Founder and Executive Director | Educate2Eradicate
What do you currently do in terms of foreign policy and advocacy?
I actually see International Development and Foreign Policy as two different things – I often see Foreign Policy as making decisions, such as going to war, and International Development as cleaning up the mess they’ve left behind.
In terms of my activism, though, I work with Youth for Change, which works in the UK, Tanzania and Bangladesh to connect young people with decision makers and makes sure young people’s voices are heard on issues like gender-based violence, FGM and early and forced marriage.
How did you initially get involved with advocacy and what inspired you to set up your own organisation?
The main thing that got me into grassroots and then international advocacy was the book, “Daughters of Shame”, which is a collection of stories from women who’ve suffered honour-based violence and forced marriages, that I read when I was 14. I knew I wanted to do something about it so I worked with friends at school to fundraise and work with the Forced Marriage Unit, which I saw as a testament to the fact that young people can change the status quo and actually make a difference. And then by 18, I was able to set up my own organisation!
Can you tell me more about Educate2Eradicate, your own organisation?
Educate2Eradicate focuses on ending forced marriage and gender-based violence. It was really important for me that we didn’t reinvent the wheel because there are other organisations that already do work on this, mainly providing victim support, which isn’t within my capability. But I realised I could help to educate people so I focused on this.
Our work is in the training of statutory bodies, like teachers, nurses, and police officers, to understand and recognise honour abuse and to provide support and help. We also help to educate young people so they know that they have a choice and they are aware of these issues.
What are the biggest challenges of running your own organisation?
There are many, take your pick! Funding is a big one -- it’s crucial that we have enough money coming in to cover our outgoings each month. This means constantly finding new ways to raise money and keep expenses to a minimum.
Legal obligations are another huge issue, meeting annual tax returns requirements etc. As well as those responsibilities, generally making sure the organization is running smoothly, admin and communications are up-to-date and progress is constantly being made.
How do you balance running Educate2Eradicate with university life?
It’s hard. Sometimes it feels like a constant juggling act, no matter how hard you try to keep all the balls in the air, a couple will always drop. But I’ve gotten better at compartmentalizing. I do a bit of work for E2E, and then have to balance it out by preparing some notes for an essay, or going over some Persian conjugations!
I also have a team of extraordinarily dedicated volunteers who have been with me since I founded E2E and know the organisation inside out.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from running Educate2Eradicate?
I have learnt that running a non-profit organization – despite being extremely fulfilling – is very, very hard and cannot be done single handedly. I have learnt to spread the responsibility with others who hold the same passion as me, take on board feedback and adapt my ideas to incorporate the work of others. In the first year of E2E I faced a number of unexpected problems that I overcame successfully and I now feel confident (in both myself and my team) that the future of E2E will be efficient, productive and beneficial!
How do you think getting into advocacy has changed your aspirations? Did you ever see yourself starting a charity at the age of 18?
It’s given me a sense of purpose – in terms of my career I initially thought I’d be a doctor (until I realised I don’t like blood!) and then changed my mind and decided I wanted to be a lawyer.
But it wasn’t until I started my activism that I realised that what I really want to do is teach and enable others to unlock their potential. I’ve only been able to do the things I’m doing now because others have helped me. There’s one specific teacher I had at school who really inspired me and I’d love to be able to do the same.