Donya Nasser studied Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies at St. John’s University. She was the President of Pi Sigma Alpha, and the Founder and Executive Director of the university’s Roosevelt Institute, a chapter of the largest student-run campus network that promotes activism among young people, community action, and progressive policy. Donya is very interested in women’s issues and advocacy and was heavily involved with the Gender Studies Department at her university, non-partisan organizations like NOW, AAUW, and WCF, and political campaigning. She employs politics as her outlet for true change and dedicates great time and effort to worthy and dynamic candidates. She is also passionate about equality for the LGBT, immigrant, and low-income communities. Donya’s campus and community involvement are results of her commitment to change and progress.
Location: New York City, NY, United States
- Issues Areas:
- Voting Rights & Voter Engagement
Campus: St. John's University, Queens Campus - New York, NY
Fellowship Class Year: 2013
Since Donya became involved in politics, she realized there was something missing. Despite there being a strong emphasize on encouraging more women to run for office which is incredibly important there was almost no focus on the race gap in elected offices and empowering women of color specifically to run for office. As a Middle Eastern woman, Donya had no representation in Congress and no role models to look up to. These experiences and awareness led to the creation of her Blueprint Watch.Her.Lead., a project dedicated to encouraging young women of color to think about running for office and raising awareness about the lack of minority women in politics. She has been able to amplify the impact of her Blueprint across the country through presentations, workshops, and social media.
Featured Fellow Spotlight
1. What experiences/opportunities led you to apply for the YP4 Fellowship program?
I was nominated for the fellowship, and I was so excited when I received the email saying I was and had the opportunity to apply. I had just gotten my start in social justice work, particularly in advocating for women of color to run for office. So YP4 offered me the opportunity to expand my knowledge on social justice issues and institutions while connecting with like-minded young leaders across the country.
2. What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
I’m primarily focused on gender equality and youth empowerment work at the moment, especially promoting racial equity in the pursuit of both. I was doing this work on my campus, and am continuing it as a young professional. My niche is sexual and reproductive health work and encouraging young people to speak up and demand their seat at the table.
3. What are you passionate about/what motivates you to do public service?
I’m passionate about equality, and every person being advocated and spoken for. I was tired of feeling I didn’t have others like me in public service, and decided to do that myself because representation matters. If you see it, you can do it. I am motivated by my mother’s narrative, and all of the women and girls who have suffered as a result of the gender they were born into.
4. What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
I want there to be gender equity, but also racial equity within that. For every issue a woman faces, a woman of color faces at least two. I want marginalized communities to be properly represented in gender equality work, but also in political and leadership representation. Moreover, I especially want to see a social justice space that is more inclusive of and accessible to Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans. We can only get free when we all get free.
5. Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?
The Fellowship helped me launch my initiative, Watch.Her.Lead., that worked to encourage women of color to run for office. That was meaningful for the communities I was reaching out to, but also to my own work and developing out my platform and experience.
6. What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?
Do your own thing. Keep your blinders up, and remember that everyone has a different path and purpose. You can admire someone else’s work, but keep in mind the value of your own work and how different all of our journeys are in this work.
7. Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?
Thanks to YP4, I have a life-long chosen family and community invested in social justice that supports me, uplifts me, and comprises the foundation that has allowed me to grow and blossom.
8. What do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered for being ambitious and the girl who reaches for the stars, but who works with her heart and remains humble, never forgetting where she comes from.