The 2018 Merfish Award is presented to Jahnavi Jagannath for her work promoting gender equality in policy, economics, and legislation both on campus and across the nation.
Jahnavi holds a double major in Policy Studies and Sociology, with a minor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. After her graduation, she plans to work in policy, law, or environmental activism before attending law school, specializing in environmental or civil rights law.
Jahnavi has done significant work within the Rice community: volunteering with the Rice Women’s Resource Center for four years, directing the Vagina Monologues during her senior year, contributing as an active member of Rice for Reproductive Justice, and coordinating two Alternative Spring Breaks to Washington D.C. to meet with policymakers to discuss gender equality within legislation. Through her work directing the Vagina Monologues, Jahnavi led the production to its highest attendance, raising over $3,000 for the Clinic Access Support Network, which supports those seeking abortion care in Houston. In preparation for the Alternative Spring Break trips, Jahnavi and the Alternative Spring Break group organized a Rice-based, all-women visual art show on-campus.
Beyond the hedges, Jahnvai has participated in the Human Rights and Advocacy Study Abroad program and has acted as a policy intern for the South Asian Americans Leading Together and the Center for American Progress. During her time with the Human Rights and Advocacy Study Abroad program, Jahnavi examined human and environmental rights issues in the United States, Nepal, Jordan, and Chile while also completing a project researching the relationship between religion, gender, and activism. As a policy intern for South Asian Americans Leading Together, she worked on policies regarding hate violence, immigration, and racial profiling. At the Center for American Progress, Jahnavi researched legislative data to create databases relating to progress in women’s economic justice before compiling the data into an interactive website.