This week’s guest is Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, which delivers education in humanitarian crises through funding investments for UN agencies and civil society organizations. Yasmine describes herself as a pragmatic idealist, who was taught by her mother not to look for success in life, but to seek to serve. Before her current role Yasmine worked for UNHCR resettling refugees.  She says that her mission now is crucial to helping people overcome crises and rebuild their lives:

“If you invest in the children, give them the tools, the education, so that they are no longer disempowered, that if you and I cannot change the world, they can do it. So that's why education is so important. And I would say, especially for children and adolescents, who are refugees internally displaced in crisis countries... they are strong but just need to give them the tools, don't leave them behind. And education is that vehicle to become powerful leaders for the future.”


Full Transcript +


Melissa Fleming  00:01

From the United Nations, I'm Melissa Fleming. This is Awake at Night. Today, my guest is Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, which delivers education in humanitarian crises. Yasmine, I'm going to ask you about your work. But first, I'd like to ask you about why you decided to work internationally as a humanitarian. I understand you joined the UN when you were just 23?


Yasmine Sherif  00:29



Melissa Fleming  00:30

24. Why?


Yasmine Sherif  00:33

Well, I grew up in a home that was very culturally diverse. At home, in our bookshelves that were in the scriptures of all religions, not dogmatic, but to be open minded to all the world religions to people of different culture, races. So that was ingrained in me and my earlier role models were Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, you know, that's, that's the environment.


Melissa Fleming  00:57

Just describe these bookshelves in your living room? Bookshelves that had the Quran, that had the Bible?


Yasmine Sherif  01:04

I remember we had this Encyclopaedia of the five world religions. And then there was a Bible, and the Quran, and Bhagavad Gita and, you know, it was all there, together with many other books. You know, mind you, my mother married an Egyptian in the 50s. And she's Swedish, which was very extraordinary back then, the local newspaper, actually came home to them in Stockholm to interview them to see how it was to be married to an Egyptian, and how it worked. And they were celebrating Christmas at that time. So they saw that that worked very well.


Melissa Fleming  01:34

What did the reporter ask your mother?


Yasmine Sherif  01:36

You know, how is it to be married to someone from so far away, from another continent? Are there any cultural clashes? How do you celebrate holidays? It was very exotic in the 50s in Sweden. In those days, people were very curious, you know like, ooh, someone from the land of pyramids. This was exciting! So, I think that he was very well received. And then my mother, they divorced when I was three, and then my mother remarried, when I was 13, or 14, with an Indian, who had actually been part of Mahatma Gandhi's movement, he was a journalist. My father was a doctor. So that was one reason. But that's not the only reason. I also have always had this very strong sense of justice and fairness, always stood up for the underdog. And maybe that is also, you know, inspired by Martin Luther King and Mandela and many other role models. I have an artistic side. So my mother encouraged me, she put me in theatre, schools, piano schools, so that I would develop that talent. But then there was this other voice in me, justice, human rights, this is what I want to do. So that side prevailed. And I decided to study Law, become a human rights lawyer. At that time, I knew I want to work for the United Nations, I want to serve and be useful. And also, I think, is an important aspect that played a role is a my mother was very, she was very strong on ethics and values. And she always told us, and I have three siblings, don't look for success in life, look to serve. And then everything else that belongs to you will come to you. But service is the number one goal in life.


Melissa Fleming  03:18

And how did she live her life?


Yasmine Sherif  03:20

Service, service of her children. Yeah, you have to love your children.


Melissa Fleming  03:25

Your dad back to Egypt?


Yasmine Sherif  03:26

Yeah, he went back to Egypt.


Melissa Fleming  03:28

And so she was left alone. (Yeah.) Four children. How did that change her life then?


Yasmine Sherif  03:34

She was born to be a mother. She saw her service to be a mother through anything that comes in life, to just make sure that we children could reach our potentials. She was highly educated in languages. She spoke five languages, she was prepared to be a mother and to be your wife. And then she met my father, who was a doctor, a cancer researcher. And that's why I very much value the work of a mother. Don't ever underestimate motherhood, and I'm a mother of two myself.


