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How to follow a path guided by passion and values.

Activisists Maryam and Nivaal may not know their final destination — but they’re discovering how to get there.

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One of the most common questions we get asked is, “What do you want to do when you’re older?” 

In this fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in, society pushes us to make a decision about the rest of our lives at a time when many of us have not even discovered who we are, let alone who we want to become. Our answer to the aforementioned question varies tremendously, often being a version of “We still don’t know yet,” mostly because we still don’t know exactly what we want to do, or what the map of our lives looks like. What we do know is what we are passionate about and what motivates us to keep going. In the process of discovering these things, we have found out more about ourselves, and come closer to determining what we want to do.

Our pursuit of discovering our passions and realizing them has led to opportunities beyond our imaginations. We have been everywhere — from interviewing PM Justin Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai, to making a film about girls’ education in Pakistan. We are always so honoured and thankful for the opportunities we have had, especially because each has led us to discovering more about ourselves, as well as the potential all young people have in making a difference right now. 

The truth is, there is so much we can do to pursue our passions and change the world even while we are in school or university, without having to wait until we begin our careers. Over the years that we have been able to work as activists, journalists and filmmakers, our experiences, as well as all the incredible young people we have met along the way, have proved to us that we truly are the leaders of today. In the process of doing what we love or are passionate about, we will be able to find our calling, and potentially discover the answers to questions like what we want to be when we grow up, too. 

 

“While we still don’t know the exact answer to what we want to do when we are older, we’re satisfied with being on a journey of discovery for now, and further exploring exactly who we are, before determining who we want to become.”

 

One of the greatest lessons that we have learned, and we encourage all young people to discover themselves, is the importance of dreaming big. The first time we recognized the power of dreaming big was when we met our hero, Imran Khan (now Pakistan’s Prime Minister), despite everyone around us (including staff members of Khan’s political party) telling us it was impossible. We were thirteen years old at the time, and spent months sending emails and making countless calls, trying to meet with one of the most important people in Pakistan. 

It was our determination and perseverance which allowed us to meet Imran Khan at his home, and personally deliver a donation we had fundraised at our middle school, for the second Cancer hospital he was building in Pakistan. Everyone we knew couldn’t believe it, and to be honest, neither could we. But throughout his life, Imran Khan never gave up on his dreams despite what other people said, and after we met him, realizing one of our biggest dreams at the time, neither have we. 

If Imran Khan taught us the importance of dreaming big, then being filmmakers in Disney’s Dream Big Princess campaign taught us to redefine our dreams, and stretch the limits of our imagination, because anything is possible. We grew up watching Disney movies, and creating amateur films using our mom’s video camera. If you told those little girls that one day they would be making their first professional film with the Walt Disney Company, they would have never believed you. In fact, being part of such an incredible project, and being chosen from thousands of applicants globally to participate, is still unbelievable. What we know for sure is that the Dream Big Princess project has left a profound impact on our outlook of life, and has helped us pursue bigger, bolder dreams than ever before. 

Perhaps the most important lesson of all has been discovering what we value the most, and what motivates us to keep going. We identified this during the most fulfilling moments of our lives, which have been working with girls in our village in Pakistan, and empowering them to continue their education. We have been working in that community since we were eight years old, and spending time with the girls there is always so inspiring for us. 

Supporting other girls and young people in general, while striving to create equal opportunities for them to realize their dreams is tremendously important for us. During this process, we have also found out more about the intersectional nature of causes like gender equality, climate justice and inclusivity. For the girls in our village, the disproportionate impacts of climate change that they have to face prevent them from consistently going to school. It has been first hand experiences like this, which have led us to make Gender Equality, Climate Justice and Inclusivity the focus areas of our non-profit, The World With MNR

Today, we study many topics related to social issues and justice at university, while being storytellers, activists and the co-executive directors of our non-profit, among other involvements in our local and global community. While we still don’t know the exact answer to what we want to do when we are older, we’re satisfied with being on a journey of discovery for now, and further exploring exactly who we are, before determining who we want to become.

 

Through their non-profit, The World With MNR, their YouTube channel and social media platform, Maryam and Nivaal Rehman are using advocacy, storytelling and development to take action and inspire others to do the same. You can learn about the 18-year-old activists and find more of their writing on their Perspectives page.