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Towards Muslim women's empowerment - a reflection on 'I will lead the way'

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A sunny day in November saw the University of Leicester become a hub of inspiration, unity and excellence- the coming together of women from the farthest reaches of the UK, including Belfast, Northumbria, Swansea and Sussex for I Will Lead the Way for Muslim Women- a joint initiative between the NUS and FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies).

It's important to note that as Muslim women we occupy a space which is barred by many of the same leadership barriers as those of all British women, however there are also some unique stereotypes and barriers which we must overcome collectively from within- and this event's core aim was to start a discussion on these barriers and problems.

Having previously attended I Will Lead, I was excited at the prospect of working with Kelley and the NUS staff on developing ideas for delivering it again this year from the FOSIS side, and I left our meeting filled with excitement and optimism-- however, I think I speak for all of us when I say, the day itself exceeded all of our expectations.

The day comprised a series of interactive workshops based around the core skills and values of 'belief', 'communication' and 'campaigning' which were all tied together by a final 'vision' session, aiming to bring together those skills and instilling the participants with the ideas to build a coherent vision of Muslim female leadership within their individual areas of influence and expertise.

It was enriching and inspiring to see the varied backgrounds and skills these women held, with SU Presidents, Sabbatical Officers, medical & dental students, PhD scholars and aspiring lawyers making up just some of those present. There was a sense of great optimism and hope in the event as ideas and experiences were shared and discussed openly, and the keynote speech by Ruqayyah Collector was nothing but inspiring and set the tone for the rest of the day's amazing sessions.

For me, one of the most beautiful moments of the event was during sunset when those who were fasting broke their fast collectively and then we prayed Maghrib in congregation together, as it epitomised the strong sense of togetherness, spirituality and determination that guides a Muslim woman's leadership principles.

The social event afterwards, a delicious meal at a local Turkish restaurant, allowed us to get to know one another in a more relaxed environment, and it was definitely a highlight of the event and a great way to end. Many of us left having met and networked with women who we may have never encountered outside of this event, and I sincerely hope that FOSIS and NUS continue to develop and implement I Will Lead for Muslim Women as it occupies such a crucial and unique space within student-led work and society at large.

The excellent event wouldn't have been possible without the consistent hard work and dedication of the NUS staff and Kelley, as well as the great hospitality of the University of Leicester Students' Union staff, so many thanks to all of them.

Camillia Khan

Head of Communications, FOSIS

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