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The 2022 Women of UD

Sama Wathiq Ahmed




Sama Ahmed was not involved in activist groups in high school, but she wanted to change that when she started college. She was looking for an opportunity to “speak out on stuff that bothered me. I wanted a whole new kind of life for myself in terms of being involved, and speaking out against injustices.” She is passionate about representation for women of Middle-Eastern heritage. “I’ve always dealt with racial injustice, wherever I’ve been, even before college. I came to America from Iraq in 2008 and I’ve dealt with it ever since.”

Ahmed could not find a way to fit comfortably at the University of Dayton, so she created one. “During my freshman year I did check out a couple of feminist groups but they did not (reconvene) after COVID. So over Winter (2021) Break, I mustered up the courage to start my own thing. I started an organization called ‘Womanist Empower’ for underrepresented women on campus, to hold different educational series and social events.”

Ahmed came to UD via a Flyer Promise scholarship, and the opportunity was eye-opening. “Most of the students involved in the program are underrepresented students. I could hear all of the different venting and the different dreams that each of these students had, and they were similar to mine.” She did not have conversations like these in high school, even though she attended a predominately white institution. But when she arrived at UD, she “saw the disparity on a bigger scale and that allows me to see that lack of representation on this campus and want to make a change.”

Advocacy for others is supremely important to Ahmed, but her inspiration is bittersweet. Her mother passed away during the spring of Ahmed’s sophomore year. She says she “lost my biggest advocate and that has made me lose hope sometimes.” The memory of her mother has also “increased that motivation for me to put that same energy out into the world through advocating for others. She always urged me to speak up and out for myself so whenever I feel less confident, I know I am her daughter and that in itself is strength to me. She would be so proud of me so I keep doing the work that I have been doing.”

Ahmed intimately understands the struggles of underrepresented students at UD, who often feel hopeless and burned out. But she also understands the importance of staying strong. “Yes, we’re students, but we’re also student leaders. We are expected to make the change because many won’t make the effort to educate themselves. We can’t ever stop the work that we’re doing, because we’ll only go backward if we do.”

In describing the work being done, Ahmed noted that she sees a continuity across campus, and this indicates that her efforts and the efforts of others are moving the UD community in the right direction. “I think what gives me hope is other peers around me are fighting for the same purpose, against the racial injustices on campus. These groups are also motivated to work through the statements of their missions, work through their student organizations, work through their leadership positions, even if they are being strained by these uncertain times.” For her part, and to honor her mother, Ahmed is determined to continue her work, and to “trust in myself, having that confidence, being motivated, and then continuing to adapt as well.”