We are very happy to start the Young Influencers Project with Minna Salami, the founder behind the inspirational blog MsAfropolitan. Minna is listed alongside Michelle Obama and many more as one of ” 12 Women changing the world” by ELLE Magazine. She is a Young Influencer in her own capacity, and her work appears in The Guardian, The Independent, Huffington Post, among others.

 

Minna takes inspiration from her Nigerian and Finnish roots, and uses her vast platform to encourage dialogue on issues that are in the forefront of the African diaspora in Europe, especially women, as she continues to raise her voice for a more inclusive and diverse Europe. As she said when we met her:” European women come from different races and different religions, but it’s mostly white women’s voices that are heard in Brussels.”

 

 

The 21st century has many young leaders who want to change or have an impact on their community and the world. Is this true for you? If so, what change are you making or do you wish to make?

It’s absolutely true for me and it always has been, especially in a world where there is so much suffering and tremendous trauma. For me to sort of just sit and watch without getting involved is like seeing a house on fire and not call the fire brigade. Making a change has always felt like something quite urgent for me, especially by getting involved, not necessarily in one particular way, but just get involved in general. For me change is logical.

 

How are you making that change happen? What tools are you using to achieve this change?

The way that I think I can best contribute to a change in this world, is through writing. There are obviously several layers to my actions to achieve change, but writing is my biggest passion. I love words and I love being able to express myself through words. Therefore, reading and doing research in order to write in a way that can catch people’s attention and keep their attention is an important part of how I want to achieve change. I believe that an important part of changing the world is making people attentive, attentive to the issues that we face globally, but, not only that, change is also about retaining attention. Keeping people interested in the issues that are happening in our societies is important in order to encourage a dialogue.

In addition to my writing, I also do a lot of speaking, sometimes on a voluntary basis especially with young people. For me speaking is not about me or speaking at young people, but the possibilities of starting a dialogue and learning from others and discussing ways we can change the world together.

 

What are the challenges that you are faced with within your environment, that you believe are obstacles to this change? 

I mean when you are trying to challenge the status quo and shake the table, you are going to meet a lot of resistance, because there are many heavy stacks of books in the table that people don’t want you to move. So, yes, I have faced a variety of challenges, especially online, which have in some cases been very severe and I had to involve the police. Still, I believe the biggest challenge is how your choices affect people around you. When you put yourself out there, especially online, you become public property and therefore, you open yourself up to everything that comes with it. I am not only me anymore, I am more than that, and that can be very challenging.

However, my work and the awareness I bring on issues that are feminist in nature or other issues affecting our world today, have pushed me to understand that I need to push through the challenges that I have encountered. I want women to thrive and be joyous and fully flourish in life and in order for me to advocate such a message, I have to embody that no matter what.

 

What kind of leadership talents, skills and approaches are needed in today’s Europe and the world?

I think that we need to question what we believe a leader should be. The current definition is clearly not working. I don’t think that including women for the sake of including women is the answer, especially if we are not simultaneously asking ourselves what leadership is about.

Leadership is about justice, intelligence and ethics, for me a leader should be someone who can show the way with intelligence, sound ethics and who has a good eye for justice. What is just and what is fair.

 

What tips do you give to young women and men of all backgrounds who want to make a difference in the world?

 

Number 1. Work on Self-knowledge

This can be done by reading, meditating. It is important to find a way that works for you.

Number 2. Put effort into the work you are doing.

If it doesn’t force you to get better, it’s not worth it.

Number 3.  Remember to have fun.

I want young people to understand that activism, revolution or any change you want to make in the world is important, but it is also important to enjoy your life. If you want to be a role model, you don’t want to be a miserable one.