Skip to main content

How to get started:

Feel like you’re at a crossroads? Ellevate 101 introduces you to the community that can give you a career kickstart.

We’ll walk you through some light intros and give you space to connect about shared career experiences. You’ll also learn how to use your Ellevate program to continuously make moves towards success at work.

Our next live welcome session is .

Register here for your chance to get started

4 women lined up supporting each other

Making the Impossible Possible, with Zainab Salbi

Making the Impossible Possible, with Zainab Salbi

Episode 61: Making the Impossible Possible, with Zainab Salbi

Zainab Salbi has dedicated her life to women’s rights and freedom, and is one of our time’s most inspiring humanitarians, activists and media personalities. Through her work founding Women for Women International and her current project showcasing the journeys and stories of people around the world, Zainab has created change. In this episode, Zainab talks to Kristy about her journey and how she came to the U.S, why she feels a responsibility to act in the face of injustice, the importance of being persistent, and how we can change the world.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Announcer: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast: Conversations With Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Kristy Wallace and Maricella Herrera.


00:13 Kristy Wallace: Hi, and welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. This is your host Kristy Wallace here with my co-host Maricella Herrera. What's going on, Maricella?

00:22 Maricella Herrera: Hey, Kristy.

00:24 KW: So we are coming down off of our high of our Podcast Live episode that we had with Gretchen Carlson, so much fun, just the energy of everyone in the room, we have some of our old podcast guests on, it was really cool. And now, we're gearing up for our next big event, you wanna tell them about it, Maricella?

00:45 MH: Oh, yeah. Now the Podcast Live was amazing, it was great to see everyone there in person and see some of our previous guests, so always fun to catch up. We are gearing up for our next event, I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little bit exhausted, overwhelmed, and with stress levels through the roof. But, it's all for good things because we're having our first ever summit in two weeks. It's a full day event in New York City. You can also watch it online, if you're not there. But we're gonna be talking about mobilizing the power of women to create change. So more than 25 to 30 speakers, everything from authors, media personalities, activists, humanitarians, business leaders, just great energy in the room where we're gonna be covering really actionable solutions to how we can close the gender gap.

01:40 KW: And this decision to do an event didn't come lately, because we've been hearing for quite some time, people have been asking us to have a bigger event. And to be honest, there's a lot of great conferences and events out there right now specifically for women in business, and so for us it was really a decision, "Can we add something new to the conversation? Can we bring something that we aren't seeing out there?" And we feel like we have, this is so action oriented, it's really focused on like, "Let's not talk about the data we all know, let's talk about how we're gonna impact that data and create a change." And part of what was so important to us that on creating the event and the speakers was getting different perspectives and viewpoints form a variety of industries, across a variety of... From gender, to ethnic diversity, to industry and beyond, how can we just have many voices at the table to really focus on what we're doing to create change and how we can all be a part of that change. So I'm excited and we know you're going to be excited because you're gonna get a sneak peek of some of our speakers. This week and next week, get ready as you will be hearing from two of our speakers that will be on the main stage the day of the event, and I'm not gonna tell you who's next week, it's gonna be a surprise. We can tell you this week. So who's our speaker this week?

03:06 MH: Today, we have one of my all time female role models, I am so excited that she was on the podcast, I'm so excited that she's gonna be at the summit, Zainab Salbi. She's the founder of Women for Women International, but mostly she's a humanitarian author, a media personality and just someone who is extremely committed in dedicating her life to further women's rights and freedom around the world. And boy, does she have a stories.

03:32 KW: Yes, she does have a story and she's gonna share a lot of that with us on the podcast today. But, she is amazing and I love just hanging out with her. It was one of those days that like, "Man, I've got the best job, 'cause I got to hang out with Zainab." She's great.

03:47 MH: Yeah, I was doing some research for the summit, just reading articles about her. And well, about of all of our speakers, I swear I could not stop sending info to everyone on the team, just being so so so excited. Because they are all amazing, they really are incredibly inspirational.

