regular basis. Through this I felt a real sense of belonging and this helped shape my identity and allowed me to understand more about the religion overall. I have always been a proud Zoroastrian and my main motivation for my involvement with the YZs is that I want others to feel the same way I did growing up. I want them to have a sense of community, to meet other like minded individuals and make and share experiences with them and to follow the religion, not because they have to but because they want to.
Sheherazad and Sanaya aged 5, with Sheherazad’s Dad
What do you think you can bring to the table in terms of co-chairing the next WZYC?
Sanaya- Both Sheherazad and I come from different backgrounds- whether that be career, academic or our extra-curricular activities we participate in. However, it is this differentiating outlook that will benefit us greatly as we embark upon our journey in co-chairing the next World Zoroastrian Youth Congress. We both come at a problem or task from a unique perspective and work on collaborating together to provide the best course of action that benefits our community, peers and the project at hand. We have grown up together and over the years have come to mutually understand how the other thinks, their strengths and areas of confidence and we plan on using this to our full advantage when working with others. We are confident where our area of expertise lies and understand when to delegate or ask for help from each other when faced with something we are unsure about. We both believe communication and transparency is key in working with one another and a passion for what we are doing-which we have in abundance!
Sheherazad & Sanaya at Sanaya’s 18th Birthday
How do you overcome representing a community and not just your own viewpoint?
Sheherazad- For me, having a communal voice is essential to good leadership. So often today, we see world leaders who bring their personal agenda in politics and it tends to only create more divide. Having a communal voice does not just mean representing the views of others, it means accepting that sometimes your ideas or opinions will not be followed and you will have to implement a different ideology. Whilst at times this can seem hard, it is important to remember the wider goal that you are working towards and that without listening and considering other points of views, we cannot expect to create a more inclusive and empowered community. I have always been led to believe that when taking on a role of leadership, whether it be; captaining your high school sports team or starting up an enterprise, listening and respecting the opinions of all those you represent will always be a huge asset to your endeavours and success.
What is the value of having a female based committee and acting co-chairs?
Sheherazad- The young Zoroastrian community in the UK has a vibrant atmosphere, and I am both proud and grateful to say that women in positions of leadership is not a rare occurrence in the UK YZ community. I truly feel that having a congress committee that is made up of so many wonderful and accomplished young women is essential and will showcase how we are paving the way to a more equal society. Personally, I know Sanaya and myself believe that without equality and the empowerment of women, a strong future of our religion cannot be achieved.
What do we hope the Zoroastrian youth will look like on a global scale?
Sanaya- Looking to the future of the global Zoroastrian Youth community, we hope that individuals will continue wanting to follow the Zoroastrian faith and be part of the global community- through attendance at events such as youth congresses and world congresses. This can develop one’s spiritual and emotional connection with the religion and their peers, and allow individuals to see us as one global community rather than simply a religion that they ‘have’ to follow. We wish for the YZ community to advance and slowly start tackling progressive issues that we face, not only within the religion, but in society too and to evolve to be respectful and inclusive of all.
We hope our answers have provided you with an insight into us as individuals as well as our views for the progression of the Zoroastrian Youth. If you have any questions to be addressed in future articles please email them to 8WZYC@ztfe.com and we will be happy to respond.