A word with Fatimata Cham

Karla Borg

Human Rights Activist & Poet Fatimata Cham is the first changemaker to feature in our new series ‘A word with…'. In this series we seek words of wisdom from true changemakers passionate about understanding and questioning the structures we are all a part of. They are an inspiration to us, they should be an inspiration to you.

What is feminism to you?

"Feminism to me means centering the most marginalized and vulnerable in our society. It means going beyond how we have historically defined feminism to be centered around whiteness and uplifting Black women, and Black people of various intersectional identities. It means understanding that the advocacy of women's rights isn't just about some women but all women and not just about equality but building equity."

What is a misconception people have about you?

"A misconception people have about me is that I am all work and no fun. I think that I am just a really passionate person who wants to do good and sometimes that can be taken as me being too serious."

What’s something you think mainstream media should speak more about?

"The experience of Muslim women more specifically in countries where the hijab is banned. When we talk about bodily autonomy and the right to choose there are Muslim women across the globe in countries like France who want to wear the hijab and are being banned from doing so. It is a human rights violation and should be treated as such."

Tell us a pet peeve of yours!

"I don't know if this counts as a pet peeve but when people talk over others. I don't know why it's so hard to just listen and wait and give space to others before interrupting them."

I feel the most myself when...

"I am with my family. "

What is The best advice you’ve ever received?

"Don't dim your light with others. When you can be authentically yourself it creates space for others to do the same."

What makes you feel closer to your culture?

"Community makes me feel closer to my culture."

Do you see social media as a good tool for driving social change?

"Yes, I believe that social media is a good tool for driving change because it helps you reach people from all over the world. People in various countries can now learn about issues happening halfway across the world. It can be a tool used to write your own narrative where the media and the news have sometimes not been reliable in doing so. In my personal experience, I was able to reach 200,000 people with my poem "Dear France" talking about the hijab ban in France. I think where it becomes not a good tool is when we don't put action behind what we are posting about."

Who is another person in your field that inspires you?

"I am forever inspired by Amanda Gorman. I started writing poetry at a young age as well and seeing the impact her poetry has on others I want to be able to do the same with my work."

Tell us about your proudest moment!

"My proudest moment was definitely winning the Truman Scholarship award last year. I was second in school history to win the public service award. Being a first-generation low-income college student it is hard navigating these institutions and I was often worried about how I was going to pay for grad school and find a community of people who are passionate about public service. So when I won I was shocked and was so thankful. I now have a community of scholars and people are want to make the world a better place."

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