Melissa Fleming  04:07

So she must have been very proud of you. When you got your first job in the UN. I think there are a lot of young people who are idealistic, like you described yourself, finding it really difficult to find that first job in the UN. How did you who get?


Yasmine Sherif  04:23

Well, she also taught us to persevere and always if you have a dream, yes, you have to go for it. And she used to coach me a little bit as well, you know, along even into my late 20s. But for my first job I was about to graduate at Stockholm University. I knew for sure I didn't want to go and work in a courthouse or in a law firm. I wanted to go to the United Nations, I was so determined, but I just didn't know how to go about it. And one summer I went to study in France, just before my graduation to study French. And then I took the bus over to Geneva and in those days, security was less, was more relaxed. So I just walked in and knocked the doors and I said, can I do an internship here? And then I came upon someone who said yes, yes write us a letter. So then I, that summer when it was over, I went back to Stockholm to finish my studies. I started writing letters, but no one responded to me. I wrote one letter, no one responded, two letters no one responded, the third letter, and my graduation was coming close. And I was like, where am I going after this if they don't answer my letters? And then one day as I was walking down the streets of Stockholm and I, I had a daily newspaper and I read and I saw there's a Swedish Under-Secretary-General for the Centre for Human Rights, Jan Mortenson. So I said, if I write a letter to him in Swedish, and put it in a brown envelope, it will look very official. So all his front office, they don't know what to do with this letter, so they’re going to give it to him personally. I had it all worked out in my head. So I sent it off. I graduated and I travelled, I went to visit my father in Egypt. I went to see Italy, I visited France and Europe. And then my mom called me, she said, listen, you received the request to contact the Centre for Human Rights in Geneva. So the moment I landed, I called them and they said, yes, you've been accepted for a six months internship at the Centre for Human Rights. So that day, I just saw the sky opening. I said, wow, dreams do come true. I packed my two suitcases. I handed over my apartment to my sister, sold whatever I had to her. She was also a law student for $250 and took the train to Geneva. I couldn't afford an air ticket. And then after being there for and getting to know Jan Mortenson and my colleagues, they told me the story. Yes, the letter had arrived. They didn't know what to do, when they did know how important it was, so they gave it to him personally. He read it. He saw the passion in the letter, he felt that this is someone, who really wants to serve the UN. It was easy to give internships those days. And so he said let her have an internship.

FYasmine Sherif speaks with girls learning in a ECW-supported school

Melissa Fleming  07:01

Did you have a role model then, who was a living role model?


Yasmine Sherif  07:06

Back then? Oh, yes - Dag Hammarskjöld. Dag Hammarskjöld was my role model, has always been my role model. Raoul Wallenberg. He's also Swedish. He was sent to Budapest, during the Second World War and Jews were being lined up and sent to the concentration camps. And he was sent to protect them and issue Swedish passports and find all sorts of way to protect them. And his way of doing that was one of utter moral courage. I'm sure he was afraid, but he conquered his fears. I think he saved 11,000 maybe more.


Melissa Fleming  07:43

He’s always been my hero, as well.


Yasmine Sherif  07:45

Incredible. My son is named after him. (Really?) Raoul, yeah.


Melissa Fleming  07:50

Wow. How does your son feel about that?


Yasmine Sherif  07:54

Proud, both children are very proud. What we did, you see we are a very, very mixed marriage, as well. My husband is a Tamil from Sri Lanka. But he grew up in the UK, his mother was French, or half French. So obviously the surname, my surname is a Sri Lankan name. My father is from Egypt. And so we gave them a Middle Eastern name or an Arabic name. So my daughter's name is Amira, which means princess. The second name of my son is Omar, I find it a very beautiful name. Her second name is Maria, which is my name, my mother's name. They have a Swedish name, Arabic name, a Sri Lankan name. Happy to add more.


