Janesh Rahlan



Location: Chicago, IL, United States

    Issues Areas:
  • Voting Rights & Voter Engagement

Campus: University of Illinois at Chicago - Chicago, IL

Fellowship Class Year: 2011

Blueprint: South Asian Voter Initiative (theSAVI)

The South Asian Voter Initiative (theSAVI) was YP4 Fellow Janesh's project aimed at registering, educating, and mobilizing South Asian voters in the Chicago area. Janesh recognized that this work required a long-term commitment and expanded the scope of theSAVI slowly, in order to build community buy-in and support. In its first election cycle, theSAVI targeted students at the University of Illinois at Chicago, training volunteers and conducting outreach to the South Asian community and participating in larger student engagement opportunities

Featured Fellow Spotlight

YP4: What do you stand for?

I stand for a sense of activism and knowledge in every citizen, for an informed voting body that knows principles of those that they elect and know how to solve problems. If they have problems with representative they should know how to get them out of office and know how to find solutions and get things done. I stand for activism and knowledge, knowledge before activism.


YP4: And how did you become involved with YP4?

My friend Krupa Patel, nominated me. I sent my application in a week before it was due, with high hopes I would get it even though I was young.


YP4: What has been your greatest achievement so far?

The greatest achievement comes from seeing that your work is helping people. You see that you are helping make their day better. My little sister looks up to me; I’ve at least positively helped at least one person.


YP4: What motivates and inspires you?

Family, my parents had to go to school as a means to an end. I am the first one out of family that really has the chance to do something different and special; I have to do something different because I have so many more resources than the generations before me.


YP4: What is one main life goal that you want to accomplish? (What is your vision for the world?)

I want to change the landscape of health care and how it works. We don’t cover everyone to the full extent, but we pay more than nations that are completely covered. We make money off the sick; we need a culture shift and regulations. I also want education to not just be a process to get a job, but a process to enjoy. We can fix it, emphasize education and learning, to learn and appreciate the process, as education gets prioritized, we will get rid of financial hardships. Paying for education should not be a worry we have, that kids can’t get educated because the cost is too high. Last is to kind of be a center piece in his culture, as Asians we don’t really participate in social justice, we focus on medicine and engineering, we don’t really don’t do social justice. I want to follow in Rep. Jay Goyal and Chicago’s Ameya Pawar footsteps. Hey this is our world we can pave the roads for what we want, we don’t have to believe what the suits tell us to believe in.


YP4: Where do you see yourself globally, to make all this happen?

I want to go into the health care industry, through the pharmaceutical world and see how businesses operate for about 3 years. Then go to more public organizations that go behind the scenes and help reform this industry. Logistically I want to see the inter-workings; work with both sides to see what’s logistically possible for reform and implementation. I want to influence policy. I can see being an advisor or running for office too.


YP4: Tell me about your work. What are you doing right now around that work?

I finished an internship and with YP4 my work centers on South Asian voting and activism, going to a lot of public health lectures. I’m currently going to talk to doctors in not-for-profit hospitals and various interest groups. I am trying to get internship with a pharmaceutical company for next summer.


YP4: What is a struggle that you’ve faced or are facing in your work?

My one main struggle is that people are never satisfied with enough money, the greed that’s in the system and the ignorance of the system. On the other side of the spectrum everything can be free. Those are the two big setbacks, ignorance and greed.


YP4: What are you hoping to get out of the program?

I hope to learn more about organizing, this will give me a lot of resources I need to get South Asian voting initiatives off the ground. I like to be associated with all the people working on so many projects that are so amazing. I like being able to talk to alumni, they are in very good places and doing great things, and I get to associate with them and get help on furthering my goals.


YP4: If every time you entered a room your theme song played, what would it be and why?

“I Can” by Nas, that is a very perfect song, the idealism keeps him driven, keeps me motivated. I can do whatever I want, don’t let people be obstacles in the work.