Empowering Young Women: Aliyyah Jafri

We have all seen the media representations of feminists; the media has taught us to picture a tyrant female putting down males when we hear the word ‘feminist’. As opposed to scolding women for recognizing the gender inequalities in contemporary society; Aliyyah Jafri, the co-president of McGill Women in Leadership, is working to raise awareness and empower future generations of females!

Rachel Cristofoli for Her Campus McGill (HC McGill): Hi Aliyyah! Thanks for joining us at Her Campus McGill today! Would you mind telling us what you’re studying and the kinds of extracurricular activities/jobs/internships you participate in?

Aliyyah Jafri (AJ): I’m a third-year student from the greater Vancouver area, majoring in honours International Development as well as Political Science. As for extracurricular involvement, I am on the events committee for the McGill Pre-Law Society, a committee director for the SUNS and I work for a student work-study program at McGill where I act as a McGill representative and communicate with alumni.

HC McGill: Today, we want to learn more about your involvement with McGill Women in Leadership (MWIL). What made you want to become the Co-President of this association?

AJ: When I first joined the MWIL, I was the director of sponsorship. In my second year, I was chosen to head the sponsorship committee as VP Sponsorship, which was a difficult task as the association’s budget to put on events depended on my fundraising abilities. However, my adoration for the MWIL only grew while in this position. The previous co-presidents were graduating, and they had taken me aside telling me that along with my co-president, Sabrina Jahan, I would be great for the role and so, here I am!

HC McGill: Going back to your first year, what initially made you want to become a member of this association?

AJ: In my first year, I went to activities night feeling lost and overwhelmed. I came across McGill Women in Leadership, and the idea of females empowering one another intrigued me. I decided to go to the first general meeting and was floored. I initially felt that when you come into university women are pressured to fall into a niche category: science girl, varsity athlete girl, political science girl, etc. Yet, McGill Women in Leadership allowed me to pursue different avenues and be every kind of girl - not forcing me to fit into one category, but rather celebrating the unique diversities we each have to offer.

HC McGill: Considering the negative stereotypes in the media surrounding ‘feminists,’ how are you working to abolish such stereotypes?

AJ: There are so many preconceived notions surrounding female leaders - the majority are negative and degrading, hindering women. In the MWIL, we maintain a very open minded policy; when you’re in a leadership environment, it is important to remember that everything is a learning experience and there is always an opportunity to learn from someone else. Regarding feminism, we are a feminist organization. We are very proud to believe that women should get equal rights comparative to men. In saying that, we are very proud to support both women and men; men are always welcome to our events and we encourage it! We work to ensure everyone recognizes privilege. Women in society have been disadvantaged in many ways; for example, a woman gets paid 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Here, we try to elevate women and push them to reach their full potential. We want to showcase female talent and leadership in all capacities.

HC McGill: Why should someone consider joining the MWIL?

AJ: The MWIL provides a unique space to meet like-minded women, network with various industries and provides a community of friendships, also it's really fun! I have met my best friends through it; I hold it near to my heart. If you’re looking to get involved and looking for leadership opportunities, the MWIL is a great place to start.

HC McGill: Finally, who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

AJ: I grew up in a really strong community of powerful women, surrounded by my grandmother, mother and my two aunts. In terms of female empowerment, my grandmother left the greatest mark on me. She left Pakistan for London in the early 1960s by herself, which was taboo for women during that time period. People thought it to be very inappropriate, but to my grandma, it was very important to be educated and to set this example for her future daughters and granddaughters. She truly embodies the leadership qualities everyone strives for, encouraging all women to recognize the barriers that surround us. There will always be media outlets and/or people that want to make our opinions less valuable, and the women in my family have taught me to respond to those obstacles with eloquence, emphasizing that your opinions will always find a way to make it out and as long as you persevere and persist.


Images provided by interviewee.