Melissa Fleming  08:27

You actually are the living representation of what the United Nations represents - multiculturalism and human rights and, and passion for good causes and service. So your early experience at the UN? I mean, did it live up to your expectations?


Yasmine Sherif  08:49

Yes, I worked for a year in Geneva. And then I said, I would like to go to the field. And I was sent to Kabul in 1990. And that was quite an experience, to land in Kabul.


Melissa Fleming  09:02

So describe what was going on in 1990, in Afghanistan, in Kabul and what you arrived to as a young UN staff member?


Yasmine Sherif  09:13

Well, first of all, the Mujahideen had surrounded Kabul, I mean they were in the mountains. Then as you know, you get settled in, you realise you're surrounded by Mujahideen forces that are constantly shelling Kabul, the average was 70 rockets a week. And in those days, you think you're invincible. So we would, we would sit at the Delhi airport, maybe two days waiting for the flight to take off because they were shelling the airport in Kabul. And then they gave us clearance and then we could board the plane. That was every time you went in and out of Kabul, and they were shelling, so they would circle to land, not to be hit by rockets, or whatever. Security wasn't so tight, so I could walk and move around a lot, because in those days, UN officials were respected. And Afghans have a very strong Code of Conduct to protect their guests. So I felt very protected. You wouldn't, of course, do reckless things, you adhere to the curfews. You wouldn't take unnecessary risks in your work. But you were also very close to the people. And then, of course, you know, when you work like this, there's an expatriate community. And then many people meeting and marrying. And I was one of those.


Melissa Fleming  10:30

Oh, so that's where you met your husband?





Melissa Fleming  10:32

Describe that encounter. How did you first meet?


Yasmine Sherif  10:35

I was in the UN, we have a staff house, and that's where we meet. I see this tall, very handsome man walk in, and he had this sort of enigmatic person that he opens his mouth and he speaks and he has this deep voice and this absolutely gorgeous English. It's like everything I don't have. So I was, I was, I noted him, definitely. But then we just continued to socialise like everyone else. And I think it took him a year to invite me out.


Melissa Fleming  11:05

Sounds like it was kind of love at first sight for you.


Yasmine Sherif  11:08

I think it was the same for him. But he, he tread cautiously in life, he's not gonna jump to things, he thinks it through first. And I think then he mustered the courage. He was also very young, he’s just one year older than me. I actually ended up going with a peacekeeping mission, UNTAC, to Cambodia. And he ended up going to head the OCHA office in Iran. So that created a very long distance. And in those days, you don't have emails, you had satellite phones, but you bet they were expensive. So we sort of drifted away there. And it was about a year in between. I was posted to Battambang in northwest Cambodia, as the Human Rights officer in charge of human rights activities in Battambang. And I was very busy working with the, with the French Gendarmerie to uncover undisclosed prisons. Then suddenly, one day, yes, before six, I remember someone knocking on my door to the office and I look up, and there’s my future husband standing in his one sweaty, in a white t shirt. And he looks like he's really gone through the fields. And so I opened it and said what are you doing here? It was - I have come to propose. So what he had done was, so he took his leave for a week or two, flew to Thailand. From Thailand, he managed to catch a flight into Cambodia where the peacekeeping operation was. He went to the UN headquarters, said I'm looking for Yasmine Sharif. And someone said, well, she belongs to the human rights component. So then he went to the Human Rights Office. And they say, yeah, but she's in Battambang. And then he asked, how do I get there, can I fly on the UN plane? So they say, no, you're not a member of the mission, you cannot, you have to find another way. So then he went to a taxi company and asked if he could rent the taxi for a couple of days. And the taxi took him nine hours through minefields, areas that were held by Khmer Rouge. And he told me the only thing as was driving up with the taxi driver, up to the northwest, he said, whenever he saw a UN car in the opposite direction, it was like I hope she's not in that vehicle, I hope she’s not in that vehicle going to Phnom Penh and that was like the only thing he had on his mind. And I wasn't. I was in Battambang and he found me.


Melissa Fleming   What was your reaction?


