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Empathy to Society, her Luxury

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Head Prefect of Ilma International Girls’ School, Colombo Liyaanah Rauff believes in the power of empathy. Perfect Prefect features Rauff who understands that helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world of that person.

She pointed out that something she hopes to change one day, even if it is at a personal level, is the perception that communal differences make it impossible for communities to coexist peacefully.

One aspect of this is that what the world needs the most in a leader is empathy. She is of the opinion that while being able to assert authority is undeniably important in leadership, if assertiveness forces people into unfavourable situations, the leader ultimately fails. Leading people to care and do what is right, instead of exploiting their power for personal gain is important. Empathy should not be selective. Let’s say a decision has been taken which benefits a certain group. However, if another group is massively disadvantaged because of it, then it simply is not a good one.

“I want to live by the principle; that even if I cannot make a widespread difference, anything I do that can make a difference even to a single individual, would be well worth the effort. Becoming an asset to my community through volunteering or even the career path I choose, is my ultimate goal.”

She knows how perceptions of people outside certain communities can affect the lives of the people within them. “However, I feel that even if I am able to make a statement within my community and change the perceptions of the people that I interact with in my path of life, it is a difference worth making,” pointed out Rauff.

Rauff understands the youth and she can relate to them. She knows that there are many matters that the youth of today share a passion for, such as the environment, gender equality, discrimination on the basis of racial differences and religious beliefs and poverty. She knows that the youth face many obstacles in their life and she can relate to this.

“I empathise with their struggle on a more personal level, as I recognise that they are just like me, except born with slight differences or into a different way of life and are in turn not given the same opportunities that I have been blessed with. Helping the youth of the world come to terms with being different, through our field of expertise, and still being able to accomplish great things is what I feel passionate about. Part of this is normalising conversations about mental health and other such issues that the youth may face. Overcoming issues such as the stigma around such conversations is pivotal in reaching the ultimate goal of helping every young person reach their full potential. Another path to this is embracing proficiency in all fields of life, allowing creatively-inclined students to feel as valued as academically-inclined students. Helping the youth understand that academic proficiency is not the only path to success is extremely important and something I feel many young students feel strongly about,” explained Rauff.

Rauff proudly said that Ilma did not mould her into the person they thought she should be; instead, Ilma gave her the opportunity to mould herself into the person she wants to be.

“Being a student of Ilma has given me many opportunities. I am forever indebted to my school for giving me experiences that have helped me grow and evolve over the last 14 years. Ilma has not just opened these windows of opportunity, but has also given me and other students the room and flexibility to create our own experiences, taking into account what we want to do, and allowing our devotion to different causes or projects to take form through our efforts, empowering us to strive for success in anything we set our minds to,” she said.

Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern once said that she refuses to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong. She is a leader that Rauff admires.

“Notwithstanding what may have been the views of the majority, she has consistently proven her desire to ensure unity and communal harmony. For instance, following the Christchurch Shootings, she led her community to heal in the most peaceful way possible, thereby avoiding what could have been a hugely divisive incident for all concerned. What stands out is her authenticity, regardless of what agenda the rest of the world pushes. She does not let others cloud her judgement and has proven herself to be a force to be reckoned with. She also displays a great deal of empathy, showing her citizens that she strives for all of their wellbeing, not just the specific parties that are the majority or most advantageous to her. She governs with integrity and sincerity, exhibiting decisiveness in crisis that belies her youthfulness. She is undoubtedly the type of leader the world desperately needs; one who extends empathy to everyone she leads. I find her a truly admirable figure.

Rauff conducting the Welcome Address at the Interact Club Charter Ceremony as its Project Chairperson.

For Rauff, leading is not about being the loudest person in the room. It is being the one who can bring out the best in the people they lead to accomplishing a goal.

“I was always under the impression that a leader had to be someone that demanded attention and carried themselves in a manner that did so. I told myself that I could not be a leader for that reason. But as I started working under people, I realised that the leaders who often found the most success in their roles and the leaders I personally enjoyed working with, were often simply the best at understanding and listening to the people they worked with. Listening, adapting and learning are so much more important to leadership than having the largest presence. Another pitfall in the path of becoming a leader is complacency. Success requires drive and determination. The path is not easy but the pay-off is always worth it. Most importantly, though, remember that leadership is not scary or daunting. The people you are leading are not out to criticise or find fault with you. You are a leader to people who most often trust you and want to support you, thus ensuring that you are never alone in your duties and responsibilities,” added Rauff.

Rauff finally wished to thank all those who have assisted and supported her including her family and school.

“My mother has always been a jack of all trades. Part of my passion for grabbing opportunities comes from her ability to do almost anything she sets her mind to do regardless of how familiar she is with the subject matter. This mindset manifests itself in all other aspects of life. She makes sure that her family comes first. My father is also someone I have learned so much from and I continue learning from him. I have him to thank for, for my prowess in critical thinking. He has shown me just what you can achieve through reasoning and level-headed evaluation. My sister and brother are my greatest supporters who push me to reach my true potential.”

Rauff concluded by saying that to her, inspiration can’t be confined to a single dimension.

“Every person from my friends to my family has contributed in some way to making me the person I am and, as the saying goes, ‘I am a mosaic of everyone I have ever loved’. The inspiration for me to be the person I want to be comes to me every day of my life. I am eternally grateful to the Almighty for all the blessings that I have been given, and I hope that I am able to use these blessings to become the best version of myself I can be in all aspects of my life.”

Prefects’ Board (2021/2022) 
Prefects Investiture
Induction Ceremony – House Captain of Lulu House, President of the Media and Communication Society and Member of the Commerce Society (2020/2021)
Being badged as the Charter Club Service Director of the Interact Club.
Interact Club Charter Ceremony – Charter Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Interact Club (2021/2022)






Wednesday, April 27, 2022 – 01:00

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