“For a few years, I took on a long-held tradition of facilitating an underground sex-ed workshop for young Muslim women in mosques and community spaces across the city.”
Naila is a 28-year-old clinical counselor living in Montreal, Quebec. In 2017 she started a private practice and registered herself on a list of racialized mental health practitioners. She told me this is her proudest achievement as it felt like everything coming full circle. She added, “I always get really excited to meet south Asian and African women who bring their identities to their work, and then all of a sudden I felt like one of the cool kids!” Her favourite quality about herself is that she feels everything intensely, which she added “is both good and bad. It means that when I feel something, it’s all consuming and passionate and elevating and beautiful. But when what I’m feeling or empathizing with is sad, or just negative, it’s a pretty challenging experience, and takes an emotional toll. But either end of the spectrum has an important place in my life.” The most important thing to Naila is community. She told me, “I know that as much as I am my own person and I have my own source of power, I draw a great deal of strength and resilience from the people around me who hold me and keep me accountable. I believe we are social beings and the energy around us has a very important impact on who we are, how we grow and the way we see the world.” When I asked Naila how she thinks she’s perceived in her communities she told me, “sometimes I’m a shit-stirrer, sometimes I’m a breath of fresh air, and sometimes I’m just that little brown girl. It often depends on my mood and whether or not I want to publicly pick a battle with the older folks in my communities. I once asked a religious leader if he had heard of the vagina monologues – while we were standing in the mosque.” Naila’s biggest hope is “that our communities learn that youth are not reflections of the elders, they are not placeholders, they are not fillers for the positions others have created; they are their own humans and when we let them create their own spaces and visions, that’s when we’ll start to see bigger bad-er change.”
How do you want to be perceived?
"As a badass brown woman who is constantly learning and unlearning, as I can continue to strive to be the most authentic version of myself. Oh, and someone who lives for being verbose! Haha!"