“My parents also help me understand the importance of education. That knowledge is a way to help oneself as well as others.”
This is something that Hamza Mostafa returns to during our chat. That knowledge is power. But also that everything isn’t just about ‘me, me, me’ as he says.
“Life is so much more than just oneself. I want to contribute, be a resource for society.”
Leadership and optimismIn 2019, Hamza received three national awards for this – his work for others. Two of the awards were for his work in diversity-related issues, and for his positive leadership. The third was presented by the Swedish king; Hamza was praised for his leadership, which creates opportunities and optimism for people around the world.
In recent years, he has helped with fundraising so that a maternity hospital in Somalia can afford electricity, and has organised activities for young people in Ryd, the Linköping suburb where he comes from.
“Last summer we had activities for children who were at home during the summer holidays. For some children, summers can be a nightmare.”
National poetry competitionHamza is also one of the people behind the Linköping division of a national poetry competition, Ortens bästa poet, where hundreds of suburban kids can make their voices heard by writing down their thoughts and experiences.
Photo credit Anna NilsenBut daring to step forward, show leadership and put himself in focus hasn’t always been natural for him.
“When I was young I didn’t fit in. I was very overweight and introverted, afraid of being called ‘fatso’. This limited my ability to develop; I didn’t give myself an honest chance. I worried about what others would think, that they would push me around.”
Structural discriminationIn senior secondary school Hamza’s self-confidence grew, as did his curiosity for the world. He had also begun to discover and understand the prejudices and structural discrimination that he suffered, as a black person and a resident of the Linköping suburb of Ryd. He gives some examples – somewhat reluctantly, because they are painful memories.
“It was anything from a teacher questioning whether I actually wrote that essay that was so good, to not getting a job interview even though I had better qualifications than my Swedish friend, who ended up getting the job. Or that I still get stopped by the police, who ask for my personal ID number and wonder what I’m doing out so late at night.”
Little, everyday things.
Increasing interest in societyHamza and his mother in Ryd where he grew up. Photo credit Anna NilsenHis experiences and increasing interest in society led to him getting involved with organisations like the Red Cross and ‘Byrån mot diskriminering’ (the Anti-Discrimination Office). His parents supported him, and he had a good role model in his friend Suad Ali, who studied political science at LiU, and much later was named Alumna of the Year there. She urged Hamza to identify his passions and to continue with tertiary studies.
“Suad told me about her own journey, and I followed in her footsteps. Our discussions have been extremely important to me and for my development.”
He is also driven by a desire to give love back to his parents, and his religion.
“I’m a Muslim, and in Islam we see life as a test. Trying to do good and be a good person will bring rewards later, in another life. This makes it easier to be humble and to think more about the consequences of your actions.”
Fixing the housing shortageDuring his time at LiU, Hamza has studied political science and business administration. In his volunteering he learned a lot about organisational structures, rhetorics and leadership. These days he commutes between Linköping and Stockholm, and together with some friends he has started a business, Podhem, which aims to reduce the housing shortage, especially in the major metropolitan areas, by developing a new form of housing.
Photo credit Anna Nilsen“The aim is to engage homeowners to build smart, small houses in their gardens, and rent them out. This enables them to earn money, while providing someone with a roof over their head. Similar concepts, like Airbnb and private individuals who rent out their cars already exist, so the idea isn’t especially new or controversial.”
Return to RydAs a new entrepreneur, he hopes to earn money, but not only to use it himself. He also wants to contribute to societal development and social sustainability.
“One of my goals for the future is to return to Ryd and other suburbs, to invest in the people there.”