04:05 KW: Well, and I wanted to make note of something that we haven't told you, but important to know. If you're not in New York, and you can't make it to the summit, we will be live streaming the summit as well. So check out, you'll find all the details there as you can see it from the comfort of your home or the beach or at your office, wherever you may be. And we really are excited that you're listening to us today. So thanks so much. Again, we say this all the time but we love hearing ah your stories of listening to us at the gym or in the car, on your way to work.

04:42 MH: Even in the shower. If that's a little weird.

04:43 KW: In the shower? No, that's cool. That's cool. [laughter] So, just thanks for that we love the love, we really appreciate it. And as always, we'll ask that you please tell your friends, word of mouth is hugely impactful and your voice matters. So tell your friends rate us, review us, give us the love, it means a lot.

05:06 MH: Cool. And we do have some data, because we are so focused on sharing what our community thinks. So we ask them as we've been thinking of our female role models. What is the most important quality in a female role model to have?

05:21 KW: Cool. What is it? What did they say?

05:24 MH: 28% said authenticity.

05:26 KW: Mm-hmm.

05:26 MH: Which is, I'm not surprised. 25% said integrity, 16% said courage or fearlessness, 12% said resilience, 6% said it's about being able to identify with the individuals. So really seeing what you can see. It's interesting because only 4% said hard work or commitment to reach their goals. And what I found extremely interesting is that only 2% said that being successful is needed, is an important quality in a female role model. And it comes up in your conversation with the Zainab.

06:02 KW: It does. And it's interesting. It's funny. I've thought so much about female role models at Ellevate talked about this quite a bit, it's important. Talk about stories and story telling and how we inspire one another. It's kind of like there's no one size fits all... I have someone who's my role model for education, and someone who is my role model for activism, and someone... It varies so much I've got so many role models. But it keeps me going and I think, yeah, similar to our audience I'm just really inspired by their authenticity about feeling like I can connect with them if it's someone who lived hundreds of years ago, and lives today, down to my little daughter. Just who are the people that we can connect with that inspire us to do more, to be better, to strive for greater things.

06:56 MH: Yup.

06:57 KW: Alright. Well, we hope you enjoy our podcast with Zainab today and check in next week for other special guests.


07:17 KW: Zainab, before we started recording, we were having a conversation about changing your married name. And I love some of the comments you made so I just wanted to talk about it a little bit more for our audience, and delve into the history behind this.

07:31 Zainab Salbi: Changing a woman's name to the husband's name came from a financial reason, and I can't remember what century England they did that, but it was about seeing women as a property. So once she got married, the husband inherited her debts, as well as took on her wealth, basically. So she sort of immersed into his reality. So, the reason they changed their names is because she became, everything she owns, or is indebted to, becomes part of his. And that's the history of it.

08:08 KW: The transfer of power from...

08:09 ZS: Now, in other cultures like in the Middle East, which is still a patriarchal structure, but the women do not change their names because in that case, they keep their inheritance and their debts, and their money to their own regardless of their marital status. In other words, if I go to another household, I keep my last name, and I keep my inheritance, debts and wealth, basically. He...

08:40 KW: You as an individual?

08:41 ZS: Me as a woman, right?

08:42 KW: Yes.

08:43 ZS: My husband then... His wealth has to be distributed to the whole family.

08:49 KW: Alright.

08:49 ZS: And so everything... The reason I'm interested in it, not only because I came from Middle East where you don't change your names, and as a matter of fact, women look down at other women who change their names. You know you're like "Why would you do that? It's your identity." But then when you look into... It's all about, it goes back into resources and how, and everything for me is like it goes back to into the resources and in the distribution of resources. So how do you, what's the treatment of women and her resources and all of these things. So one is saying "You keep your wealth, he spends on you." Now, when he spends on you he's also, in other words, controlling you. But then you keep your own wealth. So I grew up with my mom and my dad. He spends on the household. My mom used her own wealth to do whatever she wanted above and beyond, without talking to him, or consulting him. This is her thing.

