Yousra Abdelal is a perfect example of the power of higher education to help young women become trailblazers.
By day she plays a major role in organising and promoting events held by Bradford College, where she is Marketing Events Coordinator. She is also an author, having published her debut novel, Hijab and Red Lipstick.
Published under the name Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick was inspired by Yousra’s own experiences. She was born and raised in North London but moved to Qatar with her family as a teenager. “When I lived in the Gulf, I felt like no one really cared what girls had to say,” she said. “I always felt as if you were a young woman or teenage girl you were never taken seriously.
“Because I was born and brought up in the UK, even at primary school you’re encouraged by your teachers to share your opinions. When we moved to the Gulf, I felt like my voice was completely silenced, especially as a female. I remember telling myself I would write a book one day.”
Having gained a BA Honours degree in International Relations and Affairs from the University of Qatar, Yousra credits her time at university with giving her the opportunity to decide her own destiny. She says: “I am half-Egyptian, and I come from a family where receiving a good education was paramount for both boys and girls, and I was encouraged to go to university no matter what our financial standing was.
“Going to university broadened my horizons and made me feel like anything was possible. Having a degree also gave me life choices. I was able to apply for the jobs I wanted and embark on a career in marketing which I couldn’t have done if I hadn’t have gone to university.”
Among the key struggles that the novel’s central character faces is finding her own voice. Yousra feels this is something that higher education can give young women such as herself. She says: “As a British Muslim and as a British Arab woman, by aiming higher and by being an active and involved student at university, I shattered stereotypes and showed everyone what we truly are – bright, smart women full of potential who want to be trailblazers and make an impact.”