Yasmine Sherif  You know, someone who does that is someone to hold on to. I loved my job. But then I said to myself, jobs you can always find, and because he said, let's marry, and you come with me this time. So I said, the man in your life, they don't grow on trees. So I said, I'll go with him. And it turned out, it worked well, I found another job and another and another and another.


Melissa Fleming  13:56

So you decided on that spot to marry and you left Cambodia. And, and then what happened?


Yasmine Sherif  14:04

Well, then I joined him in Iran. And I actually got pregnant pretty fast with our daughter. But then after a year, I wanted to go back to work again. So I said to my husband, either you get us out of here, or I get us out of here. But we are leaving. I'm going back to work. So then he got a job with UNICEF in Bosnia and Montenegro. I went to speak, you know, especially UNHCR, because UNHCR had a huge operation in Bosnia. They told me, you know what? In Montenegro, we actually have a vacant protection officer post. It's the only one.


Melissa Fleming  14:39

So here you are a young mother in the middle of the Bosnia war, UNHCR offered you a job as a protection officer in Montenegro. So tell us about that.


Yasmine Sherif  14:46

I had several functions. One was to monitor protection in eastern Herzegovina that had been ethnically cleansed earlier this is in ’94. Then to monitor the human rights situation in Kosovo. Because it was boiling and in the place next to Kosovo, called Sanjak, and then to do the regular protection work in Montenegro, which hosted a huge number of refugees from Bosnia. And also resettlement activities, to interview for resettlement, which when I look back today was quite amazing, because all doors were open. So many countries, Australia, Europe, the US, they assembled thousands and thousands of resettlement places. We couldn't keep up with the interviews to fill all those places, and they were willing, they wanted. I interviewed about 2,000 refugees for resettlement, they were resettled.

Yasmine Sherif speaks with an inspiring, passionate teacher taking part in a ECW-supported teacher training session

Melissa Fleming  15:39

That must have been quite gratifying, because usually the refugee work is just so, so sad. There's, there's often no way out, you could just provide the assistance to keep people alive, but you were actually helping them start a new life in another country.


Yasmine Sherif  15:57

You know, I'll tell you, and you’re taking me back to these feelings, you know, the emotions of how they impact you. Yes, every time you, you resettled someone, you felt that you made a difference in someone's life, and just a joy in their faces when they got the news. But I had one experience from Bosnia that has been with me for many years when the Dayton peace agreement was reached, and we could begin repatriation. And because it was a huge number of refugees in Montenegro, our convoys were the first repatriation convoys back to Bosnia. And we would repatriate to Gorazde, Sarajevo and Mostar. You know, we rented these big buses. And we will have a meeting point, we would agree already who will come in, we did it in several groups. And you see that they're coming, they packed up whatever they have, and these old ladies are coming with their little plastic bag, that's all they own. And they can hardly walk and the little children holding on to the skirts of their mother and they are so excited, because they're gonna go home again. And this, this group was going back to Gorazde. So we had one UNHCR vehicle, we had this big bus. The soldiers are still there from the war, guarding the checkpoints. But now there's a peace agreement. So it's the same soldiers that once upon a time when they came on buses would separate them from their children, or their husbands and step on the buses, the same soldiers, who maybe two years ago, or one year ago, would step on the bus and pick passengers off the bus never to be seen again. They are still there. The same soldiers are there, who may be full of hatred and revenge. We crossed through that border crossing, they stopped the bus, they asked for a list of the passengers. And they started reading out the names. I remember going up standing next to him and quietly with my energy. It's like if you touch any one of them, you have to take me as well, I will not let this happen. I don't know what happened. But he let us pass. And we passed. And then we arrived safely. And they're being met by their families and their sons and their daughters and, who have been there for two and a half years, I think it was, the siege. And they're waiting on the road. I see this son and he’s in his forties. And he, he walks up and he sees his mother. She's only, she can only walk, she has just this little plastic bag. And he rushes up to embrace his mother. At that moment, I just said, thank you. This is what happiness is, I want to do this all my life. I just want to repatriate refugees for the rest of my life. This is happiness. There's no other happiness. So it was amazing.


