MALA Young Leaders are committed to promoting individual empowerment, independent thought, and diversity as they work to unite Americans of all backgrounds. For its inaugural cohort, the MALA Young Leaders Fellowship will run September 2018 through May 2019.
After a very competitive application process, MALA is thrilled to welcome the inaugural cohort of MALA Young Leaders, which will convene Septemer 2018 through May 2019. During these months, the Fellows will delve into storytelling, collect stories for the MALA website, and speak at MALA events. We are thrilled to to welcome them.
Amal Amaskane is a Chicago-based French-Moroccan entrepreneur and educator. She grew up in the Parisian region in a Moroccan-Berber household, surrounded by different cultures and languages. She studied English, History, and Politics at Paris Sorbonne University and completed her B.A. with a student exchange year at Warwick University in the United Kingdom. Afterwards, she made Chicago her new home to pursue her master’s research on the intersection of tech and international politics in US-Middle East relations. Committed to youth empowerment and grassroots ideas for change, she has been involved in several high-impact local and international organizations in Chicago. She is currently a Program Associate at Global Glimpse to inspire America’s next generation to become responsible global citizens and an Instructor at Future Founders to empower youth to become entrepreneurs through tech. Amal is also an alumna of the inaugural cohort of the Future Founders Residency as the founder of Match Langua, a community-based company crafting immersive cultural experiences for people to travel globally, locally. Speaking four languages and having traveled to 14 countries so far, her global curiosity combined with her local engagement are at the core of Match Langua.
As an eternal bookworm, her passions include reading and writing, but also photography, cooking, and exploring Chicago from different perspectives.
Bushra Amiwala is a Chicago native, activist, DePaul University Junior, and former candidate for the Cook County Board of Commissioners. At the age of 19 she announced her candidacy for the Cook County Board of Commissioners to serve as a voice for her underrepresented generation and other marginalized communities. Her campaign has been covered nationally by TIME magazine, Teen Vogue, Scholastic Magazine, and Seventeen magazine, to name a few. Bushra’s passion for various issues and organizations lead her to decide to run for office and her campaign resulted in historic voter turnout, making her a strong second with 13,500 votes. She was the youngest person and first Muslim woman to ever run for this seat. She was recently named Glamour Magazine’s College Woman of the Year for 2018 and is on HerCampus’ “22 Under 22 Most Inspiring Women” list. Bushra was awarded the Public Peace Ambassador award from Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), a nonprofit organization sponsored by the United Nations. Bushra currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Indo-American Democratic Organization (IADO) and of Women Empowering Women In Local Legislation (WeWill), as its youngest board member. She also serves on the Board of Advisers for GenVote, an organization that seeks to mobilize young people in politics. Bushra hopes to one day be the CEO of her non-profit organization, and is currently the Marketing and Sales Director for three different start-up companies.
With Indian, Kenyan, Pakistani, and Canadian roots, Rahima grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied global health, healthcare management, South Asian Studies, and Asian American Studies. Rahima worked at PwC Advisory in New York as a healthcare and public sector strategy consultant after undergrad. After three years in management consulting, Rahima moved to Malawi, in Southern Africa, with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to assist the Ministry of Health with global health programs. She initially worked to accelerate the introduction of new vaccines into Malawi, and then managed a team to increase access to HIV and TB diagnostics. Rahima also lived in Myanmar, helping CHAI to launch its offices in Yangon and Nay Pi Daw. She later worked at FSG in Boston, a non-profit social impact consulting firm. Rahima currently works for the United States Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C., where she is a Market Access Advisor at the Center for Innovation and Impact within USAID’s Global Health Bureau. At USAID, Rahima implements market-shaping interventions to increase the availability, affordability, and access to life-saving global health products.
Rahima holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health, where she was a Zuckerman Fellow through the Harvard University Center for Public Leadership. Rahima has lived and worked in seven countries and has traveled to 55. She is an avid photographer, artist, chef, gymnast, and volleyball player, and is also a certified yoga instructor. Rahima is passionate about social justice, gender equity, and leveraging empathy, compassion, and vulnerability to help people embrace their most authentic selves.
