Finding my voice after being asked to be quiet was my biggest battle. Not only did I find my voice but I also created a platform for other women to voice out.

Mine is not a rag to riches story. I can proudly say I was born with a silver spoon. Born in a conservative rich Muslim family in Sri Lanka, I grew up in a bubble where I was protected and pampered. This was my life, until the day I got married, at 17, flew to a completely new country, Hong Kong, and got pregnant within two months. It was not a forced marriage, but little did I know what it had in store for me. My life took a 360-degree turn and I was thrust into a new world where I lost my identity. After 10 years of living a life without a purpose, I went through a bitter separation. Everything I had built and had, was taken away from me, including my daughter. I was left homeless, penniless, and pushed away by most family and friends because divorce is still, a huge taboo. Between missing my daughter, worrying about my sons and my future and wondering whether I should kill myself, I eventually decided to attempt suicide. Those were dark days when it was a struggle to even wake up.

Hope, has a beautiful way of brightening your life. Hope for me came in the form of my husband. I found my soul mate within the chaos. I had two choices, either to give in to all the negativity or to fight back. I decided to do something better. I reached out to women who have gone through similar situations in life and started connecting with them. Eventually, I completed my Counseling Psychology which helped me get a better perception of life. When I moved to Doha, I was determined to be an advocate for women in similar situations. After my MBA I started lecturing, which eventually led me to start my own YouTube Channel during the pandemic, to share motivational videos. I worked up my career ladder and built a community and started raising my voice on social media. Social media has the power to influence! I used this as leverage to share my stores and inspire people. I have many ladies who reach out to me, talking about their experiences or telling me that I made a difference, and that makes all the hard work that goes behind the scenes more meaningful.

During the initial phase of my marriage, my husband, who is a professional singer was diagnosed with Papillary Carcinoma, thyroid cancer. He lost his zest for life and succumbed to depression. I started my production company to get him motivated to sing again. This was a new area for me but today I have produced three music videos for him and one of them with popular Indian artist Shweta Mohan. This is my biggest achievement so far.

Between working full time, running a production company, a mom with a young adult and toddler, being part of various organizations, and managing a social media account can be exhausting. You need to find the perfect balance which is almost impossible. Sometimes, I go on a complete digital/social media detox. It helps me rewind. You need to take care of yourself before you take care of others. Like “putting your oxygen mask” first. When asked often on how I achieved success, I always reply, “I am yet to redeem that status.” Success is a very debatable term, it doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone; for me the time when I visited the Great Wall of China was literally the best part of my existence. Having a hot shower, undisrupted sleep is also a success for me.

One thing I endorse when you enter the world of content creating is to be ‘responsible’. People are watching you and eventually, you’ll have a certain level of influence and you’ll need to ensure that the content you put out abides by the ethical guidelines and is also culturally acceptable. My social media production handle Shafmahdiaries is currently being renamed and eventually, I hope I will be able to create a platform for all women, to voice out what they fear the most. If I can break barriers so can you  #webreakbarriers.

-Mahdiya (Sri Lanka / Hong Kong)