30 Under 30: Amal AzzudinWritten by The Young Women's Movement
As a Scottish women’s organisation, the Glasgow Girls are legend to us. Seven young women, still in school, launch a national campaign to tackle the UK’s horrific asylum-seeking system. Do yourself a favour: read about them. Or watch the play. Or the BBC musical drama.
So for us to sit down with one of the Glasgow Girls, Amal Azzudin, was pretty amazing.
Of course, Amal hasn’t exactly been keeping quiet. In fact, over the last year in particular she’s been doing anything but!
‘Before Glasgow Girls, I was shy, I didn’t know anything about politics, and I had no idea what I wanted to do after school,’ Amal says. ‘But after, I was like, I want to do this. I want to be working in communities, helping people.’
It started her on a path of volunteering and studying, moving from Anniesland College to the University of Glasgow to study community development, then a placement with the Red Cross, a Masters in Human Rights and International Politics, and a job with the Mental Health Foundation, where she’s been since graduating uni.
In her work with the Mental Health Foundation, Amal works on a project that focuses on a community development approach to mental health in asylum seekers and refugee communities, work that saw her seconded to Yale (how amazing is that!?) to work on a citizenship and the arts project in their mental health centre.
Because of her ongoing activism in support of refugees and asylum seekers (you didn’t think she stopped, did you?), Amal has also been closely involved with the European refugee crisis of the last 18 months. Along with fellow activists and amazing women Margaret Woods and Pinar Aksu, Amal started a crowdfunding campaign to see how they could help.
‘Honestly, we didn’t expect to raise £500. But then the photos of [3 year-old Alan Kurdi] went viral. And we ended up raising £10,000. It was an incredible response, but it shouldn’t have taken something like that.’
Amal, and with her Margaret and Pinar, went to Lesvos In October 2015 to do what they could to help. What she witnessed there is heartbreaking just to listen to; we can’t imagine what they were like to see first hand.
‘There are no words to explain the human misery and tragedy. I started crying, as I think anyone would, and I remember one of the volunteers came up to me and said “the best thing we can do is smile and say welcome.” I’ll never forget that.’
But since her return, Amal has been dedicated to seeing that something good comes from what she saw. Speaking to the Scottish Parliament, the European External Relations Committee, the University of Glasgow, and Westminister, she has given evidence in the hopes that she can make a difference. She’s also written articles and given interviews, anything to raise awareness.
She says that both her work with the Mental Health Foundation and her activism outside of work make her proud to call Scotland her home:
‘I love being able to make a difference, even a small one. I love being able to give hope to people, to show them that not everyone is cruel and inhumane, that there is humanity out there. I think Scotland (and Glasgow) are very welcoming, and I love standing alongside these people.’
Umm, we’re totally proud to stand alongside you, too!
In her own words...
See more of the amazing work that Amal does every day with the Mental Health Foundation on their website. You should also definitely read her diary of her experiences in Greece, and follow her on Twitter at @AmalAzzudin