Born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco, Salma moved to the United States in 2011 to attend Barnard College, Columbia University. While at Columbia, she majored in Political Science and Psychology and worked at various non-profits researching Middle Eastern Policy with the intention of pursuing a career in Middle Easter Policy Research. She is currently finishing her Masters in Data Analytics and Marketing at New York University. Salma works as a Freelance Marketing Consultant for various startups and is a full-time employee at Outbrain, an AdTech platform for publishers. In her spare time, you can find her singing in an A Capella group or at a boxing gym.
Whether it be in the non-profit sector or corporate world, Salma is passionate about advocating for the advancement of women of color in the workplace. As a member of the Women’s Empowerment Group at Outbrain, she hopes to bring attention to the inequities that women of color face in the tech industry and at the management level.
Fuad Faruqe was raised in the suburban sprawl of a Long Island town called Brentwood. Isolated from an immediate local Muslim community, Fuad relied on his parents to understand more about his faith and culture. Through their hard work as newcomers to the United States, Fuad came to believe in the idea that, in this country, effort and involvement can lead to future success – an ideal known as The American Dream.
Fuad has always had a fascination with history, but was not very engaged in politics until the 2012 election. During that time, he heard Dr. Ron Paul give speech after speech about America’s freedoms and how traditional Constitutional views help to promote a supportive society that also preserves individuality. He learned firsthand the value of grassroots political involvement, which prompted him to get involved at a local level and follow every election from then on. It was through working with the local community that he learned just how an individual can start a wave of change for the community.
After graduating from Brentwood High School, Fuad pursued a bachelor’s degree in Biology – Developmental Genetics, with a minor in Political Science. He quickly got involved with the Stony Brook College Republicans and was elected as a board member to help lead the group on campus. In 2017, he joined the New York Federation of College Republicans as the LI Regional Chairman. This position helped him meet a plethora of people around Long Island and help foster politically conservative views at various college campuses throughout the Island. This role allowed him to help get others involved in politics, too. Fuad never hid his faith, and as it turned out, having a Muslim student at GOP events helped expose the attendees to new ideas on identity and faith. Now that he has graduated from Stony Brook University, Fuad’s political involvement has shifted to focus on volunteering for campaigns throughout Long Island.
Sadaf Jaffer is is scholar, activist. and elected official. She was recently elected to the Township Committee in Montgomery Township New Jersey where she has been especially involved in anti-bias and community building work. She started Not In Our Town Montgomery to focus on these much needed efforts. Sadaf is also a Postdoctoral Research Associate in South Asian Studies at Princeton University where she teaches courses on South Asian, Islamic, and Asian American Studies. Her current book project, entitled Secularism, Sexuality, and Islam: Ismat Chughtai’s Indian Muslim Progressivism, elucidates alternative Muslim subjectivities through the lens of a prominent Urdu writer and cultural critic. Jaffer has published a paper in the Journal of Women’s History entitled “Women’s Autobiography in Islamic Societies: Towards a Feminist Intellectual History,” in addition to posts on the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Huffington Post, and the Altmuslimah blogs. She serves on the Board of Directors for The New Agenda, an organization that promotes women’s economic empowerment and combating sexual harassment and sexual assault. She is also on the advisory board of Inspiring South Asian American Women (ISAAW), a group dedicated to encouraging more civic education and engagement among South Asian American women in New Jersey. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and obtained her PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University with a secondary field in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality.
Zain Jinnah is an Associate at White & Case LLP in Washington, D.C., where he represents foreign sovereigns and multinational companies in complex disputes before international tribunals and United States courts. He holds degrees from Harvard Law School, Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, and the University of Calgary. Professionally, Zain is passionate about international affairs, international law, and international business. Personally, he enjoys being active, spending time outdoors, reading, watching stand-up comedy, and trying new foods both in and out of the kitchen.
