Volunteer Stories: An Interview with Afifa Hashimi

cyh-afifaIn this post, youth blogger Scott interviews Afifa Hashimi, Check Your Head’s current blog coordinator. Afifa has been volunteering with CYH since 2015.

How did you get involved in youth activism?

My interest in social justice grew in my last few years of high school, when I started paying more attention to politics and reading about injustice and oppression worldwide.

I was a part of a local Boys & Girls Club Youth Council, where I worked on an inclusion project, but I didn’t really engage in activism until I came to university.

That’s when I got involved in the Simon Fraser Public Research Interest Group (SFPIRG). It’s an awesome student-funded and directed non-profit organization at SFU, which focuses on social and environmental justice. My experience as part of the SFPIRG Street Team was really amazing. It motivated me to get involved in more initiatives.

How did you find us at Check Your Head (CYH)?

In the summer of 2015, I was searching for more social justice volunteer opportunities and I came across a page on the CYH website encouraging youth to apply to become workshop facilitators.

I was really excited to discover a local organization with values that mirror my own and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to combine my passion for anti-oppression work and my interest in working with young people.

What tasks and responsibilities come along with your position at CYH?

As blog coordinator, I’m responsible for enlisting youth to be volunteer writers for CYH’s blog. I also offer support to the bloggers through the various stages of the writing and editing process, and I post their submissions.

What is the content and purpose of the written work through CYH – by others and yourself?

I think that the blog offers youth an opportunity to showcase their perspectives on important issues. It gives them a chance to research and write about causes they’re passion about. The content encourages critical thinking and inspires engagement with the issues discussed.

It’s a great space for youth to read the work of other young people and expand their knowledge of the various topics that the blog posts cover.

It has been a valuable experience for me, personally. I’ve learned a lot.

What is your post-secondary education in?

I’m currently in the last semester of my Honours Political Science BA with an English minor, and I plan to start law school this fall. My academic focus areas include international politics, oppression and resistance, and feminist political thought.

For my honours research project, I’m studying the effects of women’s participation in civil society on women’s rights across countries.

Did your post-secondary education assist in writing your own work and editing others’ work for the blog?

Yes, my English minor has improved my writing and editing skills. My interest areas in political science have also been relevant to my work at CYH. My education continues to add to my base of knowledge of important issues. It encourages me to analyze oppressive power structures, which helps me to think critically and creatively about anti-oppression work.

Along with my community involvement, my classes encourage me to keep up to date on political news and events related to things like social, environmental, and economic justice. This makes me better equipped to suggest timely topics and offer relevant resources to bloggers.

What are some impacts you have seen in BC from the work of CYH – at all levels?

One thing I can speak to is the impact of the youth workshops. The workshops create a space for young people to explore topics that they may not have had a chance to directly engage with in school or in other settings.

Some participants share comments on their own experiences. They make links between those experiences and broader societal forces that shape those experiences, which we address in the workshops.

For some participants, this may be the first time that they are consciously making these links. It’s great to see youth thinking critically. I felt that I could see the positive impact of the workshops when they’d say things like, “Wow, I never thought about it like that before!”

Also, the projects like CYH’s Democracy Check campaign have also had a significant impact. Although I was not involved in that campaign, I was involved in other non-partisan youth initiatives during the last federal election and I kept up with this campaign’s significant work. I think it definitely contributed to an increase in youth interest and involvement during the election.

Where do you hope CYH goes into the future?

I think the organization has a really important role to play in the education and engagement of youth. I hope CYH keeps facilitating workshops for youth and introduces new workshops to cover even more topics, maybe even expanding workshops or adapting them for even younger youth.

I’d also love to see CYH expand and take on more projects such as the current Inclusion and Anti-Racism project. One of my best friends, Rowena, is involved in that project, and from what I’ve heard it sounds awesome.

Thank you for your time, Afifa.

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

* All views expressed in this interview belong to the interviewee and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CYH.