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Salma Abdulatif | Kenya | Unbelievable Pedestals

Civic Leader | Published Poet | Advocate

My name is Salma Abdulatif (Salummy). I am an award-winning Civic Leader and a published poet from Kenya, currently in the United Kingdom. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Maritime Business Management, a certificate in Design Thinking and Innovation from the University of Virginia and I am currently pursuing my Masters in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of East Anglia as the 2021 recipient of the Global Voices Scholarship.

I have always been interested in the Africa Rising Narrative and I have used my passion in civic leadership and my storytelling abilities as a writer to create transformative programs for communities. My experience dates back to my university days as being part of Enactus, an international social entrepreneurship organization that allows students to take charge in changing people’s lives and at the same time, empower them financially to be able to support themselves. Working with the Uasin Gishu community was the stepping stone towards seeing my vision for the world. Apart from the projects that I worked with my team that took us to the global sphere making us scoop the Enactus Kenya Championship twice in a row and representing Kenya at the Enactus World Cup in Canada and England respectively, the ability to see 1000s of people directly and indirectly impacted gave me the desire to choose this route. I then founded my own community organization, Mentor Transform Yield (MTY) Organization that has empowered youth around the Coastal region through leadership and innovation.

Doors opened up for me to enhance my understanding of the Social Entrepreneurship world especially in the African context and I got nominated among the top three Youngest Human Rights Defenders by the National Coalition of Kenya. I then participated in the Young African Leadership Initiative in Nairobi, the Mandela Washington Fellowship where I was placed at the University of Nebraska, USA and the African Presidential Leadership Programme in Egypt where my perspective was broadened and challenged.

In 2019, my quest for storytelling as a form of social change took over and I started seriously working on my poetry collection, Dried Rose Petals and Lavender Buds and I challenged myself to ensure that my poetry would be a medium to create awareness and advocacy. The same year, I was selected by YALDA to be a Youth Media Zone Expert for the World Export Development Forum organized by the International Trade Center, USAID and other partners at the African Union, I was also selected as a speaker of the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Shaikh, Egypt and I scooped the Woman Award of the year through the Coast Woman Magazine.

I launched my poetry collection in March, 2020 and the book gained more traction that I expected especially around the Coastal region. And here I am today, still using my voice through my Instagram: (@expressing_through_salummy) and through my mentorship programs that I currently run virtually to advocate for change and transformation. My poetry has been published in Lolwe, Ink, Sweat and Tears and Doek among others. My passion for understanding how poetry evolves in other spaces inspired my participation in a poetry road trip from Kenya to Burundi through to Uganda culminating in Rwanda. I also participated in poetry workshopping at the University of Nebraska facilitated by Kwame Dawes.

What were the biggest initial hurdles and how did you overcome them?

The biggest hurdle for me was facing rejection and having limited resources to pursue the great aspirations I have for my community. Nowadays, I view rejections as a learning process, a way to become more resilient and to keep doing what I am doing because it matters. Everything that we do matters and understanding this in whatever scope we can, makes a significant difference. When it comes to resources, I have trained myself to know and believe that we have to start from somewhere, anywhere. But we have to start now, with the little that we have. The biggest resources we have are our voices, our intellectual abilities and our skillset. If we have this and we put all our attention to the intangible resources, everything else will sort itself out in due time.

What books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading The Complete Poetry by Maya Angelou and Belonging by Bell Hooks.

What advice would you give to an upcoming youth or talents locally and internationally?

My greatest advice would be to never do things for the sake of fame. We have to always clarify our intentions and remind ourselves when God takes us to the unbelievable pedestals that impact is more essential than fame. We should not fall for the idea of easy success. We should push yourselves to be people of quality- when it comes to character, principles, knowledge, proactivity and efficiency. We should stand out with our values head high and remember to never forget who we are and how God has stood with us all along the way!

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