Spotlight: Dahaba Layla Ali

Dahaba Layla Ali and her mother fled the Somali civil war in the 1990s and settled in the Netherlands. They moved to the United Kingdom when Dahaba was 10-years-old via secondary immigration where she became a part of the Somali diaspora in London. Dahaba graduated in 2017 from the University of Cambridge.

Dahaba’s multicultural upbringing has given her a unique and diverse voice, which allows her to produce content that relates to and resonates with people from different backgrounds.

She has been featured in various international media for her work, including the BBC World Service, The Independent, Huffington Post, The Metro and Al Jazeera to name a few. She has appeared as a guest on radio shows including BBC5Live and she currently has her own radio show with K2K radio.

Dahaba also runs her own YouTube channel where she uploads weekly videos on various topics. You can find her channel here.

Name: Dahaba Layla Ali

Occupation/Role: Journalist/Speaker/Activist

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I always wanted to be a writer and content creator, as I have always been passionate about shining a light on under-reported issues and marginalized experiences.

Who were your biggest role models growing up?

This is a tricky one! I would say I really did look up to news correspondents, specifically on the BBC as they had a difficult task of disseminating information, having to ensure that the content contained accurate and informative facts. I loved the confidence they possessed, and favourites of mine would have to be Andrew Marr and Victoria Derbyshire.

What is one thing that you would like to tell your younger self?

I would tell myself to worry less! And to trust my own artistic process.

What was a life-changing moment you experienced that shaped you into the woman that you are today?

I think studying at the University of Cambridge was really a formative period in my life. It equipped me with so much knowledge academically and also allowed me to interact with and meet people from varying walks of life.

What made you pursue your current career?

I really want to make the difference and tackle the deep-seated structural inequalities in the fabric of society. If I can do so through my work then I am a happy woman!

What is a typical day like for you?

I work freelance, so no two days are the same! Usually, my days start off with some form of exercise then I position myself at my desk where I reel off emails and juggle all of the responsibilities associated with my various projects and titles. This is all punctured with calls and meetings as well.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your professional life so far and how did you manage to overcome it?

I would say not having a mentor in my field when I was starting. I have built up a list of contacts now but at the beginning, everything was self-taught and I felt a bit like the artful dodger!

Which Somali woman inspires you and why?

This is an easy one, Ilhan Omar! Her command of the political language is outstanding and her journey is truly inspirational.

What advice would you give to a person pursuing your chosen career?

I would say… try your luck! You may not feel as though you are well equipped or you may fear rejection but having faith in yourself is key. At the end of the day, the most anyone can say is no, and truly, that means that you have lost nothing

How would you like people to remember you?

I would want to be remembered as someone who gave a voice to the voiceless. As someone who stood up for those who didn’t even know their rights, much less able to articulate them.

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