Farida is a double Gator, most recently earning her Master of Science in Information Systems and Operations Management at University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business and previously earning her Bachelor of Science in Family, Youth & Community Sciences (Nonprofit Management).
Merging the two has become one of her biggest passions. With the technical and conceptual skills she learned in class (as well as on the job as a consultant at Deloitte), her creativity, problem solving skills and interest in efficiency through technology, she is excited to learn the skills necessary to bring a voice to the people serving families, youth and communities that need it most…and be one step closer to achieving her career goal of optimizing efficiency, and maximizing impact, for non-profit organizations.
Mizanur Rahman Kiron is the Founder of the Physically-Challenged Development Foundation (PDF). In Bangladesh, he engaged more than 5,000 volunteers in his movement to unlock the potential of youth with disabilities. He also worked as a Training and Grant specialist, Community Options, Inc. Princeton, New Jersey and at BRAC as a consultant for the BRAC Youth Project.
Mizanur is the second Bangladeshi to have made the list of Forbes Asia 30Under30 Social Entrepreneurs. The annual list by Forbes Magazine features the 30 young leaders from across Asia who are leveraging business tools to solve the world’s problems. He was a fellow of Atlas Corps and the Asia-Europe Foundation. He is an enthusiastic public speaker and Ph.D. candidates at the University of Illinois at Chicago-UIC.
Aisha “Ash” Malik is the daughter of Punjabi parents whose Pashtun ancestors migrated from Afghanistan and settled in the Punjab province of Pakistan. These close ties to the “land of the pure” gave her a deep-rooted passion for serving the underprivileged, underserved, and underrepresented globally. She firmly believes that all human beings deserve the same rights, opportunities, and freedoms as those who are a part of the upper classes or living in developed nations. Ash is an advocate, promoter, campaigner, and canvasser for equality everywhere.
Ash pursued the field of medicine because it was an opportunity to touch the lives of others, one patient at a time. Dedicating 10+ professional years in healthcare, she acquired first-hand knowledge and experience which equipped her to contribute towards innovative healthcare initiatives promoting good health and well-being for all, regardless of race, color, creed or class. To enhance her knowledge of ithe ntegration of information technology in healthcare, she shifted her career to IT and currently works at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). She also runs an internationally renowned non-profit organization, IKDAR, which means VALUES. Partnered with the UN on its Global Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals and as an IKDARIAN Ambassador for Peace, Ash promotes a “World 4 Peace” through IKDAR’s various human development programs, projects, products and services. Her goal is revive, refine, reform, and enhance the socioeconomic and political values of South Asian societies from a platform always open to new, creative, and innovative ideas for instilling social change, and reinvigorating people, communities and societies in becoming global citizens.
Anum is an educator and community organizer. A Pakistani-American, she grew up in Texas before finding a home in Maryland. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to becoming an educator, Anum had extensive experience working on Capitol Hill for several Senators before focusing on the rise of lone wolf domestic terrorism at the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. It was through this work that her commitment for reforming the K-12 education system in America was sparked.
Anum has taught and counseled in public and charter high schools in Maryland and New York. She has organized and hosted national youth conferences training over 500 high school students in leadership, civil rights advocacy and networking skills. Her work with her students focuses on women’s self-empowerment, career counseling, and community activism. She is passionate about recruiting more Muslims in K-12 education.
Born to Sudanese parents, Zeina Mohammed was raised between Washington, D.C., and the Middle East. She first developed a passion for advocacy after being exposed to the sheer volume of statistics concerning gender-based violence in the MENA region, specifically FGM, during an internship at UNICEF. This awakening propelled her into campaigning for the rights of women. In 2015, Zeina co-founded the Riyadh chapter of GirlUp, a global network of clubs that support UN initiatives that seek to improve the lives of girls in developing countries.
Zeina later joined the team at Educate2Eradicate, a British-based organisation that utilizes education to train frontline professionals and work with young people to eradicate FGM, forced marriage, and honor abuse. She currently attends the George Washington University, where she majors in English Literature with a minor in Journalism and Mass Communications. Her goal in life is to find a way to combine her passions for literature and advocacy to increase the visibility of female writers of colour and the issues they face. Zeina’s hobbies include reading, writing, and finding new and inventive ways to dismantle the patriarchy.