09:41 ZS: And in more England society, when man took on the name of the woman, it was, he actually also controlled it and then he controlled all the wealth. Anyway, we are now in a new era where, this is where the world has not adjusted, in my argument. The world has not adjusted to the fact that women are earning as much money as men. And they are prospering and succeeding as much as men, but we are still operating out of these classical systems. So we need to create a new system, in my opinion, that reflect "She is equal." And is not symbolically, she is contributing to the modern household, in any culture, in any country at the moment. But it's no more a woman keeps it for her own or he inherits her debts. And we have not sort of adjusted to that.

10:34 KW: Amen. No. Yes! [chuckle] We have not. It's... Really when you think about so much of the world in which we live in, rules and societal norms, and regulations are tied back to a time that is very different than the time we're in today. We're having ongoing conversations around legislation for equal pay, for paid leave, and this is just in the US, some basic rights that decades have been in discussion and haven't happened. On a global scale, it's a much more extreme need and lack of progress, but what do we do?

11:17 ZS: There's no one formula for what we do, we just have to do. In other words... Really, it took me a very long time to believe that, "You be the change you aspire for in the world," to understand what Gandhi really meant. It took me a very long time because for the longest time I advocated for change outside of my reality. Especially as a woman's rights activist, let's say. I advocated for women to speak up, to break their silence, to demand, to stand in their own feet, and all of these things. All, very nice slogans. But it took me a long time to really ask myself, "Am I doing all the things I am advocating for?" And to really do all the things I'm advocating for, its hard, [chuckle] and you pay a price, and sometimes your family and loved ones criticize you and you face challenges, and all of these things. And so I realize it is so much easier to give the speeches about changes.

12:21 KW: Yeah.

12:21 ZS: Or even to go to some third world country and advocate the poor women there to make the changes, but really try to walk the walk fully in your own life and it is hard. And yet, the only way to comprehend the change and to do it and to advocate for it is to actually implement it in your life. So yes, you have to pay a price, you will sacrifice things, it's a constant challenge to be living in fully the values that you believe in, right? Because the society has not changed but you are changing, right?

12:56 KW: Yeah.

12:56 ZS: So it's you're going against the wind in the change. But eventually, if everyone does that, if every woman let's say owns her right and just say, "Well, I am just not accepting as less salary," let's say for example. And the boss is gonna be angry and they will call her all kinds of names and she may lose the job and that's the risk. Change does not come without risk, change comes by taking risk, by challenging the system. And many people are afraid to challenge. It's easier to talk the talk, it is much harder to do. It's easier, it's much harder to say I am willing to risk my safety, my... In this case, not life's safety. In this case, it's actually just financial safety by living by my values. Most people don't do that. So how can we make the changes by... For me, is revert back make it an individual issue, if every woman really does not allow any abuse and we're not talking about physical, not even sentimental, not even verbal like, read if every woman truly... If you have your boundaries are so clear, you will be called names, you'll be missing opportunities, you may even have a financial consequences, but that's how the change happens. Does that make sense? I don't know.

14:18 KW: Yeah. Yes, it does make sense.

14:20 ZS: 'Cause otherwise we can change all the logistics and the legal systems and we make it a mental exercise rather than an emotional exercise.

14:28 KW: I think... Yes, that makes sense, and thank you for that. Part of it for me, and I think for some of our listeners, is being inspired by the opportunity to impact change and not being discouraged by the lack of progress.

14:47 ZS: Look, it makes a lot of sense and in my opinion that's when community is needed. When I ran Women for Women International for 18 years, I always was trying to ask what is the secret sauce for change? Is it microfinance? Is it small businesses? Is it education? Is it all the formulas that people are saying. And I went around the world, I travelled asking this question and finally I came to the realization that the secret sauce for change is inspiration, is knowing that I am not the only one in here, that someone else has actually gone through the journey and came out of it okay. And yes, the journey has the abyss in the process we cannot ignore, now everyone celebrates success and all of these things. Every successful person in the world had gone through the abyss, because you have to be a believer, in order to make that change. In other words, I call it, this is my language, "The Christ Process." Forget about the religion but that Jesus was such a believer in His message, in His beliefs, in His values, that He was willing to go all the way to the cross.

