Yumna Hussen is a 15-year-old student who is the Deputy Member of Youth Parliament for Birmingham. In this capacity, Yumna works with her youth council to consult different organisations on issues that affect young people. She also works closely with councillors and MP’s in Birmingham to ensure that they represent young people’s views in their policymaking. She has been appointed by BiteBack2030, an organisation that seeks to enable young people to have fair access to healthy foods, as a Youth Leader for 2020-2021. In her spare time, she loves writing and performing poetry, writing articles online as a freelancer. At 13 years old, she co-authored a book available on Amazon called “Struggles of War”.
Name: Yumna Hussen
Occupation/Role: Student, Deputy Member of Youth Parliament for Birmingham, BiteBack 2030 Youth Leader, Spoken Word Artist, Freelance Writer & Published Author
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I have always believed that I do not need to follow a set career path in order to positively impact as many people as I can. I want to be able to change the systems that were built to work against our community; whether that is access to better healthcare systems for families in deprived areas, transforming our education system to better equip us in the future and provide equal opportunities for all young people regardless of their background. I would love to become involved with public speaking, poetry and pursue my interests in genetics and neuroscience more. To pursue my passion to revolutionize the healthcare system, I am currently running to become a Youth Governor for Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust.
At the age of 15, I am still figuring this out, but as a person with many interests, I need to do something that is humbling, intellectually stimulating, creative and channels my entrepreneurial spirit and energy into a mission that is sustainable and meaningful. If you can help me with anything, please contact me!
Who are your biggest role models?
My biggest role models are my parents, who are the most selfless, kindest and most determined individuals that I know. Raising children in a country they were not accustomed to is a massive challenge and they certainly have raised me and my siblings in the best way possible and ensured we were always looked after.
What is one thing that you would like to tell your younger self?
I would like to tell myself to not be afraid of standing up to what is right and to take advantage of all the opportunities available to me! I am still a young person so I still have the chance to grow and learn as much as I can.
What was a life-changing moment you experienced that shaped you into the woman that you are today?
I cannot pinpoint one life-changing moment, but I would say that becoming more outspoken and caring less about what others thought of me was instrumental in shaping me into who I am today. When I joined my local youth council and ran a campaign to become a Member of the UK Youth Parliament, I wanted to keep going. I also loved the first time I performed poetry on stage in front of hundreds of people about Islamophobia. At the same time, I felt that I had a voice in which I was not afraid to talk about my valid concerns, despite my young age.
What made you pursue your current path?
I have always felt a deep sense of injustice in the world in terms of racial inequality and the unequal wealth distribution that people experience and so, I want to be able to use my voice to bring more awareness to these issues. I have been able to harness my inner creativity through co-writing the book “Struggles of War”, which I have been able to address key social issues. Hopefully, I can shine a light on issues like systemic racism and economic inequality to build a better society for the current and future generations to come. In the process, I hope to develop my confidence and become an agent of change and prosperity.
What is a typical day like for you?
No two days are the same. Before the pandemic, I was attending school as normal and in the evenings, I would revise, work on writing new poems and articles, work on some very exciting projects I have yet to launch and once a week, I would attend my local youth council meetings. Now, the majority of my days include some element of studying for my GCSE’s next year, writing articles and poems online, freelance writing, attending online meetings with my local youth council and carrying out my responsibilities as a Deputy Member of Youth Parliament. I consult different organisations and talk to decisionmakers like councillors and MP’s to amplify young people’s voices to ensure that they are represented in local and national policies. Recently, I have become a BiteBack 2030 Youth Leader – a youth-led organisation whose mission is to achieve a world where all young people have the opportunity to be healthy and transform the food system for the better. I would love to transfer the skills that I am learning and teach people who are less fortunate back home.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your life so far and how did you manage to overcome it?
The biggest obstacle is the feeling of self-doubt and lack of confidence in myself. Over the last year, I have thrown myself into different projects and passions and sought more confidence in the work that I do. I always try my hardest in everything and this dedication will help me persevere when situations get tough in the future.
Which Somali woman inspires you and why?
There are a lot of Somali women who inspire me in many different ways. My mother is the most inspirational person I have met, kind and caring, yet strong and so pure. Without her, I would not have been able to push past obstacles that I have faced and seeing how resilient she is makes me want to strive even more. My grandmother is also a strong and determined individual with so much character and charisma. Aside from family, Dr Maryan Qasim, Edna Adan Ismail, Asli Hassan Abade and Dr Hawa Abdi are four hardworking Somali women that drove social change and were very successful in their careers.
What advice would you give to a young person?
My advice would be to broaden your horizons, think outside of the norm, stick to your values and have resilience in everything you do. When you start to broaden your imagination, pursue your radical visions and hope for transformation, you are one step closer to creating a community you’ll be proud to call home. Once we start to believe in ourselves, we give ourselves the permission to summon our power to act, build and change because if you can imagine a better society, you can certainly create it.
To every single person out there, seek opportunities, be yourself unapologetically and become comfortable in the uncomfortable because that is when we can truly test ourselves and grow.
How would you like people to remember you?
I would love it if people remembered me as a person who was fearless and always spoke the truth no matter what, who achieved her many dreams and ambitions. I hope people see that I love my faith, family, friends and community and hope that I touch millions of lives around the world and create real impact, for this generation and the generations to come.