Salaado Qasim

Helsinki, Finland

Salaado  Qasim

Now a master’s student at the University of Helsinki, Salaado has faced many obstacles to her education along the way. Although she was born in Finland, she has had to deal with prejudice from Finnish society due to being of immigrant origin. In high school, even her teachers underestimated her abilities, and tried to discourage her from pursuing certain subjects because of her race. Her activism is driven in part by wanting to ensure that others do not have to face the same challenges in future. 

In Finland, the number of non-white university students is low, and for them studying at university is seen as a significant achievement. However, Salaado’s success at university has now also inspired other young people of immigrant origin to take an interest in higher education. To build on this, Salaado has set up her own organisation, Peace and Wellbeing (Rauhan ja hyvinvoinnin järjestö), which helps young people and women pursue their dreams by providing them with clear information on educational and career opportunities. The organisation particularly seeks to help those who feel they do not belong in society and cannot find their place. It also pursues this aim through various other projects including language courses, book clubs, and events for young people and women. 

In addition to her work with Peace and Wellbeing, Salaado is highly active in other campaigns. This year, she was involved as a student ambassador in Finland's UN Human Rights Council campaign for 2022–2024 on the themes of new technologies, digital transformation, rights of women and girls, climate change, and education as a human right. As a student representative in her university during the pandemic, she has also played a role in helping foreign language students find internships: these can be hard to access for foreign language speakers as they typically do not have extensive networks in Finland. 

Salaado has been nominated for Young European of the Year (Schwarzkopf-Stiftung Junges Europa), the Youth Peace Prize (Suomen YMCA), and Resident of Vantaa 2020 (Vantaan Sanomat). She has also participated in various European events – including The Future of Young People’s Political Participation conference in Strasbourg, France, and the World Forum for Democracy in 2019 – as well as serving as an ambassador for the World Literacy Foundation in 2020. 

If she wins the Global Student Prize, Salaado will launch a development project in Africa to improve the situation of young people and women who are vulnerable to violence and poverty. In particular, women must be guaranteed equal rights as well as access to education, healthcare and work. Salaado would also like to help developing economies create a school system closer to Finland’s, with high standards in core subjects, freedom of choice and a consistent level of education throughout the country.