She aims to champion diversity among communities
Glasgow woman Zahrah Mahmood – known as ‘The Hillwalking Hijabi on Instagram – has today been named the new president of walking charity Ramblers Scotland.
The 31-year-old chartered accountant is well known for championing diversity in the outdoors and climbing hills wearing her hijab head covering.
Zahrah, a Muslim woman of South Asian heritage, hopes to use the high-profile honorary role to break down barriers and encourage greater representation within the walking community.
Zahrah said: “I feel honoured to be appointed to the role of president. I have high hopes for my appointment and want to follow in the steps of my predecessors while putting my own stamp on the role. I’m looking forward to the next three years.
“Most will agree that hillwalking brings physical and mental health benefits. But I’ve also managed to enhance my spiritual health through the outdoors.
“Some of the factors stopping ethnic minorities enjoying the outdoors are the same for a lot of people regardless of background; finances, access, time and other priorities. But another barrier is fear of putting yourself in a situation where you know you will stand out in a predominantly white space.
“That unfortunately has a lot to do with the lack of representation from outdoor companies and brands, and not seeing someone who looks like you being represented in a meaningful way.”
Zahrah lives in the south side of Glasgow with her husband Tom and their one-year-old boy, Muhammad Harris.
Zahrah was appointed to the three-year voluntary role at Ramblers Scotland’s AGM in Stirling (4 March).
She succeeds Arran-based international mountain leader Lucy Wallace and follows in the footsteps of former presidents including the late conservationist Dick Balharry, countryside ranger Ben Dolphin and award-winning broadcaster Cameron McNeish.
Ramblers Scotland director Brendan Paddy was delighted to welcome Zahrah, saying that she was the ideal person to inspire people of all backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of walking.
He said: “We have a lot to learn from Zahrah’s success in encouraging more people to feel confident and empowered to enjoy all the health and social benefits of adventures on foot.
“Despite booming numbers of people walking in Scotland, and the success of our world-class access rights, participation in the outdoors remains unequal. For example, people in affluent areas are considerably more likely to walk than those in deprived parts of Scotland*.
“Too many people still feel that walking is not for them, simply due to their background, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability or age. We look forward to working with our president Zahrah and others in the years to come to create an outdoors for all.”
The Scottish outdoors community is this year celebrating 20 years of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, one of the stand-out achievements of Scotland’s devolved parliament.
At a recent parliamentary event to mark the 20th anniversary, Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said: “Scotland’s landscapes are world famous - so too is our right to responsibly access them. Going forward, we must prioritise action to address the barriers and challenges that some still face in accessing the outdoors. No-one should be prevented from benefiting because of their circumstances.”