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Salma El-Wardany: Breaking the silence of womanhood

From identity to womanhood, sexual positivity to evolving masculinity, Salma El-Wardany is not afraid to speak up so that the silence of womanhood is replaced by the freedom of choice.

She is a creative who uses her strong, fearless voice and embodies herself unabashedly. Raised in the North of England, Salma is a third culture kid who identifies as Egyptian, Irish, and Pakistani. Based in London, she is a writer, poet, entrepreneur and presenter with BBC Radio London.

With a master’s degree in literature, Salma says she was always a long-form writer, but poetry was seeded in her life in many unexpected ways, This was especially true when she moved to Egypt on a quest to discover her identity, which she has always admittedly struggled with. 

“I moved back just in time for the [2011] revolution, which I feel like was a really good thing because if you want to try and find out your identity, try to find it in a revolution,” says Salma.

“Because I come from so many different cultures and identities, I find it really hard to find my place in that. I think it’s led to some questionable decisions in my life,” she says. “I’ve shied away from talking about race in my work for so many years because I was like, I’ll talk about it when I figure it out. But then I was like, I’m still waiting to figure it out, I’m gonna be waiting for the rest of my life.”

While in Egypt, she was writing blog posts to relay information on the revolution to communities back home and quickly realized the power of storytelling, which laid the foundation for her poetry today. 

After moving back to London in 2012 and into the corporate world, Salma became increasingly aware of the negative ways in which corporate systems affected minorities. She then relied on writing poetry and spoken word as a form of catharsis. 

“Suddenly, it mattered that I was a female, it mattered that I was Arab, that I was Muslim,” she says. “It was like, oh, my entire existence is a problem.” 

Her entrepreneurial journey began when she decided to leave the grey suits behind and begin Digitally Human, a marketing firm that focuses on helping businesses channel a deeper connection with their clients by humanizing their marketing and branding strategies. 

“I’m always so annoyed by the way we interact with each other online,” says Salma. “We get behind the keyboard and lose all of our personality. We have to connect with humans. If you want to do something different, if you’re prepared to say something, if you’re prepared to stand for something, then let’s do business together.” 

Just like her approach to business, Salma’s poetry digs deep into her own stories and emotions, pulling out poetic threads that resonate with almost any woman that comes across her work. “So much of my poetry is about the female struggle and the female experience of womanhood because we’ve never been able to have those conversations.” 

Imbued with the female narrative, Salma’s poetry and imagery are shared on social media with the aim to inspire and uplift women while the raw vulnerability she wields in her poetry and spoken word performances show how words are a radical tool that can challenge perspectives. 

By talking about her experience with trauma, identity, the simple act of existing as a woman, finding love, falling out of love, and finding yourself all over again Salma is always pushing to create safe spaces where women can have conversations sans the dire consequences, while also demanding more accountability and relearning from men. 

“There’s so much of us struggling because masculinity hasn’t evolved, so men are still dealing with these archaic versions of masculinity that they got from their grandfather,” she says. “They’ve never had to interpret it or reinvent the wheel because society never asked them to.”

Womanhood, on the other hand, has always been challenged by society, forcing women to evolve, define and adapt what it means to be feminine. 

Growing up, Salma was homeschooled by her mother for most of her formative years, which kept her safe from peer pressure and society’s conformities. When she eventually reentered the system, however, those expectations slowly began to weigh her down. 

“The longer I was in the system, the more bothered I became about how I look or that I was overweight or always trying to be skinny or smaller than I was. In corporates, being around the people who are so invested in how they look. Dating as well, like how is he going to think I look? How’s he going to feel about this?” 

“Another shouty woman,” the critics call her, but it is a statement she accepts with pride on her journey of discovering, discussing, and dismantling. Salma’s work pushes for the freedom to choose how we want to live, regardless of gender, religion, or any other social/political constructs. 

By acknowledging that our own ideas of freedom do not cancel out someone else’s, we are actively fighting for and embracing the incredible nuances of womanhood. 

Womanhood comes in many forms. That’s the beautiful thing about it,” says Salma. “All I can do is write about what’s true for me now. How is this identity manifesting now? How is it affecting me now? How is it true for me now? In five years I might cringe and die over it but at least, I can look back and be like, well, there’s growth.” 

Watch Part 1 & Part 2 of our interview with Salma.

Follow Salma on Instagram: @salmaelwardany