1) Hi Maureen, and congratulations on being a globelle gal in focus! Can you tell us where in the world we can currently find you?
Thanks for choosing me as your Globelle Gal of the week! I am currently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. When not traveling, I am a native-born gal from New York City, USA.
2) What inspired you to first start travelling?
As a child, I spent most of my time reading. Reading opened my eyes to a world beyond New York City, which accompanied my natural thirst to learn about other cultures and traditions. That, coupled with my interests in pursuing a career for international women's rights naturally led me to travelling. To date, I have traveled across 5 continents and over 17 countries. My goal is to make it to all 7 continents before my 30th birthday: I have 4 years left and Australia and Antarctica to go!
3) What’s been your favourite place to be visit, and why?
I really enjoyed my time in Morocco. While only a short 5-day trip, I had the opportunity to do a tour of the Sahara in Ouarzazate, Morocco. It was the first time I truly felt I escaped from the bustle I would find in my native New York City. It provided a complete departure from the bustling energy that I am used to. Camping out overnight in the desert made me realize how truly small I am in the world, and how much more there is left to see.
4) Who has been the most influential person to your travels?
I think it is more accurate to say that groups of individuals have inspired me: people from different cultures from my own. I have been fortunate to grow up in a city that promotes diversity, and it is my interactions with people from all walks of life that has inspired my own wanderlust to visit their homes/origins.
5) What is the worst thing that's happened to you on the road? How did you deal with it?
As a women's rights activist, I am particularly cautious of knowing the dangers young women can face when traveling on their own (or within a group), especially when it comes to street harassment. My worst street harassment experience happened when I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I was walking to my morning class, and a young man pinched my behind in front of the Duomo and yelled a derogatory statement at me. While this could happen to me just as easily back home, experiencing it in a foreign place made me feel powerless. Since then, I have worked to empower myself and others on how to safely approach unfortunate experiences like the one I encountered. A great organization that works to empower women against street harassment globally is iHollaBack- check them out!
6) Obviously life on the road is about fewer possessions and more moments, but what is the one thing you cannot travel without?
A bottle of hot sauce. Preferably Sriracha. You never know when your food will be too bland. (HQ: We never thought of this before: love it!)
7) You're currently working on a global campaign to end child, early and forced marriage. What inspired you to do this? How did you get involved in addressing these important issues?
I have been working on women's advocacy for the past ten years: I knew from a very early age that my feminism was attached to a desire to help marginalised women around the world empower themselves and improve their living conditions. Over the years, I have worked on advancing women's and girls' rights in New York City, particularly working on domestic violence issues prevalent in the Muslim community in New York through my Board Member role at Turning Point for Women and Families. Most recently I worked with organizations such as the National Organization of Women, Women Deliver, UNDP, and now, I currently work with Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA). At PGA, I am currently working on their "Global Parliamentary Campaign to End Child, Early and Forced Marriage," where we work with Members of Parliament to advance women's and girls' human rights. I am very fortunate for this opportunity, where I get to assist the Gender, Equality and Population Programme team in connecting Members of Parliament to civil society so that they may come together and stop the practice of child marriage, a practice that affects approximately 14 million girls around the world every year.
8) You must meet an incredible amount of inspiring women bringing about change in the world to improve the lives of their fellow ladies. How does Parliamentarians for Global Action hope to achieve it's goals?
Please take a look at our campaign on our website: http://www.pgaction.org/campaigns/prevent-and-eliminate-harmful-traditional-practices.html.
9) What does travelling mean to you?
Taking myself out of my comfort zone, experiencing life's comforts (and discomforts) in a new environment, and more importantly- broadening my perspective on how to combat today's most pressing international human rights issues by interacting with people on the ground.
10) If you could offer one piece of advice to those considering travelling for the first time, either solo or as part of group, what would it be?
Get off your phone, and disconnect from that WiFi. Your family, friends and loved ones will be safely waiting for you at home, but this your time to experience a new adventure!
11) And finally, how can globelle gals get in touch with yourself, and involved in supporting the work that you're doing?
Please feel free to follow me on Twitter: @maureenjahmed to learn more about international women's rights issues. If anyone wants to personally get in touch with me, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.