16:07 ZS: The Buddha. Such a believer in his values and his... That he sacrificed wealth and kingdom and all of these things but it was these individuals and I'm using historical individuals who made the world a different place. So it's not easy to make the change, so how do we hold ourselves in sad moments, in depressing moments and 'cause it all the abyss is you go about your journey of creating change, you're excited and doesn't work all the time [chuckle] and not everyone is responding and there is all consequences your family may tell you stop it your finances not doing well whatever it is and you go what I go through the abyss it's like, is it worth it? I might sacrifice everything, "Oh, my God," you question. And for me I call it "The journey of truth." That the taste of living my truth, the taste of freedom is so delicious that it is worth going through the abyss and the challenges every single time.

17:13 ZS: So it's not that it doesn't happen these challenges it's not that the consequences are not there, they are there but the result is worth it. So that's when you need community, that's when you need to hear other's stories and make sure and you know that you're not the only one in it and you're not the most special one nor the least special one. We're all in it trying to do it together. Until one of us... And some of us resonates with our small community maybe in our neighborhood and maybe some of us in our countries and maybe some of us in the world it doesn't matter but that's how change happens and just know you are not alone.

17:47 KW: And that is such a part of it, it's just believing in the goodness of the other people around you and what they're striving for and how you can kind of.

17:56 ZS: And it doesn't happen everyday. This is how I see the world. As someone who is traveling the world and particularly focusing a lot in the Middle East and the whole world. Every country I visit, they're always the women, in our case we're focusing on women. There're always a women who are trying to make change and are the trailblazers and they're paving a new path and then they get hit and then they retreat, and lick at their wounds and gets scared and some of them gets... Like their lives is in danger, as in countries like Turkey or Syria or Iraq, whatever and some of them is much more their reputation or they're both, whatever. The danger is in different levels, right?

18:39 ZS: And I'm part of that, I get hit often, it's not one time. It comes to you from different direction, it's not always a happy journey in here. But then I retreat and when I retreat I go back to community. And sometimes I see my community, it's not one group of people, sometimes it takes me months before I see the one person, I was like, who was my friend, who I know is doing, also paving a new path. I was like, "Oh my God! You're there, you're there, you exist, I'm okay, I'm okay."

19:08 ZS: So in other words the inspiration does not happen every single day and the community may not exist every single day but you know they are there, you know they are all over the world, you know there are women from all parts of the world who are trying to pave a new change, and they are inspiration. They are gutsy and they get hit and they get hurt but they rise up again and again and again and that's the only difference for me, between someone who makes a change and someone who doesn't make the change in their lives or whatever they're trying to do. It's not the dream, the dream is a dream, we all have dreams, we all have fabulous dreams. It's perseverance, those who are persistent in going about the change that they wanna go about, they eventually make it. Most people give up because it's a hard path. It's a so...

20:02 KW: And resilience, it's... Women are so strong, we are so resilient and I think we sell ourselves short sometimes.

20:10 ZS: Absolutely. And we think, This is the danger of well, the time we're in. We only celebrate success, which it should be celebrated, believe me, it's good, it feels good. But we're not talking enough about the journey that gets us there. If you know the journey, we all go through it by the way, you know, Oh my God! It's not easy. [chuckle] So let's talk about it and demystify it, in order to know that we are in community, in order to know that I'm not the only one, it's part of the journey, it's part of the process, "Okay, go, go, go, go." I was recently with Alice Walker and I was telling her about my Middle Eastern show and all the pain that I go through and on, the criticism and all of that and I'm devastated. And she looked at me and she said, "Oh so this is gonna be the project, you're on the right path". And I'm like, "What are you talking about? I just told you that I am in pain and they said this and they said"... And she said, "Because when on you're the right path, you go through this process, you get challenged, to sort of filter through what is real and what is not real, so you're on the right path, keep going".

