Now on its second issue, AZEEMA magazine focuses on empowering women of colour: with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa. After not seeing BAME women being represented in the media, Jameela Elfaki, Sunayah and Noor took the matter into their own hands and gave birth to AZEEMA with an aim to ’empower, not to offend’.
The magazine is called AZEEMA, what does the name and magazine stand for?
AZEEMA is an Arabic name which means determination, resoluteness, firmness of purpose and strength. The magazine aims to empower, inspire and represent women of colour, particularly women from the Middle East and North Africa. It is essentially a platform for their voices to be heard and shared, with the hope that it will help women of all ages embrace their identities and cultures.
How did this project initially come about?
It was started by Jameela (Founding Editor) who noticed, growing up, that there were no print magazines for Middle Eastern/North African women and Women of Colour, that had a fashion and culture focus. During her final year at uni, she decided to create something that challenged current stereotypes and representation and also embraced culture. As a mixed race women herself, AZEEMA was something she would’ve like to have seen growing up.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
We’re constantly being inspired by the incredible women we’ve met through AZEEMA and the individuals doing something to create a positive change in today’s society. Some of these include Mona Eltahawy, Yumna Al-Arashi, Maya Arulpragasam (M.I.A), Princess Nokia, Sevdaliza, Adwoa Aboah, Liv Little, Nadia Tehran and Balqis AlRashed.
You have recently launched the second issue (and with massive congratulations!), what are some highlights we can look forward to reading?
Thank you! This issue is closer to home and centres more around themes of identity, self-love, sexuality and mental health. Some highlights include a visual representation of these themes in our beauty shoot, where we discussed with twelve women their ideas of self-love and beauty. Other highlights are the interviews we did with five badass women, that taught us so much about a sense of belonging, sensuality and self-expression, which everyone can draw something admirable from.
In what ways would you like to see the creative industries change?
For us, the main things would probably be:
Women of colour at the forefront
Better access to opportunities
More collaborations with starting creatives
Women’s visions treated equally
Creative industry recognising the number of talented WOC and MENA women
How could young women of colour, inspired by your work, get involved with your work or act on the empowering messages delivered by AZEEMA in their lives?
We’re always looking for people to contribute, enjoy or share our platform with us. There will be lots of ways that young women of colour can get involved, especially with issue 3 coming up, which we will announce nearer the time. We want AZEEMA to inspire young women of colour to be their most creative, most true selves.
Is there a core message you would like to say to women of Middle Eastern, North African and other BAME backgrounds?
We have a responsibility to ourselves to pave the way for a positive change we want to see. It is down to us to help shape a society where we are all loved, celebrated, represented and accepted. AZEEMA is a platform, community and safe space where we have the opportunity to do this and we invite you to share it with us.
The Huia issue and the Habibi issue are both available via www.azeemamag.com and at selected stockists in London.