7x21 - Jasmin Singh Kang
7x21 explores life at 21 with 7 young wāhine and irarere. Here's the fascinating Jasmin Singh Kang!
How do you introduce yourself?
I’m a fourth-year student at the University of Auckland, studying for a bachelor of commerce and arts. I’m Panjabi and a first-generation NZer.
What brought your parents to Aotearoa?
My dad was in his late 20s when he moved over and he spent ten years by himself. During the ten years telephoning was difficult so he and my mum wrote letters. Then when he got citizenship he bought my mum over, 23 years ago. They reconnected at Auckland airport, like those romantic movies.
Are you fluent in two languages or more?
More. I speak Panjabi, English, a bit of Hindi, Japanese, a little bit of Samoan, and I’m learning te reo Māori. I also know Latin and ancient Greek and am currently learning Egyptian hieroglyphics. I’m filling up my entire arts degree learning ancient languages.
You’re the first in your family to go to uni, is that right?
Yes. My dad finished high school back in India. My mum only went up to Year 6 before she dropped out to look after her family. Her brothers finished all the way through. That’s one of the reasons why my mum has been my biggest supporter. Every award I won at school she was always there and pushing me to go to uni. I push myself as I want to be able to do the things my mum never got the chance to do.
What’s the last thing you googled?
What’s been surprising about becoming 21?
Younger me would be surprised at how often I talk to people now. I have grown to be quite extroverted, but me in high school, she was so introverted. She hated talking to people. Any interaction she could avoid she would avoid it. She would be very surprised I am holding a leadership position.
You’re chairperson at the Manurewa Youth Council – how are you finding the position of leadership?
Growing up, anything anyone needed I was happy to do as long as I wasn’t seen doing it. Leading from the back helped me become a good leader from the front as I know how to listen. As chairperson, you nurture leadership and confidence in others. It’s so heart-warming to see people start off shy and then hold their own speaking up and being confident.
Do you have any struggles being a leader yourself?
I know my worth but sometimes it’s a little doubtful. Younger me definitely doubted myself. She always had it in her she just needed to bring it out.
Do you feel like an adult – being 21?
Absolutely not! When I turned 18, I thought ‘I am going to be an adult’. I thought when I was turning 21 ‘I am going to be an adult’. But there is so much I still don’t know. I love learning and it doesn’t just happen in the classroom.
What’s your favourite part about belonging to your community?
Our Panjabi population is quite big. It didn’t use to be. My dad always recounts a time when he was at a shopping mall and ran into another Sikh man wearing a turban and instead of looking at each other and celebrating they were both here, the man hurried away. There was that stigma associated with immigration then and being an immigrant. My dad found it quite isolating but now there is such a vibrant culture. Manuwera is so diverse and there’s definitely a big Panjabi community here.
Does your faith always play a role in your future?
Yes. I am Sikh and it's entwined with everything I want. All the values I want to exhibit and uphold are in Sikhism. Equality and service are big ones. The translation of ‘serve’ in Panjabi is not about serving someone above you but looking after one another. It’s more like manaakitanga.
How is gender viewed in Sikhism?
Very equal. When you walk into a Sikh temple, your gender doesn’t exist. You are not a man or woman or non-binary, you are your heart. That goes for ethnicity, abilities, sexual orientation and race and all these things that we label.
What are the most pressing issues facing young women and non-binary folk today?
When I look at the work I do, it’s often centred on poverty. Financial barriers are oftentimes the biggest constraint for young people and definitely for women. Often, we are told to put ourselves and careers on hold for our brothers to do theirs. You don’t think that happens in New Zealand but it’s still true.
What’s the most misunderstood thing about being a Gen Zer?
People think we are not hard-working. I think it’s the opposite. It's just the work we like to do isn’t monetary. It can’t be measured by financial measures. A lot of us are protesting for things we want to see changed in parliament. We are volunteering. We are out here breaking generational curses that are unhealthy. We do hard work, it’s just different to the hard work that the older generation is used to doing.
What do you think about the stereotype that all Gen Z’s do is live on their phones?
Phones are amazing. I see technology and what it’s allowed us to do. Me and my family can connect with family not just in India but in England, Canada and America. Being able to face time and see what they’re up to is something my parents always say ‘don’t take for granted’.
What would you say to future you?
Never stop fighting the good fight. We need people to constantly fight for the community. There will always be things that come up and we have to overcome them. I hope that community is always at the forefront of everything I do, even if I’m working a big-shot job.
What’s one word or term to sum up how you feel about the future?
Hopeful. If we start feeling any other way about the future, then it could make us give up.