This is episode four of our Youth Action & the Environment Pilot Fellowship documentary series, produced by My Media Creative as part of their Climate Warriors Series. Each film captures the incredible stories of four fellowship recipients, the projects they’ve championed, and how much they have grown as environmental leaders.


Equipping Young Muslims to Participate in the Environmental Movement

Marium Vahed is a storyteller, entrepreneur, and community organizer who believes that building the green future our planet deserves will require that all communities are engaged in the environmental movement and empowered to pursue innovative climate action solutions.

Marium’s environmental action story reached a tipping point in university when she, along with a group of other young Muslims, were inspired to take matters into their own hands when they recognized that, while people of colour continue to be disproportionately impacted by climate change, few efforts were made to spur their participation in building a more sustainable future.

“We founded Green Ummah in 2019 as a response to a realization by myself and several coworkers that there weren’t really any resources or organizations dedicated to helping Canadian Muslims get involved in the environmental movement and climate change work.”

Initially developed with the intention of engaging in more traditional in-person organizing work, the pandemic changed Green Ummah’s strategy and encouraged the passionate co-founders to further explore how their work could continue to create a positive impact digitally. This is how the Greening Our Communities Toolkit came to be.

“The Greening our Communities toolkit was our way of developing a digital resource for education that teachers could draw from as they teach in different Islamic secondary schools.”

This digital toolkit, finalized and distributed with the support from the Youth Action and the Environment Pilot Fellowship, has since evolved into comprehensive lesson plans aimed at enhancing teachers’ capabilities in integrating environmental teachings with Islamic principles, Canadian and Indigenous history, and practical change-making strategies.

Inspiring Environmental Stewardship

The impact of the Greening Our Communities Toolkit has been significant, reaching over 200 students across Ontario Islamic secondary schools. The toolkit not only educates but also transforms students’ relationships with the environment, fostering a newfound appreciation for nature and helping to facilitate greater immersion into the outdoors.

“For students who had never engaged with nature before, almost all of them have said that this toolkit has changed their relationship with the environment positively.”

Marium’s project spotlights how young Canadians across the country are imagining innovative solutions to address the gaps and opportunities they see around them and, with adequate support and resources, are successfully developing unique approaches to solving them.

In the case of the Greening Our Communities Toolkit, because Marium and her colleagues noticed a gap in their own educational experiences and were compelled to fix it, for the first time in Canadian history, culturally and religiously tailored educational resources exist for young Muslims and have already begun to help build greater environmental stewardship.

Navigating Individual versus Collaborative Leadership

Reflecting on her own experience developing a successful environmental action project, Marium emphasized the importance of building a communal sense of leadership among her team, which went beyond any individual’s leadership ambitions.

Over the past two years, I’ve thought about and realized that the greatest projects often do not rest on individuals. This has helped my identity as a leader evolve quite a bit, and I now consider myself more enmeshed within a community of change-makers. 

I like figuring out how to delegate work, how to create organizations that are self-sustaining, and how to tell narratives about environmental change that are rooted in my culture, my community, or my family, rather than my personal ambitions.”

Across the country, many young people aspire to engage in environmental action but struggle to balance their meaningful ambitions with juggling full-time schooling or work and personal or volunteer commitments. To them, Marium’s story and reflections on leadership illuminate an important piece of advice: you don’t have to go at it alone.

“I think in Canada and North America, we have a very individualistic idea of what leadership should look like. But in reality, this work is community work, so there has to be community leadership, and that consists of collaboration between people doing many small actions.”

Looking Forward: Telling Stories and Inspiring Change

Marium knows her journey is only getting started, and what stands out in the back of her mind as she navigates her next steps is the power of stories and their important role in inspiring positive change.

“My hope is to continue to tell stories that resonate with people and inspire them to engage in change-making that embraces a radical and optimistic perspective on life.”

For other young, passionate changemakers, Marium’s story, much like the Greening Our Communities Toolkit, holds many lessons for how others can create a positive impact on their communities, the environment, and beyond. Here are her top three:

“Firstly, spend time in nature because it’s critical to do work that feels connected, not just to you and your ambitions, but to your community and the environment around you.

Secondly, just do it! You can prepare for something as long as you want to, but we can often get stuck in our own heads, thinking about all the barriers and challenges that exist in front of us. Even if something isn’t perfect, just starting the process is really, really important because it can easily snowball into something bigger than you ever imagined.

Lastly, there are resources for you out there, and Green Ummah is one of them. No matter who you are, where you live, or the challenges you face, I think it’s possible to find resources. You have to keep speaking to people, sharing your story, and asking them for what you need because you never really know who will change your ability to build something truly impactful until you find them.”

You can connect with Marium on LinkedIn and learn more about Green Ummah and the Greening Our Communities Toolkit on their website.

Amanda Mayer

Amanda Mayer

COO & Program Director, Amanda has been with the Lawson Foundation since 2014. Cause-driven, engaged, and socially conscious – Amanda embraces opportunities that allow her to take on issues and support causes that inspire her.

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