21:23 KW: Who are some of the women that inspire you?

21:29 ZS: A lot. I have to say my mom, of course, 'cause she went through a challenging life. I grew up in Iraq, my family knew Saddam Hussein, we were very close friends of his and that was not easy. You just are closer to danger and not farther away from it. But as I step back and think of my life, at the age of 12, my mom, an Iraqi Muslim woman, lived all her life in Iraq, in Baghdad, made me read Roots, I'm like, "Whoa!". Now I... At that time I read it, because my mom told me you should read this about America. She made me read feminist books, in the Arab world about women's right.

22:17 KW: Had it been translated?

22:19 ZS: They're all in Arabic. Yes, yes, yes everything I was reading in Arabic at that time. And as a kid, I just read it, my mom told me that but that shaped me, that shaped who I am. At 15, she one time held my shoulder and she said, "Never let anybody touch you or talk to you in the wrong way, never let that happen". And then another time she's like, "You have to be strong and independent woman, you always have to be financially independent, never be dependent on... So these things, I'm a teenager, I'm outside of the happenings of the world and I'm like, "Why is she doing this to me? I haven't done anything". But these things saved me because I went through abusive relationships and I went through... And not only romantic one but it could be work ones as well, and I went through all the things and had my mother not give me the permission to know that no one should touch me or talk to me in the wrong way, I may not have stood up for my rights. And I was young, because when I arrived in the US I was 20 years old, alone and separate from my family, I didn't see them for nine years.

23:34 ZS: So I was really young and alone and suddenly I found myself 400 bucks in America, had my mother not told me this, I would probably have tolerated abuse, because I would say, "Oh my God, this is... He's my husband, what can I do". But because she told me this without knowing the future. It made me aware of my rights at a young age, it made me aware of marginalized people. African-America people, women, all of these things, even though... In not only in my own culture, which we have our own marginalized people, but globally. So she is my role model and her I would say, she passed away a long time ago, but I would say, and her almost training me as a teenager to set me up for the world.

24:21 KW: That self-awareness, and to be honest I didn't always have it but is key to kind of this revolution or key to change which is each of us individually understanding, the privileges that we have and that we have access to and thinking about how we help those that do not have. And so that's why the work you're doing is so important which is telling these stories, sharing these insights, helping all of us to understand that there are people in this world that have so much less than we have and starting to think about the ways in which we can use that as a motivation to change the world for everybody.

25:05 ZS: And taking responsibility for our own role. So for me, when I started Women for Women International for example, It became... I for the longest time, cause I also did not have awareness for the longest time, it was all about these poor women. These poor women survivors of wars that I have to help them, we need to have... We all have to help them financially, emotionally, all of these things. And then it took me a really long time and it took me meeting a woman in Congo actually who was... Making a connection between her own story and the global story. In other words she said, "If the world can hear my story and that may spare other women from going through what I've gone through, then you should tell the whole world about my story, because maybe it will help other women."

25:56 ZS: And it was the most humbling experience in my life because I was like, "Here is an illiterate Congolese woman that I am helping, has more wisdom and consciousness and awareness of her story and the connection to the larger story than I was. And then I was actually in essence hiding behind the poor woman, making it all about them, but I was invisible. I had no story. I had nothing. I was just a privileged person until I realized, I actually cannot continue to do the work if I don't own my story. However trivial I think it is, compared to theirs. It's not... Don't judge my story, in other words. But I need to also tell my truth so maybe it helps other women. Just as she's telling her truth in the hope it helps other women.

26:49 KW: So you came here at 20 with $400 and no family.