Isra Omar, originally from Somaliland, came to the United States at age 11 after fleeing her home country. She sought asylum in the US and was granted an opportunity to begin a new life. Challenging all barriers, Isra earned a bachelor’s in accounting and a minor in Arabic Studies from DePaul University. She links her faith with values such as equality and human rights. Her dedication to girls’ education and gender equality stems from her personal experiences in areas including assimilation, access to opportunities, and confronting stereotypes within her own community. She has participated in multiple panel discussions representing the Muslim American Leadership Alliance with a focus on girls’ education and gender inequality. In 2016, she was the Malala Fund Girl Ambassador for the Worldwide Women Festival in San Francisco. At the age of 25, Isra experienced a spiritual awakening. She began on a journey of enlightenment that primarily involved reflecting on her purpose. Her path has led her to rediscover her passions, skills and talents. During her free time, Isra curates a blog and shares her journey through deep reflections. Her mantra is simple: if you seek to change the world, you must first unleash the light inside of you.
Nausheen Rajan graduated magna cum laude and honors with degrees in International Studies and Asian Studies from American University. She has multitude of diverse professional experiences from working in think tanks to federal government agencies. Nausheen is particularly interested in the nexus of urban development policy and international security.
Currently, she is a Senior Associate in the Asia Regional Business Unit at Chemonics International, where she provides project management support for USAID-funded projects. As her passion project, Nausheen began a global mentorship program for young women that fosters leadership development, professional skill development, and female empowerment. Nausheen hopes to pursue a long-term career in which she can impact the realm of policymaking as a leader, and hopes to assist vulnerable populations in conflicted regions of the world.
Mohammad Maaz Rehan is a proud Muslim-American-Pakistani and New Jersey native where he was a year-round athlete and actively involved in the community. He believes in the philosophy that his life is like a blank sheet of paper and that he must choose wisely on what to write.
Currently a Central Banker at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Maaz graduated from Drexel University, LeBow College of Business in Philadelphia studying Finance and Business Analytics. Previously, Maaz served at an Executive Office of the President under the Obama Administration as a Co-Op Analyst at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Prior to his work in Drug Prevention at the White House, his advocacy efforts began in high school and continued during college with a number of national non-profits and organizations including Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).
With a wide range of interests from cars, art, fashion, music, food, religion, history, and sports, Maaz appreciates talent and strives to be a Jack-of-all-trades. Maaz continued his athletic career as an Intercollegiate Horseback Rider on the Drexel University Equestrian Team and now enjoys observing and participating at Polo matches. During his time in Philadelphia, Maaz also pursued his culinary passion as a chef at a renowned, modern Italian restaurant serving small plates and family style meals.
Maaz is family oriented and values the importance of immediate and extended family. Raised by their father, a health science professional, and mother, a real-estate businesswoman, he grew up as the only brother among three sisters. Maaz currently resides in New Jersey in close vicinity to family, including his niece, the newest addition to the bunch.
Farnaz Rezai has been a dedicated educator for nearly a decade. She is a Professor of Psychology at the Swedish Institute, College of Health Sciences and ASA College in Manhattan. Farnaz has taught at the College of New Rochelle (Rosa Parks Campus), Monroe College, and Manhattan Elite Prep. She loves expanding minds while teaching by lightsaber. Farnaz is a night owl who frequents Gotham’s emergency departments to counsel survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. She volunteers her services through the Crime Victims Treatment Center (CVTC). Farnaz is a 2018-2019 New American Fellow by New American Leaders. She was selected as a 2016 Nominated Changemaker at The White House United State of Women Summit for her work in furthering gender equality and promoting progress. Farnaz hopes to make greater impact in her community by implementing ideas through public service. Farnaz was an award winning columnist on mental health and personal development for Live OC magazine and New University newspaper in Irvine, California. Her work has been featured in two poetry anthologies. Her latest piece was published in the Spring 2018 edition of Aftab; the literary magazine of the Islamic Center at New York University. Farnaz believes in the healing power of laughter. She enjoys performing improv comedy and storytelling (Human Tetris, anyone?). She was an inaugural 2016 Diversity Scholar at The Magnet Theater. Farnaz earned a Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s in Literary Journalism from UC Irvine. She was born and raised in California and now lives in New York City. Farnaz misses her family, Wolfie (her bunny dance partner), and In-N-Out.
