How MoneyGirl Co-Founder Mariam Mohammed went from an outsider to a Woman of Influence
When MoneyGirl Co-Founder Mariam Mohammed was just 19 years old, she left her family in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to Sydney – a huge change from the only home she’d ever known.
With minimal knowledge of her new country and burdened with the financial constraints of being an international student in Australia, Mariam dove headfirst into ‘survival mode’, a feeling all too familiar to many who have migrated overseas.
“In my first year here, I was unable to find any kind of employment, so engaging in any social activity was really tough,” Mariam recalls.
In her subsequent years in Sydney, Mariam found her feet, working a part-time job, before diving headfirst into community development and advocacy work with refugees and survivors of sexual assault.
Before she knew it, Mariam had officially graduated, but this momentous occasion brought with it a harrowing realisation.
“When I graduated… I was sitting down and doing some maths to figure out how much I would need to earn every year until I retire, in order to not retire in poverty,” she said.
“The reality is that one in six Australians are two to three pay checks away from being homeless.
“As long as we’re not financially literate and don’t know how to manage our money for the long term, we’re going to end up in poverty, especially those women who are sacrificing super, pay rises and job promotions because they’re taking years out to care for others.”
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Combining this insight with her work in the refugee sector and sexual assault survivors, as well as her own experiences of sexual assault as a young woman, she understood that many across the country and the world will always be walking a thin line between poverty and financial security.
Joining forces with her close friend and now MoneyGirl Co-Founder Mellisa Ma, the two set out to arm themselves with much-needed financial literacy but were often faced with blocks throughout their journey of self-education.
“At that time, no financial literacy podcasts existed in Australia for young people. There was the Barefoot Investor and a couple of other books, but that was about it,” she recalled.
“We were really learning a lot from American educators and translating that knowledge to the Australian context, but while we were doing all that hard work, we thought it would be easier for everybody if we just put it into a format that was easily accessible to everyone.”
So, in early 2019, MoneyGirl was formed.
The course was developed in partnership with financial experts and under the guidance of their advisor, the former CFO of Citibank, and the workshops are delivered by community members who are almost always women, assisting in building trust and rapport among participants.
“All the participants self-evaluate their confidence with money at the start of the MoneyGirl course, and then again at the end. On average, our students start at about three points out of ten, and they graduate with about eight points on average,” Mariam explained.
“We also do a MoneyGirl challenge as part of every course, where we nudge people to take action on the things that they are learning, so we can see the progress they’re making throughout the course.”
Mariam’s work with MoneyGirl, alongside her advocacy for various social causes, saw her named on the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence in 2019, a feat she never thought was possible just six years previously.
“When I came here in 2013, I wish I had looked at a list like this and I had seen a brown or black woman, and people with all different types of names, or a hijabi, so I could have felt like I was a part of this country too,” she said.
“I am immensely grateful to have the privilege to be that image for younger brown girls in Australia who can see that they belong here and that they can do this, too.”
Enrolments for the final MoneyGirl course for the year are now open, and CulturalPulse readers can get 15% off the price of the course until August 27 when you enter the code CULTURALPULSE15 at the checkout.
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