Najma's story

13 February 2023

Najma spent her early years growing up in Canada and moved to Wales at a young age the Grangetown area of Cardiff South. “I’d say we lived in this area called Grangetown in Cardiff South, which is just like probably the most – it is the most multicultural area in probably the whole of Wales, to be honest.”

Najma remembers the area having a number of challenges, being a poorer part of the city, and shares that her high school “didn’t have the best reputation” at the time. Despite this, Najma recalls a happy childhood where she appreciated living so close to many of her family members: “my grandparents are here, and all of my mum’s siblings all lived in the same area, so I grew up very, very close to my cousins. They were basically like my siblings".

My main memory of childhood is spending 24/7 at my grandmother’s house, and just with all of my cousins, yes, that sort of thing.

Coming from a Black African family and growing up in such a diverse part of the city, Najma has always been interested in community and cultures and chose to follow this passion with her studies at university. Najma attended Swansea University where she gained an undergraduate degree in International Relations, and then went on to achieve a Masters from Birkbeck University in Culture, Ethnicity and Diaspora Studies.

Despite having a successful time at university, Najma, like so many others, experienced a time of uncertainty after finishing her time at university and recalls feeling a little lost: “you’re just a bit like… a little bit lost, I would say.”

She began looking for her next opportunity: “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, and trying to do extracurricular stuff, like development stuff, on the side.” This was when she came across the UpRising programme and applied to take part, feeling that it “looked like the perfect sort of programme”.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next.

Najma participated in UpRising’s Cardiff-based Leadership Programme from Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019 where she took part in skills and development sessions that allowed her to explore the different power structures within her own city and meet many of the leaders who held power there. She attended a residential Campaign Weekend along with other young people from UpRising cohorts across the UK and was part of a Social Action Campaign group that wanted to develop opportunities for other young people who felt lost and lacked support or direction after leaving university. She recalls “I had no experience of creating a project from the start, so being given – being taught those skills of how to manage a project, and even like the whole budgeting thing and stuff, it was invaluable”.

I had no experience of creating a project from the start... it was invaluable.

Najma credits UpRising as giving her the chance and support she needed during a hard time following university: “the opportunity to make new friends in that sort of space where they’re just interested in the same things that you are, and building your network then from scratch, that was really, really helpful, and I still speak to the people that I did UpRising with.”

Najma currently works for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales as part of the team running the innovative Future Generations Leadership Academy, empowering other young leaders from across Wales to become change-makers in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015).

She explains that her experiences with UpRising empowered her to apply for and be successful in her current role: “I would’ve never seen myself running a leadership academy… I probably didn’t even know what a leadership academy was, but from my experience with UpRising, and relationship with [the UpRising team], I felt like it was doable.”

I’m in my current role because of my UpRising experience.

Najma spent her early years growing up in Canada and moved to Wales at a young age the Grangetown area of Cardiff South. “I’d say we lived in this area called Grangetown in Cardiff South, which is just like probably the most – it is the most multicultural area in probably the whole of Wales, to be honest.” 

Najma remembers the area having a number of challenges, being a poorer part of the city, and shares that her high school “didn’t have the best reputation” at the time. Despite this, Najma recalls a happy childhood where she appreciated living so close to many of her family members: “my grandparents are here, and all of my mum’s siblings all lived in the same area, so I grew up very, very close to my cousins. They were basically like my siblings.. definitely my main memory of childhood is spending 24/7 at my grandmother’s house, and just with all of my cousins, yes, that sort of thing”. 

Coming from a Black African family and growing up in such a diverse part of the city, Najma has always been interested in community and cultures and chose to follow this passion with her studies at university. Najma attended Swansea University where she gained an undergraduate degree in International Relations, and then went on to achieve a Masters from Birkbeck University in Culture, Ethnicity and Diaspora Studies. 

Despite having a successful time at university, Najma, like so many others, experienced a time of uncertainty after finishing her time at university and recalls feeling a little lost:
“you’re just a bit like… a little bit lost, I would say.”

She began looking for her next opportunity: “I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, and trying to do extracurricular stuff, like development stuff, on the side.” This was when she came across the UpRising programme and applied to take part, feeling that it “looked like the perfect sort of programme”.

Najma participated in UpRising’s Cardiff based Leadership Programme from Autumn 2018 to Summer 2019 where she took part in skills and development sessions that allowed her to explore the different power structures within her own city and meet many of the leaders who held power there. She attended a residential Campaign Weekend along with other young people from UpRising cohorts across the UK and was part of a Social Action Campaign group who wanted to develop opportunities for other young people who felt lost and lacked support or direction after leaving university. She recalls “I had no experience of creating a project from the start, so being given – being taught those skills of how to manage a project, and even like the whole budgeting thing and stuff, it was invaluable”.

Najma credits UpRising as giving her the chance and support she needed during a hard time following university: “the opportunity to make new friends in that sort of space where they’re just interested in the same things that you are, and building your network then from scratch, that was really, really helpful, and I still speak to the people that I did UpRising with.”

Najma currently works for the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales as part of the team running the innovative Future Generations Leadership Academy, empowering other young leaders from across Wales to become changemakers in line with the Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015).

She explains that her experiences of UpRising empowered her to apply for and be successful in her current role: “I would’ve never seen myself running a leadership academy… I probably didn’t even know what a leadership academy was, but from my experience with UpRising, and relationship with [the UpRising team], I felt like it was doable.”

“I’m in my current role because of my UpRising experience”.

Working closely with the Well-being of Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Najma's work with the Future Generations Office has seen her travel to represent and advocate for the Well-being of Future Generations Act at different influential events, including One Young World. She has also previously been member of the Cardiff Race Equality Task Force and is currently a member of Race Alliance Wales' Steering Group - working with other members to deliver and support action on racial inequality in Wales.