30 Under 30: Young Saheliya

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Young Saheliya, support service for BME women and girls aged 12-25 years, Edinburgh

Yes, you’re right, this 30 Under 30 finalist is not one young woman but a whole group of women, but it was impossible to choose just one of them so we couldn’t let that technicality get in the way! Young Saheliya is a group of young women of colour and young Muslim women, and each and every one of them is a super woman – their words, and we couldn’t agree more!

The group is a safe space for young women to come together, make friends, build confidence, get creative and address the issues and discrimination that they face together. They offer a confidential drop-in service, one-to-one support, counselling, and a youth employment service.

They have released two ‘Every Woman Super Woman’ zines featuring young women’s voices in the past couple of years, with profits going back into the organisation, Saheliya (which was 2016 SCVO charity of the year, no less!).

Several Young Women’s Movement members and volunteers are Young Saheliya alumni and it’s easy to see the positive difference it has made on each of their lives. Individually, collectively, and as an organisation, everything about Young Saheliya and the women they work with is incredibly inspiring.

Young Saheliya provides a strong sense of solidarity, fresh energy and enthusiasm for making the world a better place for women and girls. Their passion and approach to feminism is infectious, so our good deed for the day is sharing it with you by featuring them among our list of amazing sheroes!

IN THEIR OWN WORDS…

 What is your proudest achievement?

Our proudest achievement as an organisation is winning charity of the year in 2016, as well as marking our 25th anniversary this year, demonstrating that we are a relevant and necessary service.

Our proudest moment with the young people has been the development and publication of our zine, ‘Every Woman Super Woman’. It represents the work we strive to do at Young Saheliya, supporting young BME girls and women to have their voices heard. It also demonstrates the great relationships we have with other organisations who we regularly partner with and who supported and enabled the zine to happen.

What women inspire you?

We are inspired by all the young women we work with everyday. The girls and women who we work with will have faced immense barriers and hurdles. Yet all of them show such reserves of strength, and compassion for each other. We are in awe of them.

What change would you like to see for girls and young women in Scotland in next 10 years?

More representation, especially diverse representation for young girls and women from BME backgrounds in all walks of life. This representation should be meaningful and challenge the barriers that exist for BME girls and women.

The media also has to include women and girls from black and minority ethnic backgrounds more, and not typecast or stereotype women and girls.

What can we do to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all?

Making more room at the top for all women, especially including BME women and girls. We believe quotas work – see the positive example of the Scottish Parliament. Additionally, increasing the representation of BME girls and women in all walks of life, including the media.

What 3 women (past or present, real or fictional) would you invite to your dream dinner party/picnic?

Without a doubt our number 1 guest would be Malala Yousafzai, what an inspiring young woman, someone who faced and survived the ultimate forms of oppression.

Maya Angelou – we all agree that the work of Maya Angelou has impacted on all of us in some way. The poetry she created will continue to resonate for generations to come. We would all love to hear Maya recite one of her magical poems.

And finally… our young people: because they are wonderful, interesting and so much fun – all the best things about a dinner party guest.

What would your message be for girls and young women in Scotland?

You matter and you are important. We work with young women every day, and every day we are impressed and overwhelmed by how brilliant, impressive and awesome they are and by the immense strength they demonstrate.

Pictures courtesy of Young Saheliya


You can see the full list of our amazing 30 Under 30 2017 finalists here, and keep a look out on the blog as we feature a different finalist every day throughout November.

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