Melissa Fleming  18:59

You know, when I talked to many of my former colleagues at UNHCR, they say very similar things. When you saw this, did the meaning of home change for you?


Yasmine Sherif  19:14

Home is in your heart, and for them home is on their land, with their families. And the sad part is that there are millions and millions today, who cannot hold on to their land, their homes, be with their beloved ones. And there is so much pain in the world today that we can't rest until we, everyone, everyone is where they should be and where they want to be, you know in their, their life story and their belonging.


Melissa Fleming  19:46

It's very idealistic and aspirational. But you still hold on to that.


Yasmine Sherif  19:54

Absolutely. Absolutely. People say I'm a pragmatic idealist. You can be idealistic. You can achieve your ideals, you have to work for it. There's an effort, you can't just sit and dream, you have to move, you have to take action. But if you take action and you're willing to make the effort, everything is possible. If all world leaders committed to the principles and the values of the United Nations, if all of them had a crash course in human rights, and if all of them got really close to that peace inside called heart, I think we could create an amazing world, an amazingly beautiful world as envisaged in the UN Charter, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It starts with one person, two person, three person, It's the same with service, if you think that you want to help half a billion people in your lifetime, you may not help anybody, but if you count every human life, every human life, and it's possible.

Yasmine Sherif meets with adolescent girls in Afghanistan

Melissa Fleming  20:59

You mentioned the UN Charter, and you have it with you all the time. I mean, why? What does it make you feel?


Yasmine Sherif  21:05

Well, most of the time. Today, I forget my wedding ring, and my UN Charter, I was rushing to meet you. I was late. Well, first of all, it's a very poetical opening. And everything in it was created, and, or thought by leaders and human beings who, who allowed themselves to think for future generations. And I think when the Charter was drafted, that was after the Second World War, they came from war, from camps, from suffering. And went straight into that, and therefore it is so authentic.


Melissa Fleming  21:37

We are in the biggest global crisis since that time when the Charter was written, since the founding of the United Nations, but you're working now for education. And we're in an incredible crisis of education right now. Do you still hold on to any hope?


Yasmine Sherif  21:59

Of course, if you invest in the children, give them the tools, the education, so that they are no longer disempowered, that if you and I cannot change the world, they can do it. So that's why education is so important. And I would say, especially for children and adolescents, who are refugees, internally displaced, in crisis countries, I have met with the young people of Gaza, of the West Bank, of Kabul, of the Rohingyas, in Chad, in Central African Republic, in Mali, they are strong, but just need to give them the tools, don't leave them behind. And education is that vehicle to become powerful leaders for the future. And I hope that all of them get the advantage to learn about human rights, their rights.


Melissa Fleming  22:52

And maybe this was sparked a bit by your work in Darfur and in Sudan in the 2000s. (Yes, yes) I mean, I think you were also working on behalf of women and girls, can you tell us just a little bit about that?


Yasmine Sherif  23:03

During that conflict, there were a lot of atrocities committed by militia groups, and probably proxy by the then leadership, we saw a lot of sexual violence and rape of girls as a means of warfare. So we established Legal Aid centres across Darfur with Sudanese lawyers. And there's one case I remember and I even remember the name of the girl. Her name was Sarah. She cannot have been more than 10,11 years old, she lived at an IDP camp with her mother, the mother had sent her for an errand to some little kiosk. And as she, she comes out of the IDP camp and turns around the building, someone grabbed her by the shoulder, and there's a uniformed police officer. And he commits rape. So, so the girl… and then he lets the girl go, and she runs back to the camp, to her mother and she cannot conceptualise what has happened to her. But the mother, she can read them right, because she’s a mother and she’s a lioness, and she knows her child. So she goes to the camp to the Legal Aid centre and one of them and tells the story. And lawyers are assigned to her and take it to the local courts. Eventually, he's convicted and it’s a very low level police officer, and he gets 10 years of conviction. Yeah.


