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August 12, 2021

Age: 19
Favorite sport: Football
Favorite team: Chelsea FC
Friends describe her as: Resilient, determined and sincere

Siham lives in London and dreams of working in the sports industry to create change and heighten the visibility of Muslim women. She is determined to increase media coverage of women in sports in the belief that it would inspire younger generations to get into sports.

Of Somali descent, Siham is also passionate about creating safe spaces for women and young girls to enjoy sports – especially those from ethnic minority communities. Upon realizing that many women and girls dropped out of sports after secondary school because of the lack of spaces to keep active and stay healthy - or because they didn’t feel comfortable in available spaces - she created a summer women’s community football initiative in 2019. 

1. What does it mean to you to be selected for the inaugural class of the Beyond Sport Youth Advisory Board (BSYAB)?

It's a real honour to be selected as I will be working with a great company that has the same values as me and wants create change in society using sports. I care deeply about gender equality in sports and providing equal opportunities for all.

I want to provide insight on youth perspectives and interests. Beyond Sport is an inclusive space and will welcome my voice and the wider voices of young people trying to make a change in the world.

2. Over the two years, what is the primary thing you are most looking forward to getting out of the experience? What do you want to learn and teach?

I believe that sport is the one of the only things that unites people and gives people a sense of hope. Therefore, I want to channel this and create more opportunities through sports to allow people to bond and unite, and most importantly, for people to destress and just enjoy themselves.

I most look forward to understanding the workings of the company and connecting with likeminded individuals who are passionate about the impact of sport in society. I am excited to share my perspective and insights as well as continue learning more skills.

Tackling racial injustice and poverty are also important to me, and while sport might not be at the top of people’s minds when addressing these issues, it does provide a way to contribute – even if to reduce stress levels.

3. What role do you think the media has to play in sport for social change?

The media plays a significant role for social change and especially with visibility of both ethnic minorities and wider social issues. A good example of this is with the conversation surrounding Black Lives Matter and the responsibility the media has to tackle racism within sports. The treatment some of the England players faced from fans is often spurred on by tabloid papers.

The media controls so much of fans' opinions so whatever is being shown to them is what they will be influenced by. That’s why it’s so important that media companies are unbiased and push for racial equality in both the stories they highlight and the opinions they share. Having more diverse writers’ rooms, journalists and presenters is incredibly important.

I currently work as an intern for GiveMeSport. I contributed to the relaunch of the women’s department and have written 20 articles since I started in March. Through my work, I aim to shed light on issues in women's sports.

4. Beyond Sport believes that sport for social change is more than just bringing people together to bond and bridge divides through play, it’s about using it as a platform of learning and development. When used purposefully, and with intention, it can be a powerful pathway to effective solutions to the most complex social issue of our time.

What does using “sport with intention” mean to you?

It means creating genuine, impactul and sustainable change for the communities that need it most.

5. Who do you think is getting it right in the world of social change and why?

Badu Sports is an example of an organisation which uses their platform to alleviate some of the issues within the working class ethnic minority community using sport. They work with vulnerable young people and provide alternatives to the rising knife crime and youth violence in the UK. They provide training and leadership opportunities to young people to progress their careers.

6. Tell us more about the community women’s football initiative you started.

I started the initiative alongside my sister in 2019 at the age of 17. Our participants are mostly Muslim women within the local community from ethnic minority backgrounds who have not had access to sports for numerous socio-economic reasons.

It has taught me the importance of community and I hope to bring my drive and enthusiasm for sports and wider women’s participation in sports to this role. From the feedback we have received so far, many are thankful for the service provided and for the safe environment created. We ran a few sessions during summer but due to the pandemic we stopped and are aiming to continue this year with the help of funding from the borough.

At the moment, we’re focusing on providing this service for those in the local community and for it to be impactful. As we run more sessions, and through using social media, we plan to increase the service and work with girls and women of all ages. Ultimately, we would love for the programme to spread beyond the UK and work with vulnerable people in other countries. I would especially love to create a similar initiative in my parent’s country of Somalia.

7. Can you speak to the current attitude is towards sports from ethnic minority families and what you’re looking to change?

I think the current attitude is mixed and some downplay and dismiss the importance of sports, especially for older girls. From my personal experience, there was a lack of girls’ sports after secondary school and despite pushing for something to be created for us, there was a lack of action. A lot of the attitude and hesitancy also comes from the lack of accessibility. To tackle this, I believe it’s important to provide accessible and free services created for us by us so that all can play comfortably.

8. What is your take on gender equality and equal opportunities generally for ethnic minorities in the UK over the last few years?

Unfortunately, it is not 100% equal, and especially not for ethnic minority women. This is most evident from the recent conversation around the hijab ban in France and the UK. Sadly, in many sports, head coverings for Muslim and other women are still a debated topic and it is frustrating how slow things are to change. It is understandable why Muslim women are hesitant about playing sports professionally as their identity is always in question. I personally believe that waiting for external people that might have other intentions to actually listen to our needs is unrealistic. We must create the change we wish to see ourselves.

9. As you progress in life and your career, what legacy do you hope to leave on your peers, family and community?

I want to be known as someone who was sincere in the desire to create change and have a positive impact on those around me. I want to leave the community in a better position to how it was when I first began, and to inspire others to do the same.

Meet all eight of the inaugural Beyond Sport Youth Advisory Board members