26:54 ZS: No I came here for an arranged marriage. With lots of jewelry and brand names and all of these things. We were friends of Saddam so we were well off. [laughter] At least I grew up in a very prosperous family hence. But that husband was abusive. And the arranged marriage in this case, because it was his family, his mother, who put me in it, was not, I did not know that, I'm sparing you the story, I'm expediting it, I did not know that she was putting me in the marriage just to get me out of Iraq. So I accepted the marriage. It did... It was not forced, I had to say yes. But because she was crying so much and I did not want to see my mom cry. I was like, "Fine, if that makes you happy, fine." She's like, "I don't care what you do in the US. Just leave." So anyway, I come, I do, I get married abusive.

27:53 KW: It must have destroyed her to see you leave.

27:55 ZS: Well, I didn't end up seeing her for nine years because Iraq invaded Kuwait in the same month I got married in here. And I was cut off from them. There was sanction and embargo in Iraq and I was cut off from my family completely. But the man was abusive. So I couldn't even call them and say, "He's abusive." But that's when her words as a teenager sort of hit me and I left him after three months of marriage and escaped. And when I escaped I had my jewelry and nice clothes, which I still have. Doesn't do anything these things, but $400 in cash. And that's when I... Basically could not tell my family. I could not call them. And that's how I started my life in America, I sort of little by little three, one job here, one job there and all of these things. And then until I started Women for Women International, three years after I...

28:47 KW: So 23 you founded Women for Women International...

28:50 ZS: 23 exactly and I married another guy which was wonderful. Also divorced after 15 years of a wonderful marriage, so no drama in that one. It was finding myself with nothing, and saying, "I will build my life here and one day I will go home and try to help." And I'm in that phase of trying to do both, trying to continue my life here but trying to also focus a bit on the Middle East and trying to help over there in a very dark time, I would call it [chuckle]

29:20 KW: Yes. What was that moment? Was it a defining moment or just an aha moment when you're 23, you're in the US, and you're like, "Alright, I need to do something. I need to help women in war torn countries."

29:39 ZS: I was taking... I went back to college, put myself back in college in here. And I studied, I was taking a class on the holocaust for the first time in my life. We did not know in the Middle East there was a Holocaust. No one talked about it.

29:53 KW: Oh my gosh... How did that, how did Wow. How did that affect you? Just.

29:56 ZS: It's like a new information for me. So I'm learning and in the class the teacher I remember very closely said. It was always my first time to know about Never Again. But that month I learned I was studying this, the front page of Time Magazine and News Week had images of concentration camps and rape camps survivors in Bosnia. So I was like... But they were very... Different stories but the image I like I'm learning Never Again and then I see again happening. And so it was very, I would say, innocent and I believe innocence always helps us do the impossible, make the impossible possible. And I was like, "Well, we have responsibility, we do something about it. We have to do something. They said never again is happening again then we need to do something." Then I called organizations saying I wanna volunteer, people rejected me saying, "Come after six months." Then I said, "Okay, I'll do something." And then it came up with the idea that let's help one woman at a time. Let's help one woman... I don't have money. I didn't have money. It's like, "Well, maybe if one woman sponsor one woman at a time from Bosnia, a survivor of war, and send her letters with it then that's good enough."

31:17 ZS: So I started with 30 women, helping them. It's just, a long story short, I went. I took risk all of that. I had no money and no work experience. I was working as an assistant and a translator, as not a professional work, not substantial work experience. And I went and I started getting calls of people saying, "I too wanna... I'm like also desperate to do something and I wanna do something." And little by little, little by little, 18 years later I was... I turned around almost and I saw 400,000 women helping another 400,000 women and having raised $100 million by each giving me $30 a month. Not giving me, giving the organization $30 a month to pass on to the women we're helping. It started with Bosnia, it ended up being in eight countries. But that's the story. It was like it started as a mom and pop... No experience, I just like, "I can do it". People made fun of me. I was an immigrant from Iraq. English is my second language. I was newly wed to my second husband. People are like, "Get a job. Get a life." And I did that and eventually it became one of the largest woman's organization actually. So it makes me believe that it is possible to make what people believe is impossible possible.

