“There Is Always a New Peak to Conquer”

Leyla is a senior medical student, 22 years old from Baku, Azerbaijan. Currently a member of Youth Ambassador program of National Assembly of Youth Organisations of the Republic Azerbaijan. In everyday life, Leyla is a monitor of her group at university and during 6 years of educations has always got A score from every exam. On April 2018 Leyla attended F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Medical Marshall. Gained the German Academic Exchange Service scholarship for Summerschool on Medical Communication Skills and spent 1 month in Berlin (July 2018).

Q: Tell us a few things about your country, and also your life's story!

A: I am from Azerbaijan, the country located in South Caucasus between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is bounded by the Caspian Sea, Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Armenia. Baku, the city of winds, is the capital of Azerbaijan, a beautiful city with a symbiosis of oriental and western patterns reflected on architecture and infrastructure of the city.

As for me, I am a 22 years old young woman from Baku, a senior-year student of Azerbaijan Medical University, pacifist, dreamer and perfectionist. My biggest dream and aim is to become a worthy person for society and bring benefit to people who really need help. That was a driving force for my decision of future speciality I wanted to dedicate myself to. And here I am finishing a Bachelor's degree in medicine in my country with pure intentions of altruism. There are five of us: my parents, me and my brothers. Honestly growing up with two brothers teaches you things like how to be more patient and find a common tongue with siblings. But it has its own pros and cons. For example, in childhood, most of the toys were bought for my brothers because it's easier to buy 1 car for 2 children than 1 doll for a kid who can also play with the car. And growing with boys this or that way affects you and you find yourself loving football and shooting games more than regular girly stuff. And the same happened to me even at school, it was easier for me to find friends among boys rather than girls because I understood them better for some reason.

Q: What is your view of the world as it is today? And how do you define the concept of a better world?

A: World today is very cruel and merciless. One of the major reasons for it is the digital world. Everything becomes easily accessible and this makes people lazier. There is no need for effort to find a piece of information as it was previously. Which is great in the case you know how to use it. I came to conclusion that humanity is not keeping up with technological progress which is very fast obviously. We are overwhelmed with data and in this mess, you have to have a good navigation ability to not to lose your final destination and, which is more important, not to yourself. Now you are able to know what happens in any corner of the world at any time and this "digital omnipotence" gives the people a false perception of their majesty e.g. offending stranger on social media just because he thinks in a different way or just because he is different. People do really think that their opinion about everything is worth to be expressed even if it can hurt your opponent. Nowadays a lot of people face a lack of compassion, empathy and tolerance which are the basics of a better world from my perspective.

Q: What are some of the key challenges in your society?

A: In my country gender equality is a key challenge. In peripheral regions of my country, women, unfortunately, have almost no rights to make a decision about their life. It's hard to admit that we still have young girls without education suffering from the prejudice of society. The main obstacle is the reaction of society to women who step forward trying to achieve something in their life without the help of males.

Q: As a young individual what are a few of the hurdles that you had to overcome up until today?

A: First of all, I had to fight a lot for my personal space. My family is very conservative and it took me a good few years to be able to go where I want and when I want with my friends or even alone. Because there is a generation gap and parents and children basically can't understand each other. Parents are overprotective and are sure that they know the best but the world has changed since the time of their youth. I have the plan to continue my education abroad and it was a big hurdle because I am the very first one from my house who has such high ambitions. And of course, it was very hard for "pioneer" to convince my parents that I know what is best for me.

Q: Why is the role of a mentor important for you?

A: A mentor is someone wiser per se, who has more experience and another perspective to life than I do have because she or he has already been through something similar in the past. It is also essential to underline the critical significance for additional and timely support or advice because no matter how good you are doing now with your achievements there is always a new peak to conquer.

Q: Do you have a lesson that life has taught you and you would like to share?

A: When I was a child my father had a habit of asking "who do you love more, mom or dad?" and I always said "both" and never understood why should I choose and each time he said that it's a wrong answer. When he asked it last time I was 17 or so, I said "myself" and he looked satisfied with my answer. Because I worked so hard to learn to love myself, to accept myself the way I am. Back at high school, I was overweight because of stress and exams. And I didn't like the way I look in the mirror. After enrolment in university, I set a goal and lost 12 kg and became fit. It was my small achievement I was so proud of. And my father knew how important it was for me to learn to love myself. He said that no matter what happens I have to put my priorities first or at least don't do a favour for people if it brings harm to myself.

Q: Name a project, a foundation or a person in your country that you think is doing great work in helping improve other people's lives!

A: Zara Huseynova is a founder of WoWoman platform which empowers women of my country. She entered Forbes 30 under 30 2019 as young entrepreneur. WoWoman got into the top 100 communities from around the world for Facebook Leadership Program.

Q: What are some of the challenges that women in your country face and what efforts are made towards gender equality?

A: There are a lot of conferences and workshops for women empowerment to support female entrepreneurs.

Q: Athena40 is the first ever global selection of the top 40 women forward thinkers, commentators, activists, authors, academics, entrepreneurs, executives, innovators. Can you think of a truly innovative and forward-thinking woman from your country that you wish to nominate for the Athena40 global list?

A: Zara Huseynova

Q: Share with us a phrase, a poem or a story that you love or you find interesting!

A: If (by Rudyard Kipling) 

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or being hated don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise; 


If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools; 


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" 


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Q: Tell us one thing that you have learned from your mentor.

A: She taught me how to keep a friendship if you work with your friends and you are their supervisor. It's all about balance and the way you behave with them so they won't abuse friendship. She taught me to be more patient to myself and not to burn myself out by doing a lot of things simultaneously, I learned to put priorities and say "no" if it's necessary.