“By being the change we wish to see, we can shape a future that is resilient and empowered. Our efforts today to plant seeds of mental well-being and equality can flourish into a future that stands tall against adversity, inequality, and injustice.”
2024 Top 30 Under 30
What specific issue(s) are you taking on, and what inspires you to do so?
I am passionate about prioritizing and promoting mental well-being and gender equality. Witnessing the struggles in the South Asian community, especially of women, I felt inspired to become an advocate for mental health services and survivors of gender-based violence. My work with refugee and immigrant women experiencing abuse supports them towards resilience through empowerment and independence, emphasizing the value of their mental health through their journey. Gender-based gaps and mental stigmas still exist today, and I am motivated to achieve my vision of a healthy and equitable world.
What does climate change or climate justice mean to you? To your work?
Climate justice is integral to achieving each of the Sustainable Development Goals, and climate change poses a risk for the future we wish to foster. Disregarding the international importance of mental-wellbeing and equality would only further the existing gaps in vulnerable populations around the world. In my work, I focus on a holistic approach, understanding that in order to empower an individual or community, their social, personal, and environmental needs must be met. I support individuals from marginalized communities by participating in community-led initiatives and being a part of fostering therapeutic partnerships that recognize the challenges of intersectionality to promote inclusivity and positive mental well-being.
What advice do you have for other young people looking to get involved in sustainable development?
Envisioning achieving sustainable development at a national or international level can feel daunting, and it may be difficult to know where or how to begin. Start small! Find local initiatives that support your beliefs and passions that work to address the issues within your community. Leaving a positive impact on your community can not only address local concerns but can also inspire other communities to achieve local success too, ultimately creating larger and larger impact. Starting small may feel like a small ripple, but over time, it can lead to huge waves of positive change and sustainability.
Ishmal facilitating a mental health event for therapists in 2023, where she led conversations on working with culturally-diverse clients. The event offered therapists the opportunity to understand the common themes and needs of the community.
Ishmal with colleagues during the COVID-19 lockdown preparing an efficient hamper distribution system. As an essential service, Ishmal and colleagues implemented innovative ways to meet community needs while following safety guidelines.
Ishmal with colleagues after receiving a grant from Mayor of Edmonton Amarjeet Sohi in 2023 for the Roots on Six initiative. Aimed at making the city more inclusive, the platform celebrates the resilience of Indigenous, refugee, and newcomer communities.