Young Women Lead: We Got This by Naziyah

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Naziyah Mahmood reflects on her experience as a member of the Young Women Lead pilot as we prepare to open the second year of the programme to new participants.

As women, we all know of the reality of today’s society and the gender prejudices which still take place in every aspect of our lives. From the workplace and schools, to sports and the virtual world, gender discrimination and oppression still run rampant as they historically always have.

My own life consists of my participation in a range of fields and sectors that are predominantly associated with men (science and engineering, martial arts, gaming etc.), and as such I am all too familiar with the obstacles we face every day in order to be taken as seriously as our male counterparts.

However, it’s even more heartbreaking to see that mentalities haven’t changed at all in schools for young women and girls who now sit at the cusp of a social revolution – a time when our voices are rising and we are openly fighting for change.

Yet, I also feel hopeful, and this is for the very reason that more and more young women are now speaking up and standing their ground against the taboos and the ever silencing fist of sexual harassment.

The Young Women Lead (YWL) programme allowed me to gain a better insight into how these barriers affect young women and girls in schools from all around Scotland through our involvement and research in the field of violence against women and girls.

By carrying out surveys, training and research, we learned how to tackle such issues at the Scottish Parliament by holding mock committee sessions, with the involvement of MSP Linda Fabiani, and through this we successfully managed to push our report through parliament.

This report includes the experiences and voices of the often unheard by providing young women and girls with a platform to have their say in a safe environment, when they otherwise may have felt silenced.

For this pilot programme, I was honoured to have been selected as the Deputy Convener for the first mock committee meeting, and although I was thrown in headfirst into our lively discussion, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the role and fully at ease alongside an amazing group of determined women.

Albeit only one contribution in this ongoing struggle, we were able to come together as a team to drive for change, which was inexplicably beautiful and empowering.

Initially, I knew the programme would be very informative and that it would equip many of us with the know-how in terms of taking a political approach, but what I didn’t expect was the formidable fortitude of all of the wonderful YWL members to fight for this cause.

We came together from a wide range of experiences, backgrounds and ways of life, and our mutual battle to see a safer future for our younger generations created more than just a report or meeting – we were bound in a sisterhood of strength, courage and compassion.

It has been an honour to meet such phenomenal women, whom I would liken to modern-day warriors, and I truly believe that we will all take the skills, energy, and contacts we gained through this programme further into our futures.

For any young woman who wishes to be a part of a beautiful movement of power that drives for positive change within our society, I couldn’t recommend this programme enough.

We got this!

Naziyah Mahmood is an astrophysicist and aerospace engineer, a martial artist and a STEM Ambassador, among other things. She also works to promote gender equality within the sciences through delivering talks and seminars, and was one of our 30 under 30 Inspirational Women for 2016 and Young Women Lead participant 2017/18. Follow her on her social media as she wields her swords and takes down stereotypes and misconceptions about Scottish Muslim women.
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