Founder and CEO of Malikah
Rana is helping people find their strength. As an internationally acclaimed human rights organizer, 1st Degree Black Belt, public speaker and social entrepreneur, she is focused on the empowerment of marginalized communities.
Rana Abdelhamid is founder and CEO of Malikah, a nonprofit organization and global grassroots movement supporting women’s empowerment through self-defense, entrepreneurship and organizing training. Rana established (IM)WISE at sixteen after being attacked by a stranger who tried to rip the hijab from her head. Over the past seven years, (IM)WISE has engaged thousands of participants through its programs across the US and internationally. She is highly committed to the global human rights movement and is currently the youngest serving Board Member of Amnesty International USA.
What was the inspiration and drive to create MALIKAH?
For me, there are two phases of MALIKAH.
The first: at 16, it was a reaction to an assault. A man attacked me and attempted to remove my hijab. I was terrified, but what I took away from it was passion. I said, “Okay, I don’t want any woman to ever have to feel unsafe in her own skin.” And I knew that there was gender-based violence within my broader community, and I wanted to put an end to that.
The second critical juncture was after election of Trump. The day of the election, I started getting all of these messages from folks from across the board - women of color, LGBTQ+, anyone who felt marginalized. I quickly got the sense of just how bad something like this was needed.
How has the community you made through MALIKAH impacted you and those around you?
How has it not impacted my life? It's a raising of consciousness. I'm aware of oppression, and now I’m able to articulate it and push back against it with a collective group of women. Regardless of where I am, I find sisterhood. Something I can see from all of these women, women empowering each other in the face of violence, is integral deep love for each other.
What does courage mean to you and is it definable?
When I think of courage, I think of every single woman in my life.
Often when people think of courage, they imagine unresolved, unwavering strength; however, I see courage in women who are silently suffering from domestic violence because their will to live is so strong. I see courage in the Muslim and other women of color that I work with who are facing racism but still find pride in their traditions and religions. I see courage in women stuck in the patriarchy, or facing racial violence and still manage to economically prop up and build communities. Courage is the resilience of the women I love, my sisters. But don’t get me wrong, it’s also the women who are on TV and leading movements and somehow, even in the face of violence, find the strength to build, love and create. This is courage.