Architect and urbanist Shaakira Chohan says one of the proudest moments in her career so far was being part of the team that erected the statue of Nelson Mandela in Palestine. She led the team that designed, erected and unveiled the statue, which is now in the Palestinian city of Ramallah.
“It was humbling to be able to share values and messages of justice, peace and righteousness across borders and cultures and it taught me about the power of faith, brotherhood and humanity, despite difference,” she says.
Being part of the team also allowed her to understand the power of making an impact on people’s lives in unexpected ways without any expectation of return.
It is this ethos that inspires her work. Chohan said she wants to see more considered, human-centered environments in cities that provide safety, healing, opportunity and inspiration for their inhabitants. Through her work as an architect and urbanist, she hopes to see marginalised communities being allowed to participate in their neighborhoods and cities to create a more equitable society.
The personal and the public are very close to each other for Chohan. How she treats people in her life is how she approaches her work. “My passion is making the world a better place for someone else — whether that is through showing up for a loved one or working on my career, I am driven by the ability to give and uplift, most especially to anyone that is in need,” she says.
Chohan is a Mandela Washington Fellow as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative. She’s a TEDx speaker, and a previous finalist for the Pioneer in Innovation for Women in Construction Award, and won a Standard Bank Rising Star Award. She wants to not only improve herself but also to ensure she shares all she knows, especially regarding developing emotional intelligence.