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Empowered women bring more bucks to society: Yassmin

May 22, 2017

Renowned Muslim activist and author Yassmin Abdel-Magied feels that progress of women translates into prosperity for everyone.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a Sudanese-Australian born in Khartoum. Founder of a nonprofit, Youth Without Borders, Mechanical Engineer Yassmin is an active Muslim activist and ABC TV presenter.


Yassmin gets candid in an interview to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia at the latest edition of Jaipur Literature Festival 2017, the world’s largest free literary gathering. Excerpts from the interview:

OneWorld South Asia: How is women empowerment related to overall progress of the society?

Yassmin Abdel-Magied: Some studies have suggested that when women are empowered they give more bucks to their societies, like a resourceful woman would spend a high proportion of money on their family’s education and health.

I think that over centuries women have not been seen as equal to men because that is way society is constructed. Their contribution is often quite inside the home.

Logically, we are missing out on half of society being part of the future, being part of decision making. If women are involved in the decision making that means their perspective is being taken into account.

Evidently, when you have a diversity of opinion, diversity of views, diversity of perspectives, the results are actually better.

OWSA: Do you think that the contribution of women to society is underrated?

Yassmin: They say that a woman’s work is never really done. You will notice that women are consistently in the business of working for society. Like, women spending hours to raising their kids, cooking food and cleaning part is not accounted even though without it, the society would not continue.

Our society gives people this false understanding that women’s work is not as important because the society recognises only monetary value. Most people credit their mother with everything that they are proud of, however, they would treat other women in a different way.

How would things change for women if we don’t start valuing what women do at homes? It is possible that by valuing the work that women do you know we actually end up in a much better place.

I am not saying that women must not be at their homes. If they choose to stay at home it is also a lot about freedom of choice and the freedom of choice outside of social pressure and outside of social expectation. Because some women do want to have the freedom to stay at home and not really feel bad about it.

OWSA: How can people be sensitised towards according due value to women?

Yassmin: It is about connection and empathy and it is about reminding us ourselves every time, every moment, that she is somebody’s mother, she is somebody wife, she is somebody sister, and she is somebody’s daughter.

Men should think that the other women could be his friend’s wife sister, could be his wife’s sister. How would they want them to be treated?

We need to think of everybody around us as a human not as an object not as something that we have owned or something we have right to do anything to but as somebody who deserves respect.

OWSA: How can SDGs be helpful in changing the plight of women for good?

Yassmin: Women need to be involved in the process of achieving the SDGs. In Australia, we have fewer women in our cabinet in Australia.

For example, the issue of women controlling, powering company, controlling money, you know all of these women do not have the same traditional power than men have.

We have to provide opportunity to women so that they can also be involved in changing the policy, they can be involved in bringing the perspective of women to the table in a way that is in done at the moment.

SDGs are a great way to focus people’s effort around. Because, whether we like it or not people operate on targets and goals instead of things. So there is a target and goal and we can create a strategy around it for ensuring success in one area.

OWSA: Tell us about your nonprofit initiative Youth Without Borders?

Yassmin: I started Youth Without Borders when I was merely 16 years old. It is an organisation that is about empowering young people to realise their full potential. And we do that by getting young people to start their own projects that positively affect the community.

We have started things like a mobile library in Indonesia to engineering camps in Australia, to the personal development workshops in soccer camps and other such similar initiatives.

All are our members are between ages of 15 to 25. They themselves choose what they want to work on because I am all about people speaking for themselves.

OWSA: What according to you is the best strategy for social change?

Yassmin: I think my approach to social change is the same as my approach to the race track of Formula One. I want to go as fast as possible.

Formula One is not a sport generally associated with women. The world of motor sport even now continues to be dominated by men, and women’s alleged inferiority on the road is also visible in the form of their secondary position in our society.

Formula One for me is a way to connect with people as a means of taking the fastest lane to social change.

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