9 Things You Need To Know About VMW Insider Yusra Said
BY AISHA AZBA AMIJEE 30 SEPTEMBER 2020
1 She’s one of the original VMW digital storytelling facilitators
The Aquarius-sign graduate student was one of the original Voices of Muslim Women Digital Storytelling Program facilitators. Hired as a teaching assistant, Yusra taught the very first 2017 cohort with Zakiyah Shafique and Aisha Amijee at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC. This was even before VMW was an actual non-profit foundation! VMW started as this university digitally storytelling course for Muslim women in the community in Surrey.
2 Her friends describe her as happy, empathetic and sarcastic
Yusra is always smiling. Being a resilient, tough cookie, herself, rain or shine, you’ll find Yusra has a soft smile or ear to ear grin, but she’s always smiling. Her friends would vouch for her always being there to listen and support them and that sarcasm is her default setting.
3 For the Love of Learning
After completing a Bachelor's Degree from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, in BC, Said moved to Alberta to pursue her Master of Social Work, specifically in Adult Mental Health and Addictions. Yusra, explains, “ I regularly enjoy the social justice theme applied to all aspects of learning and how it expands my view on social issues.”
4 Passionate about BIPOC Initiatives
Yusra is on track to become a clinical social worker specifically working with immigrant and refugee youth and women facing mental health concerns as the stigma is still very well prevalent in these communities. Yusra expands, “ I am passionate about reducing mental health stigma in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and advocating for policy changes to support BIPOC individuals to thrive and succeed.”
5 Her # WCW: Ilhan Omar
When asked about a celebrity or powerhouse woman in your life who’s inspired you, Said admits, “Hands down, one of my biggest Muslim female role models is Ilhan Omar!”. If you’ve been living under a rock, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar is an American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district since 2019. She is the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen of African birth, and the first woman of colour to hold elective office from Minnesota. She’s also the author of This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman.
6 She found Sisterhood and Inspiration in the 2018 Gala
The VMW Gala in 2018 hosted at the Bell Performing Arts Theatre created a lasting impression on Said. She explains, “the large gala in 2018 has been by far my favourite event thus far. The professionalism and culture showcased has left a lasting memory for me.” The gala hosted an awards ceremony, photography exhibition, performances and more to celebrate the professional accomplishments of Muslim women in BC.
7 Representation Matters: Ringleaders Conference 2018
“The Ringleaders Panel in 2018 was an inspiring event that helped to increase my confidence as I heard and saw from women who look like me in successful positions.” Among the panel were power house professionals who were unapologetically proud of their Muslim identities and shared their experiences. These women included Ilhan Abdullahi, Dr. Nasrin Maiter, Alia Youssef and Veen Aldosky. Yusra explains, “Being a Muslim woman has provided me with experiences that I can share for individuals to learn from in my education, but it has also hindered me in the way people view me, specifically when they underestimate my abilities.” Listening to the experiences and challenges shared with other Muslim professionals is uplifting and empowering beyond belief.
8 She makes physical health and fun a priority
You wouldn’t be able to tell because she doesn’t boast much, but Yusra is an all around athlete and positive role model for Muslim girls maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. She has been playing soccer on a variety of community teams for years. She also enjoys snowboarding, travelling and watching hockey!
9 Yusra Said On Keeping Connections
Yusra’s advice to young Muslim students is to not give up, not be afraid to seek supports when times are tough, and keep connected with the community, family and friends.
Final count down questions:
5 Amazing Women You’ve Met through VMW:
Zakiyah Shafique, Aisha Amijee, Allison Youssef, Shahin Khan and Fatima Ali
4 Items you always have in your purse:
Laptop, Headphones, Notebook, and Pen (Bonus COVID Special: Hand Sanitizer!)
3 words which sum up what VMW means to you:
Strength, Support and Sisterhood
2 People who have empowered you to be where you are today:
One person who has empowered me to get to where I am today is Aisha Amijee, for her tireless support of the community and her dedication to education about social justice. Another individual is Alisha Chauhan, a woman who I am lucky enough to call a friend and who has shown me what true resilience is and encouraged me to speak up, open up, and pursue my goals.
1 woman who has been your role model:
My mother has been my biggest inspiration. She has gone through several difficult experiences in her life and still manages to come out stronger every time. I aspire to be as resilient in my own life when struggling.