VELA Game Changer: Rana Abdelhamid

Our VELA community is full of women who are making an impact and changing the game. We wanted to highlight these extraordinary women and the important work they’re doing. So we’re introducing a new blog series that we hope will inspire you! 

We’re kicking off this new series with Rana Abdelhamid for a reason. For ten years, Rana has served as the Executive Director of Malikah, a global grassroots movement committed to building safety and power for all women through self-defense, healing justice, community organizing and financial literacy.

She founded Malikah at the age of 16 after being attacked by a stranger, who tried to remove the hijab from her head. Today, Abdelhamid and her volunteer team of women conduct healing spaces and have trained more than 20,000 women in 18 countries across the globe. 

Rana’s TED Talk on building movements has been viewed almost 2 million times. A L’Oreal Woman of Worth, the youngest board member of Amnesty International USA, oh and by the way she works on Google’s Women Techmakers program too. Rana paves her own path, and in doing so changes the game for all of us. 

.
How would you like to introduce yourself to the VELA community?
.
If I had to pick a few characteristics that encompass me, I would say I’m a creative, Queens-made, community organizer and the child of two immigrants.
.
You create safe spaces for others and take up space yourself even when it’s hard. What would you tell girls who are trying to take up space and don’t feel safe or confident doing so?
.
Girl, take it up! The evolution and transformation that I see in our healing spaces is so beautiful. I honestly wish all women can see how much power we hold within ourselves already.
.
One way that you come to that relationship with yourself is to learn about the power of women in your history, and the power of women that look like you, and use that to be your springboard of confidence. We are the culmination of our ancestors and the women around us. 
.
Also, find those spaces that make you feel validated and affirmed. Learn to be compassionate with yourself, acknowledge that you’re always growing and healing - and that process is your own form of resistance.
.
What has it been like to be a woman, a person of color, a hijabi in these leadership positions - both in your work around the world and working in tech?
.
I can spend all day telling you stories of how challenging it could be. There are times when I feel so dismissed. But here’s what saved me: having a tribe of women no matter where I am. I will have a group of women who will hold me down, who will make sure I’m ok. We check in on each other, make space for each other, they encourage me to speak up, when I felt that I didn’t have a right to. They are constantly holding you up and you’re holding them up - you want the best for each other. 
.
What drives you to do the work that you’re doing, even with the obstacles that you face?
.
When I think about that I think about my mom. I was raised by powerful muslim women. Women who have been undocumented, struggled, worked hours just to raise us. When I think about these women I realize, there is nothing that really could stop me after what my own mother has done to get me here. 
.
And I love my community so much. My love for working class, immigrants and people of color is such a fuel. And so many people believe in me and have invested in me in such incredible ways. That’s why I feel so personally committed to open space for other women. That’s why I ran for the Amnesty International Board, why I founded the Women Of Color institute, that’s why I built the Harvard National Muslim Women’s Summit. I want women to take up all the space and build relationships because that’s how change for marginalized communities will happen.
.
What does being a VELA girl mean to you? 
.
Someone who has a sense of deep confidence. When I think of VELA girls, everyone just radiates confidence and joy. And that imagery of muslim women being happy is so powerful, its a counter narrative. We deserve to be happy, and VELA represents carefree joy. 
.
.

Thank you Rana for your courageous trailblazing. This interview has been edited for grammar, but are the thoughts and sentiments of Rana Abdelhamid. Follow @wearemalikah to keep up with their work. Stay tuned for more features from our inspiring community! 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published