32:39 KW: You talked earlier about the resilience and perseverance of it's not, "Hey, I wanna save the world. Awesome. Great. Here's my cape and I'm doing it tomorrow." It's not that easy. It's a journey, and it's a process, and learning from those that came before us. But it starts really with that moment of you saying to yourself, "All right. These pictures of holocaust survivors and these pictures of what's on Time Magazine. This is not okay. This impacts me as a person and I'm making an effort to do something about it, I can do this." Whereas many people would look at it and say, "Well, that's a shame."

33:20 ZS: And that's fine. If they don't want to contribute... There are two issues in here. One is, I feel I am responsible as a human being. That's my choice. Some people look at me and they're like, "You're just sick in the head. You're like you're having some issues." I was like, "No, I am responsible as a human being." And I believe I'm responsible as a human being because I lived in a country where I had no freedom to act. So when I came to this country and I have freedom to act on an individual basis anyway, I'm not judging here, then I should take responsibility for that privilege and I have to act. So that's one thing. I also believe that when we see injustice, whatever injustice. It could be animals, it could be any... Each one of us have their own passion. And there is no judgement for me which one you should choose. You choose your passion.

34:16 ZS: But when we see injustice and we willingly ignore it or not, you turn the other... Turn our face in the other direction, we then invariably legitimize it. And more importantly we allow for the corruption of our own values. In other words, I can say I'm a good person for all I want but if I see an injustice in front of me, even if it's someone beating a cat, let's say, it doesn't matter, and I pass by and do nothing, then I legitimize that injustice. And I corrupt my own values of saying, "I'm a moral person. I'm an animal lover." But then I just allowed... So, for me that's our responsibility.

35:04 KW: This is my last question but I'm thinking how best to phrase it. It's something I've been thinking about the whole time we've been talking and... How do you... What is your identity? If someone today or even 20 years from now were to say Zainab Who are you?

35:21 ZS: It's a confused question. The summary of it I would say, I am from the people of the bridge. [chuckle] Because I lived and grew up in two different countries and two different cultures. And constantly... And also I worked and grew up in two different classes, economic classes. And constantly liked to see the two sides. And then, this is hard sometimes. Like when the Muslim ban happened, it really messed up with my psychology for example.

35:56 KW: So are you a US citizen?

35:57 ZS: I'm a US citizen but I'm born and raised in Iraq and I am a Muslim. And so what it triggered in me is so, so America is not my country?

36:07 KW: Yes.

36:07 ZS: So I was like I am not safe in here.

36:09 KW: Understandable.

36:10 ZS: But then where do I go?

36:12 KW: I mean, I was born and raised here and it triggered the same response in me.

36:15 ZS: Right so I felt unsafe. I felt unsecure. I felt... While this was my safety. This was my place where I feel I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay. So take that away, even if it was just messing up with... Even if US citizens are not involved, but then the sort of constant attack on Muslims, I am part of that group. And it wasn't that big major identity. My religion was not a big identity in my... Now it's becoming one because you're being attacked for it. And so you're like, "So where do I belong? [chuckle] But my country is destroyed. But then here they're rejecting me." So it's... So finally you find a... And this is a life journey for me, so finally you find home in yourself really. And that's why living my truth is so important for me. Because at the end of the day I feel, at the end of the day that's all what I have. And the question I ask myself always that, "If I die today, would I die true to my values? Have I given life all?" And the day I don't feel that I have, then that's the day I have to wake up. It's like, but I try to give my life all of me. [chuckle] Live it fully. Not only in doing fun things and all of that, and that's a lot of times when we say, "Live it fully." But really and also live mine truthfully. And the testament is if I die, I don't wanna say, "Please give me one more year." I sort of wanna say, "Okay, I tried really. I really tried my best in here."


37:54 KW: Well thank you. Thanks so much for joining us.

37:56 ZS: Pleasure... My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.


38:01 KW: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out. Subscribe to the Ellevate podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @EllevateNtwk. That's Ellevate Network. And become a member. You can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks. And to our voice over artist, Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.