Monday, June 24, 2024
Global Indians

Meet UK Consul General in Toronto: Fouzia Younis 

Ish Sharma Darpan, 25 Mar, 2024
  • Meet UK Consul General in Toronto: Fouzia Younis 

Women are making great strides in various professions, whether as CEOs of companies or government leaders. 

A British Muslim woman whose career spans two decades in the foreign service has made history again. She made history when she was appointed Director of Communications at the British High Commission in Islamabad over three years ago — becoming the first Pakistani-origin diplomat to be appointed in this role.

Fouzia Younis has made history with her new United Kingdom Consul General role in Toronto. Younis was born in Birmingham, England, but has served as a diplomat in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and the Middle East, which exposed her to many different cultures.

Her office overlooks the busy Bay Street area of Toronto, and she feels at home with the city's huge South Asian diaspora, having recently visited Vancouver and Surrey. Here's an excerpt from the conversation we had with her when she visited the DARPAN Office:

Tell me about your journey and what areas you are passionate about?

I am a career diplomat and have been in foreign office for 20 years. I have mostly served in South Asia. I spent four years in Sri Lanka; I was in Bangladesh for two years; I was in Pakistan for three and a half years, and I also worked in the Middle East. It has been an absolutely fascinating career for me. When I joined the Foreign Office, most people from my background went into medicine, law, or engineering. For me, the foreign office has been a great place to work, serve, and represent my country. Whenever I go into a country, it's about the people. How can I make a difference in the lives of young people in New Delhi, Islamabad, or London who all have the same aspirations? They want good jobs, great healthcare, or raising their family, so how can I help them realize their aspirations through my position? 

What is the role of a High Commission or Consulate General? Which areas of the UK/Canada relationship would you like to focus on? 

In the UK government, we have got 4 Consulates. We have the High Commission based in Ottawa. I am based in Toronto. We also have Consulates in Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. Our role is to represent the UK here in Canada. A large chunk of our work is dedicated to trade and investment. We want to boost the trade links between the UK and Canada as there is 47 million dollars worth of trade annually between the two nations. We are also working on climate change, media, and Artificial Intelligence. We are part of NATO, The Common Wealth, and G7, which is truly unique as that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. 

It's a new year—2024—and much talk about diversity and inclusion exists. You are the first British Muslim Woman Consul General in Toronto. What's been your experience?

I was appointed in 2023, but in many ways, I feel this should have happened sooner than that. In the UK, we have Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is of Hindu religion; a Muslim mayor of London; and a Muslim First Minister of Scotland. So, the UK is changing as a society, and for me, being here in Canada is how I represent diversity. People have really welcomed me, and I am looking at doing the job differently. We have been celebrating Diwali. I have been watching Bollywood movies, celebrating Eid, and focusing on cricket. 

With young women who view you as a role model and want to break barriers and shatter glass ceilings, what message would you like to share?

I don't consider myself a role model, and I have never really pitched myself as one. I am passionate about what I do, which is the first thing. My advice to any woman and woman of colour, no matter what background you come from, is to choose a profession and then really get behind it, really believe in what you do, and, most importantly, believe in yourself. I think that is a really good starting point.

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