The future according to: Azeema Magazine

category - female futures
type - big idea
Big Idea
category - society
sector - diversity & inclusion
sector - media & technology
sector - youth
From creating a magazine for MENASA womxn to offering agency services, Azeema’s founders discuss the necessity of accurate media representation

Born from a lack of media representation for Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian (MENASA) womxn, Azeema magazine serves a diverse and nuanced community.

When we first spoke to the magazine’s co-founders Jameela Elfaki and deputy associate editor Sunayah Arshad in 2017, the pair shared their plans for Azeema to drive change in advertising by accurately depicting intersectional womxn's lived experience.

Under the newly formed Azeema Agency, the team helps global brands to achieve just that. One of its most notable projects is Nike’s Victory Swim collection featuring modest swimwear for Muslim women.

Here we reconnect with Jameela and Sunayah who discuss the future of Azeema and share their advice for brands depicting intersectional identities.

Foundations

Azeema was born from a very personal place.

Jameela Elfaki: There are two main reasons that I launched Azeema. The first was the lack of media representation of women from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – I wanted to make this magazine that I could see myself in. I also wanted to reconnect with my Sudanese heritage and Azeema allows me to reach other women and share stories from women from a similar background to me.

Sunayah Arshad: Joining Azeema was personal for me too, as I felt disconnected from my heritage as well. Azeema gives me a sense of purpose; I feel like I’m doing something for my community, which is amazing.

Published by:

29 March 2021

Author: Gursharan Panesar

Image: Azeema

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Move Without Limits by Azeema and Nike

Progression

We are creating visibility for women like ourselves in the media industry.

JE: We are in the early stages of relaunching the Azeema Agency, with a separate website that gives our agency work its own home. It’s really exciting to have the agency as another avenue for Azeema, where we can make changes within the industry. We want to create something that is inclusive of different communities and shines a light on people from different backgrounds. We do this by working with clients to diversify projects, consulting on plans and collaborating with brands to make something inclusive.

SA: With regard to the magazine, we are working on issue four, which will come out later in 2021. In terms of the agency, it felt like a natural progression for us to share our different skills. We recently did a five-hour takeover on youth radio station Foundation FM, for example. During our slot, we shared insights from creatives within our community.


Evolution

In the future, we want to widen our reach.

JE: When we can travel more, we would love to widen our reach by engaging with international communities in MENASA regions as well as creating content for the diaspora. It would be amazing to work with them and create opportunities for them where we can.

SA: We made this magazine in the UK, but as we travel and highlight people's stories from everywhere, we've realised we have more of an international reach than we could ever have imagined. In the future, it would be amazing to have representatives in different countries. There are so many more stories and people to spotlight.

‘We want to create something that is inclusive of different communities and shines a light on people from different backgrounds.’
Jameela Elfaki, co-founder, Azeema magazine

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