Original article published here
WHEN Habiba Asim was bullied at school for wearing a hijab, it fuelled a fired in her to fight prejudice at every opportunity.
The Huntingdale resident, who recently won the positive achievement award at the WA Youth Awards, has dedicated her young life to mentoring youths and battling inequality.
Ms Asim has worked with organisations such as Save the Children (with whom she was a national youth ambassador), Gosnells Youth Advisory Council, the Youth Affairs Council of WA and the Cities of Belmont and Stirling.
The former Canning Vale College head girl, who is a Muslim, said she wanted to tackle prejudice after she wore a hijab to school and was met with vitriol.
“That was a point in my life when I was very young and was trying different things. I put it on to go to school and it wasn’t a good experience,” she said.
“That was a point where this rage and anger started building up inside me and me helping other young people and the community is a way of channelling that anger in a positive way.
“I think it’s an experience that has made me stronger, but something I’m still trying to cope with.”
Ms Asim said other incidents involving friends who wear hijabs have also made her determined to fight prejudice.
“I can notice a difference between staff in a retail store and they won’t say hello or won’t approach them,” she said.
“At first I thought it was just me being paranoid, but after a while, every single shop we went to, no one was coming up to us.”
Rather than let the anger consume her, Ms Asim said she has instead channelled her energy into helping kids and teenagers overcome the same stigma and prejudice she has faced.
“I was mentoring a high school kid with Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience and we were talking about the issues he faces in his daily life and we swapped rap songs and a lot of our issues were the same,” she said.
“When it got to the discrimination and racism part and the expectations society has for you, it was very similar, we felt the same and that’s how we connected.”