We're so excited to share that our founder, Aisha Amijee was featured in Didihood's September Issue. If you haven't already subscribed to Didihood's newsletter or follow them on IG, you need to for all things related to South Asian Sisterhood and Empowerment.
Happy September, Didis! Although it's been a pretty quiet year for us with everything going on in the world, we're excited that the second cohort of our mentorship program is launching this month! We've been able to pair over 25 women across Canada and we're looking forward to the connections. Stay tuned to our social media for updates!
Meet The Didi:
In this month's Meet The Didis, we chat with Aisha Amijee, founder and executive director of Voices of Muslim Women, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that educates and mentors girls and women professionals to be confident, connected and informed leaders.
Why did you start VMW?
I started VMW as a solution to a problem. I was teaching a community media literacy and social justice program called DigitaLENS at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in 2016 when I realized that all of the Muslim students in my program (KPU Surrey is located in a densely populated area of Muslim youth) were experiencing high volumes of Islamophobia. This deeply troubled me as they shared story after story of incidents where they were targeted and bullied for being Muslim. It didn't trouble me enough though to do anything about until one day when I was sitting at a McDonald's with my own children, then five and two. As we were enjoying our meals, we heard two different tables of high school students bashing Muslim girls. I looked at my five-year-old daughter's face as she registered what her neighbours thought of her and my heart sank. I knew I had to do something about this. I have a master's degree in social justice education and curriculum development and I also worked at a leading community-based university. I decided to create a new course called Voices of Muslim Women where Muslim girls and women could share their stories, learn about media literacy and also come together as a community. This resulted in the first cohort of VMW digital storytelling course, film festival and awards for Muslim women. With the support of the community, we gained enough support from Muslim women around B.C. to turn the course into an actual non-profit foundation. Now, we're proud to offer a mentorship program, scholarships, membership and an elegant awards gala every year. Your organization has a mentorship program, as well as a digital storytelling program and podcast, why did you want to start these initiatives particularly? Mentorship has always been an influential part of my life and changed my life. It taught me subconsciously to be OK with being the biggest, smartest and most ambitious version of myself and not to hold back. I feel blessed and compelled to give back to community in the same way. When you see women who look like you, have names that sound like yours, it changes something inside you. It's important for women to connect, know one another and help each other up. We have to embrace and normalize a culture of abundance and sharing our resources and knowledge to help all women take seats at the table. We do this by connecting women one-on-one for six months at a time with our mentorship program. The podcast is a great way to share the voices of Muslim women from around the world who are leading in their lives. Sometimes, we look at a woman who seems to be killing it and think how did she do it? I think most people would be surprised to know how many leading ladies are happy to share, just how she did it, so we literally called our podcast How She Leads with Aisha Amijee and launched it last International Women's Day. I'm so proud of all the work VMW has done already, because we're just getting warmed up. I can't wait until we actually flex. What does representation mean to you as a young SA Muslim woman in Canada? Representation is so important to me, because I teach what happens when we are misrepresented in the media. Media misrepresentation creates false stories about humans, creating false stereotypes. These stereotypes become the foundation of what the general public believes which in turn subconsciously and consciously guides how we see and treat others and ourselves. So often, we are unaware of our own internalized oppression and low self-esteem due to the lack of representation or misrepresentation and it's only when we see ourselves properly represented that we are able to identify how it impacts our lives. It's important to me as a young SA Muslim woman to see the diversity and excellence of Canadian SA Muslim women because that visibility lays down the foundations for young girls to see women that look like them and have names that sound like theirs to subconsciously allow themselves to be a bigger version of themselves. What's next for VMW? Scholarship applications and mentorship applications are now online at www.voicesofmuslimwomen.com. What we're reading: The Kamala Harris identity debate shows how America still struggles to talk about multiracial people When food media let me down, I found fellow South Asian cooks on Instagram and TikTok Why Your Nani is the Ultimate #SustainableFashion Influencer — Roohi Sahajpal Issue 31