Yousra Elbagir – Journalist shares her inspirations and role models

Yousra Elbagir – Journalist shares her inspirations and role models

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a 26 year old, Sudanese born, British-educated journalist. I’m a bit of a third culture kid – walking around with an international accent, British mannerisms and a Sudanese penchant for hosting/feeding people. 

I’ve grown up in a family of journalists. As a child, I watched as my father’s newspaper constantly got confiscated from news stands for covering topics outside of the government’s interest. It taught me the power of information from a very young age and even as I tried to move away from the family trade I found myself writing articles and applying for news internships. Now, whenever I have a mental block or get caught up in the stress of my job 

I remember the daily fight my parents waged against the Sudanese regime to get people the news they need to make informed decisions. Freedom of information is a luxury that we shouldn’t take for granted.

 

What themes and subjects are your particularly interested in Journalism? 

My passion lies in underreported human interest stories – news and public policy that directly impacts the daily lives of people in that country. I also love mixing culture and current affairs in a way that is engaging to an audience that may otherwise not know anything about the country or topic being discussed. 

 

There are so many negative perceptions of Muslim women and Muslims in general. What do you think our biggest challenge is in facing these perceptions?

The biggest challenge in changing the narrative of muslim women is the refusal to accept that we have agency. That the way we dress and choose to act can often be our personal choice. Muslim women have had individuals and groups speaking on their behalf for far too long –  we can challenge the narrative by reclaiming it. By speaking for ourselves and opening the doors for other muslim women to be represented authentically in mainstream media and popular culture. 

 

What has been your most memorable and proudest achievement in your career?

The proudest achievement of my career thus far was winning Young Journalist of the Year at the 2016 Foreign Press Association and Thomson Foundation Award. I beat more than 100 other young journalists with articles I wrote in my hometown, Khartoum, and gave a speech in front of industry leaders that I have admired for a very long time. When I moved to Sudan after university, I was defeated and demoralised after being rejected from every graduate scheme under the sun. It was incredibly validating for my work to be recognised by the Foreign Press Association and still takes the cake as the best moment of my career.

 

Can you name any Muslim female role models you take inspiration from and why? 

I am incredibly inspired by the work of the late, great Zaha Hadid. Her vision truly stands the test of time. There are many other Muslim women that I admire but I keep coming back to my mother. She is the first female publisher in Sudan – a trailblazer and a matriarch. She acted as a mother and a father to me growing up, while my dad moved between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE – where our newspaper was published during his self-exile from Sudan. When we moved back to Sudan to relaunch the newspaper, I watched her set up from scratch and build a new foundation for the business in the year before my dad finally returned. 

In Islam, we are taught that “paradise is under the feet of our mothers” and the blood, sweat and tears that my mother put into raising my siblings and I is a true testament to that.

 

You have Sudanese heritage, how do you think that has played in the way you carve out your role living in the UK? 

My Sudanese background has definitely played a huge role in how I live my life in the UK. It is one that is guided by Sudanese values and a western sensibility. I’ve always tried to absorb the best of both worlds, which can mean that I can often be uncomfortable in both. 

 

Lastly, can you give us a phrase that best describes your approach to life?

Trust the process!