There are two types of opportunities – those that fall on your lucky lap, and the ones that you make for yourself. When Fahima Farha joined SMU, she wanted to prove her abilities to herself. She went in headfirst to become deputy events director of the Accounting Society (ASoc) in her first year, and in year two was recruited by the SMU Muslim Society to be president.
Life in ASoc was purposeful. For someone who thrives on handling multiple tasks concurrently, Fahima naturally found her calling in events planning.
But, unlike in ASoc where Fahima knew exactly what she wanted for the club and for herself, she was clueless when she first joined the SMU Muslim Society as president. Heavy involvement with ASoc in her first year meant that she was hardly acquainted with the goings-on of the SMU Muslim Society.
Reflecting on her move from ASoc to the SMU Muslim Society, Fahima said, “It was a complete transformation. When I first started out in the SMU Muslim Society, I had no vision for the club. But there were people who believed in me and I was ready to challenge myself.”
Find your purpose
The foreign environment did not faze Fahima, who dived straight in with the familiar – events planning.
“It’s about finding your purpose, doing what you like to do. I enjoy planning events and organising them because it allows me to get creative as I bring people under one roof for a meaningful time together.”
In order to understand what was set out for her in the club, Fahima was quick to get her hands dirty, coordinating and managing operations for Roses of Peace 2016.
Roses of Peace is the annual inter-faith initiative by SMU that sees 7,000 roses being distributed across 17 locations in Singapore to spread the message of peace, love and harmony across religions. Championing the cause and a ground-level involvement opened Fahima’s eyes to the reality of racial differences and prejudices.
“When you’re younger, you celebrate racial harmony day without much understanding about the different races. It’s only now when I am older that I begin to feel the prejudices, especially because I am Indian and Muslim, so there is often confusion between race and religion. I believe it has to start with youths like me in enabling our community to move beyond acceptance and tolerance and begin appreciating our differences.”
With passion and a big heart for promoting peace across religions, Fahima quickly began planning how to make the most of her tenure. She packed the year with back-to-back events to promote greater conversation within the Muslim community as well as the inter-faith community through events like the Islam Awareness Week.
After two years of intensive leadership roles, Fahima has come out a stronger and more self-assured individual, and a better leader. She credits SMU for giving her the opportunities to lead, and to understand the reality of life outside school.
“It is only under pressure that you grow. A beautiful butterfly emerges from the pressures of a cocoon. Its wings of transformation are born from the patience and struggle it goes through and I am immensely thankful for the challenging opportunities that have allowed me to transform to be a better person.”
Work with your team
On leadership, Fahima firmly believes that good leaders have to be comfortable with delegating work to teammates and maintain an open communication system. Delegation and effective communication increases efficiency, allowing the leader to focus on the truly important aspects of the project, and builds trust within the team.
“It’s not so much about getting people to do things, but about building a family and good relationships. It’s also about learning from our weaknesses and strengths. There is no ‘I’ in a team and together, we must work with each other to achieve our goals and bring good to the greater community around us.”