Designer, community mobilizer, producer, and co-founder of a crowdsourced public safety technology: with her myriad projects and talents, the one thing Layla Shaikley definitely doesn’t have is a one-track mind. Here she reflects on the common denominator: the desire to afford the marginalized a voice, and the collective means to create positive change.
What inspires your passion for “changing the narrative” and creating multiple frameworks for self-representation?
As a Muslim in the West, a woman in STEM, and an Iraqi in America, I’ve lived in a world often defined in binaries. Without constructive defiance, the conflicting binaries would limit me.
I constructively aim to defy barriers that limit creativity. That’s why I founded crowdSOS: a data technology company to map insecurities in Iraq and afford Iraqis the chance to have their stories become useful data.
Likewise, as a Muslim, my choice to wear hijab often adds a pre-constructed narrative to my identity. I grew sick of telling “my story” as a defensive correction of popularly perpetuated myths, so I co-produced a video cut to Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America” that featured fashionable Muslim women in a group some friends and I founded, which we tongue-in-cheekily call #mipsterz (Muslim Hipsters). The video commenced an unprecedented dialogue across social and mainstream media about who gets to represent Islam, why, and how.
Having just avoided death in Baghdad and then Boston, how do you hope crowd-sourced and online technology can improve public safety?
At a micro level, the insecurities in Iraq limit mobility; at a macro level, they hinder development. But while turmoil prevents social infrastructure from developing, through online resources, self-governance can begin to fill institutional gaps, and technology for social justice and impact can serve as a democratic way to provide self-constructed solutions to large societal problems.
What is your biggest dream for the future?
I am in a constant state of dreaming, making it nearly impossible to define my dreams.
For more info – http://www.laylashaikley.com/