Melissa Fleming  24:42

How did that make you feel?


Yasmine Sherif  24:44

I felt the power of justice.

Gordon Brown, Filippo Grandi, Henrietta H. Fore, Yasmine Sherif at meeting

Melissa Fleming  24:47

And when you think about your current function and your current passion, which is education, what is the link there between justice and the rights of children and perhaps agency in places of conflict and education?


Yasmine Sherif  25:04

Education is the very foundation on human rights. If you want to oppress people, if you want to imprison them and remove their ability, a people, a culture, to exercise the human rights, the very first thing a dictator or a tyrant will do is to remove their access to a quality education. How do you empower a woman, who has never gone to school cannot read and write and who has been told to sit quietly and only stay at home and hide from the rest of the world? How do you empower her if she can't read them bright, she can't go to school, she can't get an education? How do you end poverty if you don't have an education to earn a livelihood? How can we safeguard climate change? If you don't have a generation that is educated to understand the science and apply the recommendations of the science and maybe even research further to save Mother Earth?


Melissa Fleming  26:08

So you lead Education Cannot Wait - just for people out there who've never heard of it - what is the organisation and what's your mission?


Yasmine Sherif  26:18

We are a global fund to raise political commitment to education as a priority. Education used to be very under-prioritised. When you have a crisis, when you have a disaster, the first response would be to deliver shelter and water and leave behind something that requires more sustainable investments, but nevertheless, a very rapid response and that is education. Education Cannot Wait is not an agency. We don't take up money for ourselves and go and deliver education. We are a catalyst that pooled funding mechanisms. So we attract funding, we mobilise, we, we work, but we work with all UN agencies, and they are the ones, who get the money.

Yasmine Sherif and Save the Children Colombia Representative  Maria Paula Martinez meet with Venezuelan refugee children

Melissa Fleming  27:03

Now we're in this terrible Coronavirus pandemic, it is something like seven months into it. And we're seeing terrible statistics about the effect this is having on children and this pandemic has meant, particularly for girls, they may never go back to school again. How does that affect you, and what keeps you awake at night, these days?


Yasmine Sherif  27:30

We are focusing, zooming in on the girls, because we know about the figures of girls, who may never return and who actually getting pregnant as we speak, rather than being in school, due to COVID-19. And because infrastructure is so poor in many of those countries, technology is not an immediate solution. We have investments where the teacher walks from door to door with the homework, or radio programmes that allows them to graduate, you just have to be very creative. So what keeps me awake at night, is partly to try to find creative solutions to problems. That's sort of a positive energy that keeps you awake at night, is that your mind is constantly searching for solutions. The sad part that keeps me awake at night is how is it possible man's inhumanity to man? How is it possible to inflict this kind of cruelty, injustice on human beings? I mean, it's just, where does it come from? I've thought about this for so many years, which led me to write my book, The Case for Humanity. And for all of those, if we go back to Edmund Burke, the only way for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Is how is it possible to be indifferent? I want to understand what goes on in the minds and the hearts of a human being to get to that point. Because I think if we understand that, we might go to the root and we might find a more sustainable solution.


Melissa Fleming  29:02

You mentioned your book. In 2014, after you spent 25 years at the UN, you wrote a book called The Case for Humanity: An Extraordinary Session. Tell me about the premise of this book.


Yasmine Sherif  29:18

I decided I'm going to invite all the great thinkers, artists, political leaders, and I’ll have them make the case for humanity, which eventually is also a case for the United Nations. You had the German composer Ludwig von Beethoven. And then you had Hammarskjöld and Eleanor Roosevelt. You had Jean d’Arc and they were all in our Security Council talking about humanity. And everything they said was true. It was their words exactly as they once said them, or wrote them, and then I sort of weaved it all together into this dialogue. And then at the end of the book, they all agreed, they said the same thing. And I realised there is somewhere we all meet, we will meet, we have the same understanding of humanity, the importance of the United Nations. The conclusion of the book is, goes back to something that Dag Hammarskjöld once said. And he said, we've tried to make peace by all possible means, but so far we failed. And the only way for humankind to survive is to have a spiritual Renaissance. And I do think we need to look inwardly as well, let's do self-examination, you know, it's like the Greek axiom Know thyself, self-examination on our empathy, our ability to feel for others, to drop that ego once and for all. It's such a nasty little thing. And it's something that we have to overcome. I think the ego stands between us and them. That is what builds walls. That is what leads to oppression. And the book eventually concludes, we have to stop choosing the will to power or be driven by the will to power, things will change when we are driven by the will for humanity.


