RARE  RISINGSTARS 2014 The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 8

 

NAFISSA KARA‑NEWTON

BSc Social Policy with Government
The London School of Economics and Political Science
Student Politics, Social Enterprise and Media
Adam Tulloch


Nafissa, or Fifi, as she prefers to be known, grew up on the Winstanley Estate in Battersea, renowned as being one of the toughest places to grow up in London. However, she is positive about her experience and claims that, although ‘a lot of people play the violin about growing up on an estate’, she loved her childhood.

As much as she enjoyed her time in south‑west London, she saw her family’s move to Croydon as being from one potential future to another much brighter one. Perhaps it is this bullishness and unwavering optimism that has allowed Fifi to belie her humble beginnings and become a real catalyst for change from such a tender age.

At the age of just 16, in response to ignorant comments, common misconceptions and negative perceptions of her religion, Fifi started a blog called Poetic Islam. The blog aimed to challenge stereotypes and provide an insider’s account of the day‑to‑day life of a British Muslim. It enjoyed extraordinary success, and was recognised by both Tumblr and the Huffington Post as a must‑follow religious blog.

While her commitment to her religion also saw her installation as Deputy Head Sister of the Islamic Society at Richmond College, she has also displayed her dedication to the cause of social justice in the wider community in myriad other roles. She recently founded a social enterprise called ‘Model Westminster’, which has Vince Cable as its patron and held the first of many presentation at EY’s Global HQ. She aims to increase and facilitate the “direct action” element of political participation amongst students and young people, through the medium of education.

"Having spent the last year advocating for political literacy, I have learnt that my work has only begun. We have a long way to go before people realise how important politics is for our everyday lives."

Fifi co‑founded the recent London 2030 Summit, with former Rare Rising Star Richard Serunjogi. The conference attracted high‑profile speakers and focused on finding solutions to the city’s most pressing issues. She also played a lead role for London Citizens in the successful London Living Wage campaign by lobbying civil servants and government ministers, amongst others, and conducted research into social integration for the Coventry University Centre of Social Relations. In this latter role, she has helped to create the new measuring system for the EU’s first Social Integration index.

Fifi has recently been made a Fulbright Scholar in social entrepreneurship, which will involve working with businesses and social enterprises in the United States whilst studying there this summer. When she is finished making waves on the other side of the pond, she will return to these shores to continue blazing a trail for causes she is passionate about.

"For me, life is about leaving a positive legacy and recognising that I can have a great impact. This only happened when I stopped leaving it to everyone else."

One of those passions is supporting children affected by armed conflict. Fifi’s family recently began fostering a child from Afghanistan who experienced warfare and, after taking a keen interest in the issue, she has now been approached by War Child to start (and be president of) the NGO’s first university society at LSE.

This is just the latest addition to an already enviable CV, one that is sure to become even more impressive in the near future.

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