When 22-year-old Ainee Fatima was approached by Seventeen Magazine to be their ambassador for Chime for Change a few months ago, she was initially taken back. In an exclusive interview with Illume, she spoke on her reactions to the honor and her story for how she came to be where she is today. An incoming college senior, Ainee Fatima, known to many online as the “Badass Muslim girl”, was star-struck when she learned who she would be working with on the global movement of girls helping girls.
However, in looking at Ainee’s past and present work, it is clear to see why she was chosen to be a part of the star-studded organization Chime for Change, which boasts such celebrity representatives as Beyonce and Salma Hayek. An award-winning poet, blogger, and activist for Generation Change, Ainee has proven her worth through her struggles and achievements. “I used to be very, very shy. In high school, I didn’t pay attention in class and spent my time writing a lot. My English teacher noticed and asked to read my pieces, and told me that I could become better, and invited me to join the school’s slam poetry team.” Before the invite, Ainee had never heard of slam poetry, but agreed to join the team, even while she suffered from stage fright, “I felt so afraid. [My poems] are my own stories.” In her first year of slam poetry, she did well, but attributed her lack of confidence to her not wearing the hijab (Muslim headscarf).
The second year that Ainee participated in slam poetry competitions, she chose to put on the hijab, and was the 2009 finalist and winner of Young Chicago Authors Louder Than a Bomb, the largest Teen Poetry Slam competition in Chicago. Ainee’s win also made her the first hijabi to win the competition, performing a piece that she initially “didn’t want to show my parents, since it was a piece on falling in love and having to deal with religion and culture. Since it’s culturally taboo to talk about feelings, love before marriage, I was very reluctant to show my parents, but had to in case anything happened. They very, very reluctantly said yes.” Her performance in front of ten thousand people earned her the title inside the slam community of being “that hijabi at the slam competition”, a title that later evolved into being the original “Badass Muslim girl”, when Ainee found herself becoming a viral web meme after she and her friends took a photo of her and put it online. Ainee later defined the term on an article she wrote on MuslimGirl.net as a girl who was “humbly confident, promotes equality, accepting, and a true role model.”
Now, Ainee fulfills her definition of being a "Badass Muslim Girl" through her work for Chime for Change. With their focus on investing in young women and girls, Ainee found herself excited to be a part of a movement that would rightfully focus on the “ones raising generations. Investing in women rather than men means that there will be a change. Women are our sisters, our mothers, our daughters.” Founded by Gucci, the organization serves to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world with a focus in three areas: education, health and justice.
Even with all of her positive work, though, Ainee has faced her share of backlash from Muslims and non-Muslims alike who criticize her work and the organization she is affiliated with. Some Muslims spoke out against her working with Beyonce, and her name was recently posted on an anti-Islam site. However, Ainee brushes off the comments of the nay-sayers, focusing on the positivity and support that she has received since the Seventeen feature was published.
Throughout all of the fame and talk about Ainee’s achievements, she remains humble and down to earth. “I’m not one special person,” she said, “but this all happened for a reason, and it is God’s will that I carry this responsibility.” With such a level head on her shoulders, Ainee is sure to go far.