This is the story of Alvi. A story of how a young woman realized she, too, can be a role model and change the lives of young girls. This realization came after a powerful moment.
“I recognized society treats women differently”
Growing up as a Bangladeshi-American girl in Brooklyn, New York, Alvi Rashid encountered Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment towards Muslim people from a young age, especially post-9/11. It was difficult for her to embrace her fullest identity.
“As I got older, I recognized society treats women differently. There are different expectations of us. And now we have the vocabulary to express it. I remember understanding that there are social injustices, but not yet understanding that I had a role to play in changing them.”
After college, Rashid joined the AmeriCorps, similar to the Peace Corps but serving in the United States. Placed in a New York City nonprofit called GenerationOn, Rashid knew the nonprofit sector was where her unique impact belonged.
“That’s when it hit me”
Growing up, Rashid’s mother always encouraged her to pick a career that would strengthen her community. The moment Rashid realized she could be a role model was when she was 17 years old, scouring her high school A.P. American History notes in a front office just before her American citizenship test. As her mind raced, a government official walked through the door. Rashid’s eyes locked on them, as she was also a young, South Asian woman.
“That was the moment that it hit me,” said Rashid. “I too could be in a space like her and give back to my community. At She’s the First we talk a lot about ‘seeing is believing’ and that’s why setting up mentorships for girls is really important. This was my ‘seeing is believing’ moment, and it motivated me to go to where I am now.”
“I was really drawn to their mission”
Women are not strangers to their voices being lost in societal noise, but in most cases they internalize their voice because “it’s the way things are” and move on. Rashid made it her mission to change this, starting with young people to empower their voices with the confidence to know they can enact change.
“I must encourage girls to say, ‘These are my basic rights. I belong in this space. I’m allowed to be safe. I’m allowed to speak up. I deserve these things and I’m going to work until I get there,’” said Rashid. “I want them to be able to think, ‘She did it, so I can do it, too.’”
Beyond setting an example, Rashid is deeply convicted to help others become their greatest self, to realize their unique visions and see them through. Especially young women. “When women and girls are at the decision tables where choices are being made, all needs are represented. They’re going to adjust the outcome because they are there.”
In every way, Rashid’s passion for young women positioned her to make a difference with She’s the First, a nonprofit organization that fights for a world where girls are educated, respected and heard.
Last year, the organization launched the Global Girl’s Bill of Rights, asking girls everywhere to submit their top ten rights. Rashid and her fellow advocates at She’s the First were blown away by the responses of education, leadership opportunities, documentation, reproductive rights and more. Over 1,000 girls submitted their rights from 34 countries in five different languages.
“Uplifting the Girl’s Bill of Rights movement is part of my personal mission,” said Rashid.
“It’s about a woman who was determined”
As a young woman, Rashid gradually became aware that the injustices she and other women and girls of color experienced were part of a larger system of oppression. “From catcalls to unequal pay to taunts about what we wear, it was all symptomatic of larger issues at play in society.” And from the very start, Rashid has had a strong community of women around her inspiring her to create a better system — none more so than her mom.
“My mom was the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college,” said Rashid. “My mom was so dedicated to education from a young age. She understood that education unlocked enormous potential.”
When Rashid’s mother was a young girl in Bangladesh, she always wore shoes to school when no one else did. “Many people assume that’s a story of overcoming poverty, but it isn’t. It’s about a woman who was determined.” In that regard, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.