Kiran Malik-Khan and the hijab

On Saturday, February 21st, Kiran Malik-Khan, Director of Stakeholder Relations at The United Way of Fort McMurray gave the “talk of her life” at TEDxFortMcMurray. She used the platform to effectively promote awareness about the hijab, the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women. We were very proud of Kiran as she delivered an insightful and powerful talk.  She was kind enough to answer a few questions about the experience.

Russell: Before we dive into the TEDx experience, let’s talk about your move to the United Way. How would you describe your first six months in your new role?

Kiran: Joining the United Way team has been an amazing experience. Everyone has been so great to work with, and I’ve learned so much about our social profit sector. And, it’s heartening to know you are helping strengthen the social profit sector as well. Diane is an amazing and empowering boss, and friend, and team spirit thrives in my co-workers; these are the things that I crave. I’m learning daily, and enjoying every minute of it.

Russell: Now that the dust has settled on TEDx, what did you think of the arc of the journey, from audition to presentation?

Kiran: Wow! What a journey! From not wanting to do this for years to finally being inspired by World Hijab Day YMM, and the fact Bill 60 had tried to take down the hijab along with other mandatory religious symbols in 2014 – listening to family and friends why I should do this – it’s been surreal. The waiting after the audition due to the postponement made me not think about it for a while. And, then February came, and it became real. My rehearsals started, and it just hit home. Renee Summers was an excellent coach. She’s a friend, a former co-worker, and former boss of mine as well. We were on Skype every evening – she’s moved to Airdrie now, and every day she made me better. I’m sure her ears are still ringing from my talk.

Russell: Looking back on it, what would you say is the personal/professional value of having gone through the TEDx experience? Would you encourage others to audition?

Kiran: Personally, this just solidifies the need to keep the topic of the hijab ongoing. The awareness is key. I had women and men telling me, they never knew how important the hijab is to Muslim women, and that hearing about it made them more educated. And, they see it differently now. Professionally, this experience has broadened my networks, and to be able to share this with my amazing co-workers, and have their support meant a lot. I would definitely encourage everyone to audition. If you have a topic that moves you to your soul, a passion that runs through your veins then TEDx is the platform for you. It’s the “talk of your life,” because the experience is that of a lifetime. Do it.

Kiran’s TEDxFortMcMurray presentation will be available in about a month’s time at



Author: Russell Thomas

​Russell is a marketing and communications professional who has spent 20 years in Wood Buffalo working with the OK Radio Group, Keyano College, Arts Council Wood Buffalo, and now with The United Way of Fort McMurray. A regular blogger, Russell's writing can be seen online ( and in multiple publications. His paintings can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the community. Married to Heather and "Papa" to Dylan and Ben, Russell is a passionate spokesperson for United Way.