Nurturing community with Muslim Women Awards founder Suada Mohamoud
Making people feel seen, empowered, and celebrated, can strengthen their sense of community spirit, as environments dedicated to the nourishment of its members, through uplifting means of support and encouragement, help them to flourish.
We see it from our smallest circles to our wider communities and beyond, that not only do people thrive when immersed in such environments, but individuals are often inspired by the successes of those they feel somewhat represented by.
Muslim Woman Awards Founder Suada Mohamoud made it her mission to nurture such a community when she founded the awards just three years ago, bringing together “inspiring” Muslim women to connect and celebrate each other’s “talents and contributions” to society.
"Muslim women have been put in so many boxes… I feel like we need to have our own space where we decide how we show our diversity, how we come in different shapes, sizes, mindsets and backgrounds"
The awards ran for their third consecutive year this November, in the heart of the British capital at London’s Caledonian Club, wrapping up a brilliant year for Muslim women across the UK.
“I absolutely just love community… it means everything to me. It’s like having different places where we can help each other. The more people we know the better it is for us,” Suada told The New Arab, emphasising that “having a space where we can [connect] is fantastic and brings me so much joy”.
Rounding up 2023’s successes
The 2023 ceremony saw Muslim women from across the UK gather in a space filled with positivity and unity, as those excelling in their fields were presented with certificates and trophies.
Hosted by Presenter, Live Host and Content Creator, Deana Hassanein, this year’s awards received more nominations than ever before. Almost one thousand nominations were submitted, in contrast to previous years where just a “couple of hundred” were received, Suada reveals.
“At the awards the energy is fantastic… It’s fantastic to see it’s becoming bigger… we’re growing and it’s becoming more noticed,” Suada told The New Arab.
With nine award categories, from Women in Media to Women in Sport, and Women in STEM to Community Spirit, Suada has endeavoured to recognise the achievements of Muslim women across a diverse range of fields at the annual, expanding event.
This year’s award winners included Aisha Desai [Community Spirit], who founded the Ramadan Lights UK project which saw Ramadan lights illuminate Piccadilly Circus for the first time earlier this year.
Winners also included Zainab Jiwa [Woman in Media], Presenter and Content Creator known for her fashionable, bubbly appearances at some of the entertainment industry’s most prestigious events and red carpets.
The importance of representation
Not only was diversity in talent important to Suada when forming the structure of the awards, but including representation for all types of Muslim women and the varying ways they choose to present themselves, was paramount.
“Muslim women have been put in so many boxes… I feel like we need to have our own space where we decide how we show our diversity, how we come in different shapes, sizes, mindsets and backgrounds,” Sauda told The New Arab.
She added that with such representation, and in providing a platform for successful Muslim women, she hopes other community members see that they are just as capable of achieving their goals.
“We need to see [representation] more. Growing up, I didn’t see it with women that looked like me, that represented me, that came from an ethnic background… now we can see it,” she told The New Arab.
The dangers of not having spaces like this, she says, include creating a sense of imposter syndrome, in which capable individuals can feel like they are not worthy of their existing achievements, nor capable of breaking barriers to success.
The birth of the awards
It was feeling a lack of representation and recognising a gap in the celebration of Muslim women, which ultimately led the organiser to take the plunge and begin the initiative in 2020, in preparation for a 2021 debut.
“I’d go to events and I’d feel a little left out and like there’s not a lot of sisters that look like myself, whether it be colour wise, or how I was wearing my hijab… I didn’t feel like I fit in,” Suada told The New Arab, adding “For me, it was like ok, why complain when you can create your own?
“I love to create things where I want to be. It was an idea for a while… until I did it. I was like enough… I’m going to put all my eggs in this basket, I’m going to fund it and we’re going to see how it goes… and here we are!” she said.
"We need to see [representation] more. Growing up, I didn’t see it with women that looked like me, that represented me, that came from an ethnic background… now we can see it"
Not a popularity contest
Deciding she wanted the awards to be “taken seriously”, and to steer away from them becoming a “popularity contest”, Suada brought together a diverse panel of judges – also award winners in their fields, or well experienced – to ensure “fairness” in the judging process.
The awards’ backend team typically narrows nominees to five per category, before the judges pick their winner and runners-up from the selection.
This year, Suada also invited previous winners to judge and “pass on the flowers” to a new community member, as former winners also presented new winners with their awards during the 2023 ceremony.
Aspirations of ‘going international’
Following a successful third consecutive year of the Muslim Women Awards, Suada believes the annual ceremony has only scratched the surface, that it’s just the beginning and that it's time to expand.
“The response to it is fantastic. Now it’s the time for more people to get involved and for us to take it to the next level,” she told The New Arab, adding that she has received a large amount of positive feedback that makes her feel “really happy to know I wasn’t crazy [to start the initiative]… we did need this!”
Suada envisions the awards going international, telling The New Arab she has received interest in the initiative from abroad.
With unshakeable determination, it is evident Suada is striving towards an upward trajectory, where the manifestations of her hard work are always bigger and better.
“I dream big you know, I’m a dreamer babe! My dream is to expand it for next year and make it go international… and that we get to wear our dresses and do our own red carpet!” she says, full of excitement.
Aisha Aldris is a London-based journalist who writes on social and humanitarian issues alongside culture and the arts
Follow her on Twitter: @aishaaldris