This year’s theme for #IWD2020 is each for equal: an equal world is an enabled world, the symbol for which is one arm above the other arm. A simple gesture with a powerful inspiring meaning.
AML representative Remy Mohamed introduced the guests on stage before they spoke, sharing stories and anecdotes, inspiring the audience with their lived experiences.
Yasmin Waljee OBE
Opening the evening, Yasmin spoke about her two motivating inspirations. First the 13th century Saint Ives, the Patron Saint of Lawyers, from whom the concept of Pro Bono – working without charge – originated. And second Rumi, sharing one of her favorite quotes, ‘Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.’
One of the projects Yasmin is working on is to support Yazidi women. This groundbreaking work falls within Yasmin’s ethos that service (to humanity) is an Islamic tradition, and by pushing boundaries, she seeks to lift women up.
The daughter of a prison imam in Leeds, Maryam was inspired to become a barrister when at the age of 13 she helped her father type up the account of a prisoner seeking parole. Like many from a south Asian background, her father wanted her to become a doctor, but she persisted, having a passion for law.
One of Maryam’s inspirations is a verse from Surah Nisa, chapter 4 verse 135 of the Qur’an, which says, ‘Stand up for justice, even if it is against yourself.’
Maryam shared how she sometimes finds the narrative of empowered women overwhelming, saying that sometimes she just wants to relax and take it easy. For her, this is more about balance as Maryam adds: “Push back against the naysayers.”
Perhaps the most inviting reminder, Maryam adds that she wants to be herself, work hard, do her best, reminding the audience that success comes from Allah.
With her introduction Hauawa, a British Muslim lawyer of Nigerian heritage, asked, “Why is it mostly women at a Women’s day event? Where are the men?” – While some sat in the audience, the majority in attendance were indeed women.
Asked as a child what she wanted to do as an adult when Hauawa told her aunt in Nigeria that she wanted to be a writer, her aunt discouraged her and encouraged her towards the legal profession. She thus developed an interest to become a barrister from the age of 9.
Hauawa made a striking observation. Often we think of America as having more people of color in prison. But if we look at it in a proportional capacity, we have just as many people of color, if not more, in jails in Britain.
So she asks, ‘Why aren’t we talking about this in our mosques? What are we doing to make our communities better?’
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