When she was two years old, Abdel-Magied immigrated to Australia from Sudan with her family and by the age of 11 she had already begun volunteering at a nearby aged-care home. By 16, she had established Youth Without Borders, a not-for-profit aimed at bringing young people together to create positive change. When she accepted her Women of Style accolade, Abdel-Magied was working on an oil rig in Western Australia, having obtained an engineering degree with first class honours. “[The award] was a humbling recognition of the impact that Youth Without Borders has had on young people in Australia, as well as the importance of working for change in the community,” she says.
Also in 2015, her TED Talk, What Does My Headscarf Mean To You?, went viral for its important message on unconscious bias, and she was named Queensland Young Australian of the Year. What followed were many months touring the world, speaking to audiences in more than 20 countries about diversity and inclusive workplaces. She has published both first and second editions of her memoir, Yassmin’s Story, and is working on a young adult fiction book based in Brisbane, which is set for release in 2019. And then there’s a burgeoning broadcasting career, hosting the ABC’s Australia Wide and SBS’s talked-about documentary, The Truth About Racism. Unfathomably, Abdel-Magied has also found the time to start up an Australian-based organisation focused on normalising the representation of women of colour in positions of power and influence globally, called Mumtaza.
Asked for her best advice, this extraordinarily high achiever is clear: “When you are uncomfortable, you are growing. The most difficult periods of my life and my career have been the times I have learned and grown the most, so, rather than shy away from them, we need to learn to lean in and become comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
Words of wisdom... “You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s incredibly important to make visible the work that women are doing to build the society that we are all a part of today, not only to recognise the work they are doing but to inspire the next generation.”
What’s up next? “I’ve recently moved to London, where I am working on a new book, and a couple of other media- based projects...so stay tuned!”