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My faith motivates me in Community Leadership

O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Surah Al-Hujurat [49:13]

This is a teaching from the Holy Quran, which was instilled into me by my parents from an early age and motivates me and what I do today. The most honouring thing that has fulfilled me in my life, in addition to being a mum of three, is the precious time I have spent accompanying people often in healthcare, schools and community settings, through dark times, difficulties and hardship. I really enjoy serving them and sharing some of the lessons I have learned. A few years ago, when I lost a few loved ones from my family, I received a lot of help and support from the people around me and relatives abroad, and I also found comfort in the Quran which has kept me going with being patient and accepting.

From a young age, I have seen my grandparents and parents love for the community, and this has stayed with me until today. This has also helped me in my personal growth and development as well. I had many great years of pastoral training, experiences and expertise in a multi-faith setting, and I’m very grateful to Allah and glad that this is still continuing.

As a community leader, along with using my experiences as a professional Multilingual Bereavement Advisor, COVID-19 brought all my skills to the forefront when working within communities that had been affected by the pandemic. However, I have witnessed cases where it has brought a good sense of community into our neighbourhoods. It is amazing to see how people are doing everything in their power to help their community, for example, leaders from Women 100 Citizens are cooking food for NHS staff, some are delivering the food and buying the cutlery, whilst others are helping financially. It is the small acts of kindness, such as these, that strengthen relationships with others.

As a mother and a woman, the experiences we are all going through empower us and being part of Women 100 Citizens has been very inspiring journey. The project teaches us that anyone can be a leader, pushing us to demand a space in the decision-making process. It has made leadership more accessible for everyone, regardless their race, faiths, gender, professions or age. I have seen first-hand how women have adjusted with change in order to organise their communities, for example, with WhatsApp groups being created for their street, institutions and community, sharing pictures of togetherness, and sticking with each other to provide unity in an uncertain period.

Citizens UK teaches us about the relational leader, and I believe we are all naturally very relational in the way we share experiences and learnings with people around us.  Women 100 Citizens allowed me the opportunity to meet women who are rooted in their communities, with much inner knowledge about their community and neighbours.

Many women are organising all the time, whether they are leaders, wives of Priests, Imams and Rabbis. There are many mothers, daughters, and sisters who carry their own individual stories and dealings with Covid-19, and those stories and experiences have been invaluable. I have seen Muslim women working closely with local churches by providing hot meals to their old and vulnerable parish members and neighbours. I have seen how a sister from East London asked another sister in North London to do shopping for their friends who were self-isolating in North London. Another Muslim woman used her sewing skills to make masks for the NHS staff. The wives of an Imam and Priest in Tower Hamlets worked together to make surprise bags for children in the community for Easter and Ramadan. We came to know each other and each other’s talent through Community Organising.

Women and Community Organising go hand in hand – no doubt about that! I find Community Organising to be a great way to serve my faith and humanity. The Quran states “peoples and tribes that you may know one another”. Through my one-to-one relational meetings, I have got to learn about so many vibrant diverse women, all with rich experiences of community organising, but also, I got to learn that they are teachers, students, nurses, civil servants, and faith leaders. Most of them are full-time mothers too, yet they are so perfect in fulfilling all their relationships and responsibilities.

Women 100

Women 100 Citizens can be a source for learning something new each day and an opportunity for forming individual friendships. I have made many friends since becoming part of Women 100, with Alison, Frankie, Sufia, Dr Mahera and of course Afsana, who is younger than me and gives me a sense of freshness and new learning. It was sister Nabila who introduced me to Women100 Citizens last year, and together with Nabila, I would like to bridge that gap between East and West or North West London, through Community Organising.

My involvement as a Community Leader has no doubt broadened my mind and knowledge about our diverse communities, yet how we are also one community. However, there is still more to be done in order for us to learn from each other and to show others that there is so much more we can do if we unite and organise - and us women can lead the way, insha’Allah (God willing). We have Rumana, Lucie, Razna, Kolsuma, Alanna Salma, Victoria, Aysha, all often attending training and meetings with their young children. This gives me hope that community organising will continue, as their kids are observing this every day. What their mothers are doing as a duty will become a habit for the children. These women are raising leaders for the future!

Thank you, Women 100 and Citizens UK, for all these memories.

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Posted by Aanisah Khan on 22 Mar, 2023