Words by Abi Scaife
Nasra Ayub was 15 when she first heard about Female Genital Mutilation.
Her older sister was volunteering for Integrate UK, an organisation seeking equality and strong communities. After learning about their work, Nasra ended up joining too - and so began a life dedicated to helping young people.
“I didn't realise that FGM was something that happened in my community,” explains Nasra. “I’m from a Somali background. And further to this, I didn't know that it happened to members of my family. So I was quite horrified.”
An anxious teenager, it took Nasra some time but eventually, she decided that she wanted to take on the task of helping others.
“[I started] delivering talks around radicalization, extremism and safeguarding young people,” says Nasra. “When I was about 18 there was this massive wave of young kids going to Syria and being groomed online …and one of the kids that this happened to was somebody from Bristol.”
“The narrative that was being given by society and has stayed with me today, is that we view these kids that are being groomed online as perpetrators and as criminals rather than as victims who are being groomed. Because how does it happen that a young child who is deemed to be normal suddenly decides to go and leave everything behind?”
Integrate UK, where Nasra and her sister volunteered, is funded by the Global Fund for Children charity. This is how she first met Hayley, GFC’s Global Managing Director - and together they went on to set up the Youth Leadership Council, a group aiming to promote the needs of children and advance their rights.
Today, Nasra is the Programmes Associate with GFC where she works on the Spark Fund.
“The Spark Fund was basically a [reaction] to the pandemic. A lot of young people signing up their organisations were on the frontline of a lot of activism, campaigning and holding their communities together, but the money wasn't there,” explains Nasra. "So the Spark Fund was created to address this, trying to [help] young people decide where funding goes, and help fund organisations across the world."
As much as her work is global, Nasra is also keen to support young people closer to home. In Bradford, Nasra is working to fund grassroots organisations that work with young boys, encouraging them to engage with their communities, and offering them good role models.
“I think it's very timely because young boys need support more than ever right now, with … people questioning what masculinity is and all that,” explains Nasra. “Now is the time more than ever to ask young boys ‘who are your role models, and who is a good role model? What's a bad role model? What do you look at when it comes to masculinity and how can we support you?’”
Ultimately, Nasra is concerned with supporting young people as they try to give back, and encouraging them to do as much good as they can. It isn’t about channelling money into as many charities as possible. For Nasra, and her colleagues at Global Fund for Children, it is all about making sure young people are able to take control of their desire to give back.
“That's one of my areas of passion,” Nasra tells Smiley News. “Especially on a global scale. Supporting young people to [help them] be involved in philanthropy, as well as having the power and resources to make those decisions as to where money goes in their communities.”
“There's millions of pounds going into this space, but it's being decided by those that are not from the communities that they aim to serve. Give the money to the young people because they can do it. The Spark Fund is a testimony to that, that they actually can make informed decisions.”
If Nasra’s story resonated with you and you’re interested in learning more about the Global Fund for Children, you can do so on their website.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Integrate UK. This is a charity that empowers young people to participate equally in an integrated, cohesive and representative society. Find out more here.
Plan UK. This charity aims to educate, empower and protect children wherever they can. Learn more here.
The Childhood Trust. This is London's child poverty charity, dedicated to alleviating the impact of poverty on children and young people living in the capital. Support them here.