Who am I?
Hey guys my name is Nabilah, 16 and I go to Fitzalan High. I joined The Agency in September 2019 and the reason I joined was because I wanted to do something that was out of my comfort zone and be proud of it.
Therefore, Soldering Sisters was created and the reason behind creating Soldering Sisters, was that I wanted to help young women pursue their career without any stigma or barriers in the way. Sometimes it can be complicated or difficult for women to go into careers that are traditionally seen as open to men. So, I thought we could use engineering as an eye-opener for this project, and show how versatile and open it is as a career for both genders. At the beginning I envisioned inspiring young women to pursue a career that fits them without any barriers. To achieve this, I thought a strong well known woman in engineering would set a perfect example for them. So I invited Shrouk El Attar, who is a successful woman engineer, is an electronic design engineer, and has been crucial in opening access to higher education for asylum seekers and been involved in campaigns for LGBT+ rights. She also won Young Woman of the Year as part of the Women on the Move Awards 2018, plus was listed as one of the BBC’s 100 most influential women worldwide. With her guidance and experience, I was hoping she could inspire young women as she has with me after hearing her powerful journey. I felt Shrouk was the perfect person to showcase what young women are capable of, and also someone young women can relate to as she had to face the same difficulties in society’s limited gender roles.
As I was working on the project and trying to figure out how I wanted to achieve my goal, I realised that it would take a lot of skills as there were times we had to meet up with people and one of my issues was that I lacked confidence within myself and I was always shy at times. But with the help from THE AGENCY, the meetings always had an amazing outcome. However, there were times I also lost confidence with maintaining the project and I wasn’t as motivated as I wished I was. However, the push from Rabab, the producer, helped me rethink why I needed this project to work.
The original plan
The original idea for the project was three separate events, about women in engineering, aimed at young women aged 14/15. The first event was going to be at Fitzalan High School, inviting a woman engineer to speak to young women and girls at the school. The second event was a practical event at Cardiff University, involving female engineering students running a practical workshop for young women from Fitzalan High. The third event was going to be a public event, open to adults and young people, inviting a successful woman engineer to talk about her journey. Each event was going to be at different venues, but focused on encouraging young women to let go of the traditional idea of engineering. But as the project started to become what I envisioned, we had Lockdown which meant everything had to change.
The developed plan
In terms of Covid we had to adapt everything to be online for it to be successful and practical given social distance. Me and Rabab were meeting on Zoom weekly, but it became difficult for me to focus on the project again as my sleeping schedule and routines had dramatically changed and I considered stopping the project altogether. However, I knew I wanted to create something that I’d be proud of which is why I still went with the project and made a few changes with the way I wanted to produce it.
I decided to do two events with Shrouk, one was a presentation about her career as an engineer and the obstacles she’s been through, online with Fitzalan High School students. That turned out amazing, it felt empowering to hear Shrouks experience and advice for young women and knowing that we’ve inspired young women into knowing they can do whatever career they want. The second event was a one-on-one informal interview with Shrouk going in depth about her experiences and challenges.
The outcome for me
As I was reflecting on how the project has helped me grow, I noticed that my confidence grew over time and I wasn’t nervous meeting anyone new. Hearing about Shrouk’s past has changed my mindset completely, knowing that I can achieve anything with the right intentions. I feel really grateful to have had the opportunity to work with NTW/The Agency. Working with Rabab has helped with so many skills, but most of all the biggest improvement was being confident within myself, and being able to do events without getting anxious and being able to run a project on my own. At the start, the idea of running a project scared me. However, after a few challenges, and overcoming them, I’ve gained a lot from working on my own project. I’ve learnt about how to persevere through the obstacles, as a 16 year old, with GSCE’s and an irregular Covid routine!
Nabilah Ilyas speaks with Shrouk El-Attar about her experiences as an engineer. Shrouk El-Attar is an electronics design engineer who was born in Egypt and has been living in the United Kingdom as a refugee since 2007. She is an activist for refugee rights in the UK, and for LGBT rights in her native Egypt.