Sadaf Sajwani is an international leader and changemaker, an advocatefor the marginalized, a mentor, and a connector. She is a woman devoted to the service of humanity. After traveling to Nairobi, Kenya and Karachi, Pakistan at the tender age of eight, and witnessing firsthand, gross inequality, Sadaf dedicated her life to the betterment of humanity.
Sadaf has been in the social impact and education space for nearly twenty years. She has worked in the areas of education, technology, international development and community outreach with organizations such as Sesame Workshop, United Nations, Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aga Khan Development Network, and PepsiCo. She led an international team to launch Sesame Street in Pakistan, reaching 20m viewers.
She also led the “Mind the Gap” initiative, which examined the needs and desires of digital media tools among a network of over 300,000 educators in Title I schools and low-income communities in the United States.
Through a simple 2-line email, Sadaf became the instigator behind Sesame Street releasing its first Eid message on social media in June 2015, reaching 1.7 million people globally, shattering the previous social media reach record of 250,000 engagements. Subsequent messages have reached over 3 million people each.
Whether it was working with Afghan children in refugee camps in Karachi in 2001, or with teachers implementing a WASH program in Malawi in 2018 – Sadaf has never wavered from her commitment to making the world a better place. As Lecturer at Columbia University, Sadaf mentors students around career development, guiding the next generation of social impact changemakers. A Miami native, Sadaf holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University.
Farhana Shafi grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, which she feels will always be her home. Growing up and being the only Muslim family in the neighborhood, she didn’t feel any different from the neighbors. But after the 9/11 attacks, it was as if her whole world turned upside down. Her school was approximately two miles from the Pentagon and she was in the seventh grade; before that day, she never knew what terrorism was. After it happened, she remembers looks of hate and comments about my religion. Farhana learned that the only way to bring people together is by eliminating doubts, and to her the best way to do that is to educate people. People have fears that may seem irrational to others but to them they aren’t; when they realize that their fears are silly, they learn that people can accept one another. Farhana emphasizes the importance of understanding that people can have differing beliefs, but that we should not put anyone down for their beliefs. Farhana is in her senior year and working towards her Bachelors degree; she hopes to be a part of a movement in America that strives for justice for everyone. She hopes to be an advocate for those who may not be heard or are afraid of speaking out. She plans to do her Masters degree in the hope that she will have enough education and experience to work with all marginalized people.
Aqsa was born and raised in Chicago. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in the late 1980s. She’s never set foot in Pakistan but her parents did all that they could to keep heritage and religious identity alive: from Islamic schools, to after school programs, Sunday schools, and summer classes, stories of the motherland, keeping up-to-date on the trendiest clothes from back home, and installing the latest device that broadcasted those terrible Pakistani soap operas. Being able to keep such traditions alive and create new ones in a land thousands of miles away is definitely a blessing.
There are ups and downs of growing up in a tight-knit community. You learn the strengths and weaknesses of people and you also learn that we have a long way to go in order to bring positive change. Luckily Aqsa has met wonderful people, especially through MALA , who brought back her faith in people and she is very happy and excited to be a part of MALA’s Young Leaders Program.
Aqsa has spent most of her life working for non-profits, in various roles. One of the roles she cherishes most was when she worked with Glen Ellyn Children’s Resource Center, where she planned and implemented a program catered to recent refugee children from different parts of the world. Aqsa was also recently given the opportunity to organize an Islamic Art Class series with MALA; it was her first time organizing these kinds of events and she is so proud of the results – it’s definitely something she is proud to highlight whenever she gets the chance.