An interview with W4SG Project Manager Abdulrahman Abdi.
Tell me a little about your childhood in Abu Dhabi. Is there anything that stands out when I ask you to think of your life growing up there?
Growing up in the UAE is different. Especially as an expatriate, you get to meet and grow up with other expatriates from all over the world. I mean, I had neighbours, friends, classmates, and colleagues from almost everywhere. It gives you a small window of what the world is like out there.
Is there any memory that stands out to you?
I think I would have to say our tea pot in the living room. It’s where we all gathered. For a time both my mom and dad worked in the government sector and they both love tea and they would just gather to talk about their days. The tea pot never got cold, if anyone sat down and noticed the tea’s cold, they would put a new one. It was spontaneous and we all knew (my brothers and I) that the tea would be there and we could sit and talk about anything.
That tea pot was an integral part of our lives.
So even now I am always prepared with tea at my house, just in case someone stops by and my friends know that.
So what brought you to Lund?
It was time for a change.
Did you ever imagine you would be working with an organization that would connect you back home?
Definitely no. I thought that I had to find my feet again, start everything afresh, which meant really hard work. You never know when or if your past experiences or contacts will be of use. I really thought that I’ll have to start all of that over again. This was a unique opportunity to connect with people from my life in Abu Dhabi. It is such a great way to use my contacts and friends to help out W4SG’s cause.
Is there anything you would like to bring to Abu Dhabi from Lund?
Yes, I really appreciate the way people here care for their surroundings. People are more conscious of what they are doing in their home and outside- like not leaving extra lights on for no reason and taking conscious efforts in recycling trash. We could use some of that in the UAE. I also like the way that people meet for a purpose here. We have a lot of meetings back home, sometimes too many and it is easy to lose focus.
I have learned to do a lot of reflecting here in Sweden, especially over coffee.
How did you end up working with women’s leadership issues?
It was not planned, I honestly didn’t know how complicated women’s issues were, it wasn’t a question for me. I grew up in a house where it was just given that women and men are equal. My mom is a strong lady and she has six sons so we never really thought about what a woman could not do.
Then there was my line of work. Some of the most amazing people I met that had some of the greatest ideas in terms of Business Development, were my female colleagues.
But when I started working with W4SG I saw another side.
Sounds like you have always been working with women’s issues even if it was indirect or unconscious.
(Laughs) Yes! I guess so. All of the people through my life who have opened doors for me have been women. My dad said to me once, ”Make more friends who are girls than boys.” When I asked why he said, ”Because they are more empathetic and hard working.” And I think that that is true. One of my previous bosses in Dubai showed immense knowledge and heart. I was impressed that she could make the office feel like a family but still be so professional. She brought it all together and I admire that.
What inspires you?
Selfless thinking. I don’t know if that is a proper term, but the more I see that in a person the more I get inspired. I believe that such a characteristic cultivates the advancement of us as a society; by keeping everyone in mind, especially those that are underprivileged, vulnerable etc. Take scientists for instance, they don’t care about anything else apart from solving that one problem. A problem that might be as straightforward as making our lives easier, or as complex as saving children’s lives – and they devote their entire life for that one cause. Now that’s selfless.
You have spoken about your love also for design and the arts. What about that?
I have always been a fan of Scandinavian design long before I came to Sweden.
I love the simplicity and seamlessness.
It’s also made for everyday people- it’s accessible.
I feel like it teaches a person that, with simplicity, it is not so hard to look proper if you put in some effort. When I came to Sweden and was surrounded by all these beautiful designs I thought, that’s it! I’m in love.
So what do you take away with you from your experiences here in Sweden and W4SG?
That anything is possible. Even if your time is limited and you don’t know where you’ll be tomorrow, there is no excuse to stop learning and to keep in mind of the people around you and the environment that you live in.