Melissa Fleming  31:14

We’re in the middle of a terrible pandemic, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I understand you yourself, caught the virus and your husband, what was your experience with it?


Yasmine Sherif  31:27

My husband first caught it, he got very sick with fever. And he was coughing and coughing, and we got really sick both - the fever, the loss of smell and taste, and this extreme fatigue, extreme fatigue. I mean, you can hardly walk from one room to another. My husband's fever went up a lot. One night, he was so sick, he felt I may not make it through. And he survived that night. And he was sick a little bit longer. And then he started recovering. And then we both started recovering. And I think after three weeks, we were through it.


Melissa Fleming  32:08

That must have been really frightening for you, when you saw how sick he was.


Yasmine Sherif  32:12

I was very worried, very worried. And our children were very worried and especially our daughter would,  she would call us and text to say, how are you? don't tell me everything is okay. I want to know, really, how are you? I want to know the truth. Somehow I knew my husband would pull through it. Together,  you pull through anything together, hopefully, doesn't always happen that way. But we are very grateful that it happened this way, this time.


Melissa Fleming  32:39

What would your message be to, you know, having gone through, it was a bewildering time, it was at the beginning and we didn't know very much?


Yasmine Sherif  32:48

Trust in science. Follow the directives of the health authorities, no one are invincible, wear a mask, wash your hands and sanitise them as many times as possible. We follow the directives.


Melissa Fleming  33:03

You mentioned that you have some hobbies that sustained you, that your your mom infused you with the love of art. Do you still practice any creative talents or exercises?


Yasmine Sherif  33:16

I write a lot. I would like to write more. I like to write, I like to write poetry. I've been writing poetry all my life. It, for me that's like composing a piece of music. And it's an incredibly exciting process when you start with a very rough material. And then when you start fine tuning it, it's almost like doing a sculpture. Yes, yes. I love that. I bike a lot. I love biking. I love biking. I love it. I love it. It's freedom, and skateboarding. Not so often. But I'm also an old skateboarder. That's the sports side of me.


Melissa Fleming  33:47

You skateboard through Manhattan?


Yasmine Sherif  33:49

Yeah, I skate in Central Park. I've actually skated in Manhattan. It was so funny. I was out skating with my, my kids. And people were like, wow, you mom is really good on skateboard. And my kids were sort of trying to keep up, because I've been skating since I was 13. That's something I like to do. It's not, maybe not artistic. But it's creative. It's a creative outlet. And I meditate.


Melissa Fleming  34:12

Yasmine, it's been really inspirational speaking to you today. Thanks so much for joining us on Awake at Night.


Yasmine Sherif  34:19

Thank you, Melissa.


Melissa Fleming  34:22

Thank you for listening to Awake at Night. We'll be back soon with more incredible and inspiring stories from people working to do some good in this world at a time of a global crisis. To find out more about the series and the extraordinary people feature, do visit slash awake hyphen at hyphen night. On Twitter. We're @UN and I'm @MelissaFleming. Yasmine is at @YasmineSherif. Subscribe to Awake at Night, wherever you get your podcasts and please take the time to review us. It does make a difference. Thanks to my colleagues at the UN and to my producers Bethany Bell, and the team at Chalk and Blade: Laura Sheeter Fatuma Khaireh and Alex Portfelix. The original music for this podcast was written and performed by Nadine Shaw, and produced by Ben Hillier. The sound design and additional music was by Pascal Wyse.