This week’s VM Mom to Follow is Salima Samnani, a parent of two vibrant and curious children. She is a leader in the field of diversity, inclusion, equity and justice. Salima is also a lecturer at the Allard School of Law Indigenous Community Legal Clinic where she teaches students how to represent Indigenous peoples from a decolonized and anti-racist lens. She comes to this work as a long-time owner of her own law firm, where she educates businesses and political organizations in diversity, equity and inclusion. Salima has spent many hours on the frontlines advocating for the most marginalized and continues to seek out opportunities to create further impact.
Salima is described by her friends, family and clients as an intuitive and loyal cheerleader, with a whip smart sense of humour. What makes Salima tick is finding the extraordinary story that lives inside every person. When life gets messy, Salima is there to sit in the muck with you and roll around!
Salima sees life through a prism given her complicated life being born in East Africa to Pakistani and Indian Muslim parents. She now lives in North Vancouver where she brings her rich lived experience to her work, parenting and teaching.
When not in the downtown eastside, she can be found chasing her kids down the street or sitting in boardrooms collaborating on diversity and inclusion, Salima can be found baking. Never agreeing to bake the same things twice, Salima experiments with bold flavours to express her culture and bring back memories of her travels. If you run into Salima in the streets she will almost always offer you homemade treats!
Places That Salima Loves
Any sunny spot by the Capilano river. The name Capilano (Kia’palano) comes from the Squamish Nation which means ‘beautiful river’. The sight of moving water reminds me to live in the moment and not sweat the small stuff.
Whether sunny or rainy, the beach is a perfect place to play. There is always something new to look at and the kids love getting their hands in the sand. There is something magical about the sound of waves crashing.
With young children sometimes the best place can be a friend’s backyard where no one can get lost in a crowd and I can sit and watch the chaos rather than manage it. Also, there is no better medicine than conversation with a good friend.
What is One Community Resource that has Supported You in Motherhood?
Libraries are a wonderful place of inclusiveness, diversity and peace. No matter how tough a day I am having, reading to my kids (and scrounging up other kids to read a book to), is fulfilling.
What is One Thing You’d Like to Share to Mothers Who Are Trying to Balance Motherhood and Entrepreneurship?
“Parenthood is messy. Most of us are parenting in a different world than we were parented. Give yourself as much love and forgiveness as you give your child.
Also, I love working. I rarely think about my kids while I am working, I am as much a mother as I am an entrepreneur. I don’t begrudge myself for wanting to achieve my personal goals.”
A Conversation About Diversity, Inclusion and Parenthood
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenges facing kids from a diversity and inclusion point of view?
In many amazing ways, social media and the internet has exposed our children to knowledge and cultures that would have otherwise been out of their reach. At the same time, in giving every single person a megaphone via the internet there doesn’t seem to be parallel education on how to responsibly use our megaphones to enhance our freedoms of expression in a way that is inclusive. We really need to grapple with the idea that if we are going to put something into the public sphere, our right to do so comes with a responsibility to understand the larger effects of our expression. Shaming a friend on social media may have huge ripple effects on other children. Our children need to understand their social responsibility. Social media on its face seems inclusive as it brings people together, but it has an instantaneous insidious side that divides people in deeply damaging ways.
Q: How can we talk to our kids about diversity, inclusion and equity?
It really depends on the age of the child. But my first go to is books. You do not need to be an expert and, in fact, attempting to be an expert may be damaging. Look to writers who are lived or studied experts in anti-black racism, in trans rights and so on. Read what they have to say and engage with the material from a place of cultural humility. As parents it is okay to say to our kids that we don’t know something important and that we will learn it as a family. Have the tough and deep conversations.
Q: What is the role of parents in modeling values?
The research shows that parents are the most influential role models for a period of time and then that influence shifts entirely away from us as kids look to their peers. Given the strong influence of peers, it is so important that parents use their influence with the utmost intention. The good news is that this is not complicated. When we talk about ourselves or other humans, be cognisant that our children will model the way we view the world. If we are name calling, gossiping and beating up on ourselves, our kids will do the same. And this can push our children to select friends that engage in the same self-destructive behavior.
Thank you so much to Salima for sharing her insights and perspectives with us at VancouverMom.ca. What are some ways that you are integrating diversity and inclusion into your journey with your kids? We’d love to hear about it.
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Do you know a mother doing some really great things? Maybe it’s you! Contact us or tag us at #vancouvermom. See more of our VM Mom’s to Follow here.
A connector by nature, Renee loves to bring people together and is fueled by thoughtful conversations, family style meals and perfecting details. Hikes for the views, thinks variety is the spice of life, and is always up for an adventure with her husband and their two young daughters. A fulltime marketer by day, Renee recently moved back to the North Shore where you can find her busy with work Zoom calls, home renos, and enjoying the great outdoors with her family.