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TEDxToronto 2019: Shireen Ahmed, Writer, Podcaster, Activist for Muslim women in sports

Shireen Ahmed is an award-winning sports activist, athlete and community organizer. She is also part of a team of five women who created the Burn It All Down podcast, a feminist sports podcast that analyzes sports culture from the intersection of gender, race and religion. Shireen is on the advisory board of the Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and helps refugees use football as a vehicle for resettlement.

(To see Shireen live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

What was your first “million-dollar idea”?
Creating scratch-and-win cards and selling them in Grade 4. I borrowed $20 from my Mom to buy prizes. Me and my friend made $15 dollars each after we paid off the expenses for supplies and prizes. But the teacher killed our venture because she said it became a distraction for the class. My partner-in-crime and I managed to have a fancy lunch at the food court.

What’s the wildest idea you had to sell somebody on? How did you do it?
That writing about Muslim women in sports could be a career. I worked my butt off writing, researching, and putting myself out there. And it paid off.

Name a big idea in your lifetime that you can’t believe never took off?
A cooking show with my Dad that involved me talking about intersectional feminism while he debates me on everything–all as we prepare food together.

Name one thing, as a society, we aren’t spending enough time thinking about? What would be a good first step?
Holistic Health Care: be it dental, psychological, psychiatric, rehabilitation/occupational or other types. If you don’t have benefits you can’t access it easily. It’s very expensive. Indigenous communities are at the worst risk of not getting any help at all. It’s horrible.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day-to-day work? How do you take it on?
I am a sportswriter who mostly publishes online and so I get waves of online abuse, and terrible emails. The topics I write about (racism and misogyny in sports) are prone to having trolls flock to them and use horrific ad hominins to come at me. I have been sent rape threats and insults about my children. I practice a lot of self-care and being verified on Twitter has helped weed out many of them.

Where do you look for inspiration?
I don’t have to look further than my own mother and my daughter. Both are resilient in different ways and two people I admire for working hard for their goals and their dreams. Both are Muslim women who have pushed against stereotypes to succeed in different areas. And despite their ages, they press on.

If you could achieve one goal in the next 18 months what would it be? And why?
To start and then finish my book. All the ideas are in my head—I just need to get them down and published!

(To see Shireen live on the TEDxToronto stage on October 26th, purchase your tickets here.)

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