1. Who are you? What’s your story?

I am Muneeza. I am a Muslim Canadian woman. I am a mother. I am a lawyer. I like 90s hip hop. I drop f bombs. I eat healthy and feel beautiful after a workout. I like dark humour. I have a big heart. I love those I love with every ounce of my being. I am an extrovert on my terms. My kids are my universe. I love my siblings. I love fashion. I don’t do nice clothes, I do epic looks. I don’t waste my time on energy vampires, they are everywhere. I do not talk to anyone if they do not bring me peace – I am obligated to no one other than my children. I don’t go anywhere I do not want to go. I embrace my feminine energy, and I lean into my masculine energy when I have to. I love being spiritually connected, and I am God fearing. I am not perfect, but every day I try to model behaviour my kids would be proud of. Being authentic is important to me – being perfect is not. I love women but cannot hold a space for those women who do not support their sisters around them. I feel immensely blessed every single day for everything that I have, including a job that makes me happy, brings me peace, and invokes passion in me. I grew up with very little and have never forgotten what it feels like to fight and pine after things that most people consider to be basic necessities. With that as my frame of reference, I rarely feel lack of anything, and have an abundance mentality that has served me beautifully. Everything is a blessing, even the struggles in my life have been coupled with amazing life lessons. My perfect day is as follows: Running outside in the sun and then going for brunch at some obscure place with my kids…followed by some shopping of course.

2. What’s your definition of success?

When you are in alignment and feel at peace – that is success! Success is a feeling. It is not a job. It is not a certain level of income. After years of practicing law (and struggling to balance my work and homelife), I have learned that success for me goes hand in hand with a good feeling. If I feel good about what I do, how I live my life, how I provide for my family, and (in my case) my level of God consciousness and connection to spirituality – that is success. I know this might sound a bit lofty (smile), but truly you can have all of the “things” and make all of the money, but if you wake up with longing for more, you are missing your calling. You can’t feel successful in what you do unless you live with authenticity. Furthermore, success is about taking comfort in the fact that your level of success could be very different from those around you – and this is ok. For years I struggled in trying to keep up with those at work who lead a life very different from mine. Different goals, different priorities, and different responsibilities. Those years are behind me, and if I feel good about how I live my life, how I lawyer, and how I serve my clients – that is success.

3. How did you achieve success?

I grew up with big goals. To be honest, I was largely incentivized to do well because I was tired of being poor. I had laser focus on those goals, and despite being naturally derailed from time to time, I never forgot those goals: getting an education and being financially dependent on no one (I saw what happened to my mother after my father passed and she had no means to support us).

This involved the recitation of regular mantras around my goals, prayer, vision boards, and journalling. Also, I never made the mistake of surrounding myself with people who would not help further these objectives in my life. Your circle is so critical. The people you surround yourself with should live a life (by default) that you aspire to have. It is that simple. I have many mentors. In each of those mentors, there is something that I look up to. I also never make excuses for myself. If I want something, truly want it, obtaining it becomes a top priority. If it does not work out for me (and of course that has happened), the belief that it was not meant for me is deeply engrained in me. An opportunity that truly belongs to you, will never pass you. You have to believe that.

The largest barrier I have ever faced is trying to navigate nay sayers. I have come to learn (sadly) that there are people that will try and stand in your way or try and belittle your successes simply because watching you succeed irks them. These are the people (at least in my experience) who are still struggling to find peace on their own journey. In short – (and this is the truth!) no one more successful than you will ever begrudge you for your accomplishments. Knowing this, helps me quickly move past these barriers and focus on my support network. This is the circle that supports me and leans on me for support.

4. What’s your secret sauce for success?

Build a solid network of support people. For me, this involves like-minded females. My circle of women is everything to me. I grew up in a traditional Muslim household. I was never encouraged to cultivate male friendships, but on the flip side – encouraged (even at a very young age) to befriend like minded women that would help me rise in consciousness. I am proud to say – that I still have many of those friendships (some of them spanning over 30 years). The women in my circle are the key to my success. They have helped me reclaim my identity (as a working mother) and helped me relinquish the belief that any one group of people has a claim on what it means to be a racialized woman (and mother!) in the professional world. They have also helped me (through their support) navigate my way through the challenges of working within a patriarchal structure, which varies from being benevolent (ok) to toxic (not ok). Without these fierce friendships – I would be lost.

5. How do you prioritize peace?

My children. For me – these little humans are everything. I love being around them. I feel so blessed to be their mother. They are my peace (on most days). If your peace is your family, just prioritize your family. I am very firm (and always have been) about my time with my family. Working within the corporate world (especially in private practice) there has always been a significant amount of socializing (with clients) that takes place outside of work hours. I found early on, that it would stress me out, but I worried that I would not be taken seriously as a lawyer unless I did the after work dance. I stopped doing it years ago, because while my amazing work brings me peace, being away from my family (when I did not have to be away from them) absolutely did not. I don’t negotiate with others on the time I spend with my kids. My kids are the starting point for me, and everything else revolves around my time with them. Living a life that feels natural and organic brings me peace.

6. Anything else you would like to share?

Yes. I think the work we do eventually defines who we are, at least in some ways. As an employment lawyer, some of my work is tethered to all of the regular stuff that comes up in common workplace disputes: severance, termination issues, workplace policy issues, etc.. However, being an employment lawyer has also given me the gift of acting as an advocate for many individuals that really ignite the social justice fire in me. I feel deeply blessed to be the voice for people who are dealing with issues at work because of racial or religious targeting and women or men who are the victims of harassment at work. Acting as an advocate for individuals that have struggled to find their voice has been life changing for me. I am blessed that they have chosen me. Because I do have a voice. Boy oh boy do I have a voice.