Sawsan Zaza – Community Champion

Photo of Sawsan Zaza

Photo of Sawsan ZazaSawsan Zaza is originally from Syria and arrived in the UK a number of years ago. She is a busy woman, with four children and a job at at her local school, but when new Syrian refugees started to arrive in Leeds, she knew she had to support them. The local police helped her with their presence and support.

Other services that she approached were not encouraging or helpful. However, new Syrian refugees found their way to Sawsan themselves and relied on her for language support and for an explanation on how things work in the UK.

This soon became demanding, since people knocked on her door at any time of the day and night for assistance.

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

Sawsan booked her local community centre hall and advertised a three-hour drop-in session each week. From there, she began to run sessions to teach basic English, dealt with enquiries, provided advocacy, brought in services and engaged others to volunteer and support the group. However, the group soon became large and there was a great demand for assistance.

What’s worked? 

Building relationships with new Syrian refugees as well as with many services, local residents and students has worked. People have been supportive in giving donations and supporting the sessions. It’s been positive in terms of encouraging women to express themselves and making them aware of their rights. This has opened up many women to talk and integrate. For the first time, girls have attended a residential and this is a great achievement.

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Sawsan says “I have learnt that people need support at any time of the day and there just isn’t the support from mainstream services. When someone is seeking support when offices have closed I pick up the pieces. It is not as simple as shutting down until the next day and turning people away. 

It is difficult to signpost people in confidence knowing that their query will be dealt with and they fear going alone. In addition to providing information and support, a big element of it is emotional and this can be draining at times. I struggled to provide a crèche, even though one was available, because I couldn’t access trained crèche workers. 

The community centre will no longer provide me with a free letting and as the people I support don’t yet have an income. I am worried how we will be supported and yet I know I am meeting a big gap in provision.”

What’s next?

The women have asked for space and Sawsan is looking into developing a women’s group.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

Understanding how the Council works, where their funding comes from and how this is used would be helpful. I often wonder why support such as my group that provides the same or similar as those paid isn’t recognised or supported.

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An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Non-Awards’ event in November – so-called because we don’t believe in shortlists and want to publish all relevant stories. Do you know a woman who deserves recognition, or would you like us to feature your story? Then please share it!

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Bahar Kheshrawi – Community Champion

Photo of Bahar Kheshwari

Photo of Bahar KheshwariBahar Kheshrawi fled to England from Afghanistan seventeen years ago. Her gruelling journey took four years and her incredible story includes fleeing war and persecution and witnessing the death of loved ones on the way.

Whilst now happily settled with a husband and her children in the UK, Bahar cannot forget what she encountered. She understands the pain of others who seek sanctuary as she then did.

Bahar decided that she needed to do more for those people and bridge the gap in practical support that was missing when she first arrived.

Who will it help/who has it helped already?

Bahar started a women’s group for those women who were isolated and excluded from services and information. She was disappointed that more women weren’t attending as she knew there were many who needed her support. Despite advertising her group via leaflets and social media, she still did not see results.

She then decided to call her group ‘English Classes for Women’ and bravely went to see partners of the women to persuade them to let the women attend. She told the men that they work hard all day and shouldn’t be burdened with tasks that their wives might be able to do.

From a small number of women, the group now sees over 45 women from all backgrounds who previously did not attend activities or seek support from public services.

What’s worked?

Bahar told the men that if the women learned English they could deal with school issues, visit GPs and shopping and this would save them the time. To her surprise, the strategy worked! Bahar’s class grew and she was able to invite services in to raise awareness and provide information.

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Engaging with services is very important and making them understand that they have to use community champions to reach the most vulnerable women. Outcomes include women going on to further education, employment or volunteering in the area of their choice. Bahar has listened to the women and engaged other organisations to provide surgeries at the group.

Bahar says: “I had to develop my group myself as there isn’t enough support available. I volunteer for the whole week for three sessions in the week as I support women to access services. I use advocacy skills and this is really important for women to be heard but the support from services is very slow and can be complicated.”

“I receive a small amount of funding from Leeds City Council’s Migrant Access Project, but it is not enough. I am struggling to succeed with other funders.

If the council stopped funding me, I would not be able to run the group and the women will again be isolated. I have also learned that women can succeed and many have provide this by going onto employment and further education, started their own business and they never imagined this would happen.”

What’s next?

All training courses that she organises and hosts are opened up to men, who have since attended ten sessions. It  has proven to be very positive because they know how their wives are benefiting.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

Bahar is seeking support with funding applications and professionals to join her Board of Directors.

____________________________________________________________________

Pay it Forward

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Non-Awards’ event in November – so-called because we don’t believe in shortlists and want to publish all relevant stories. Do you know a woman who deserves recognition, or would you like us to feature your story? Then please share it!

Share your Story

We’re inviting supporters to enable women with limited funds such as Bahar to attend the event by purchasing a ticket for them. You can do so via the button below – and also book your own place!

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Leigh Coghill – Social Impact Star

Leigh Coghill is a committed campaigner for all kinds of environmental causes.

Nominator Adela Pickles says “Leigh is a true Yorkshire hero, although she is originally from Wolverhampton. She is currently involved in leafleting Thirsk and Malton constituency about fracking before the election.

She first appeared on my radar last year at the anti fracking rally in York, standing on a table addressing the crowds about the dangers this industrial process presents to the 40% of the UK unlucky enough to live on top of shale gas-bearing geology.

Last year, Leigh spent all her free time from her job at York City Council volunteering for Frack Free York, until we asked her to help us in Ryedale as well.”

Who will it help/who has it helped already?

Leigh has organised several coaches from Scarborough, Malton and York to support the community at Preston New Road fracking site in Lancashire at rallies and peaceful demonstrations.

She has attended 40+ local group meetings in order to help co-ordinate activities throughout Ryedale and York and liaises with the Kirby Misperton Protection Campers to organise information days, pot luck lunches and other events to help raise awareness about fracking in the local area.

She also organised a Ryedale tour and all the publicity for Bentley Effect, which played to packed houses three nights running last week in Gilling, Helmsley and Pickering.

What’s worked?

Persistence and positivity. Leigh says “As someone told me recently, yes it can feel like hitting your head against a brick wall, but you never know when one of those bricks is about to fall!

We recently managed to get a front page story in the local press the day before the election; a great victory for us which was a the result of some hard preparation, many, many phone calls and a good dash of luck!”

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Leigh has been down to Westminster to attend All Party Parliamentary groups on fracking and shale gas and has learnt about lobbying and working with MPs to influence change.

Communication is Queen! Being part of a team means you share your successes, and your failures. Be honest about the help you need, and what you can give to others. And then stick by your word.

Get to know your community. It’s not always plain-sailing but it’s astonishing what happens when people come together – avid vegans working with 4th generation dairy farmers, and life-long Tories and tree-dwelling anarchists side-by-side. Take the time to talk to people. It might turn out they have a very useful contact.

What’s next?

It all depends on the political landscape. All opposition parties are calling for a ban, whilst the Conservatives are for shale gas extraction.

The plan remains the same, step up the pressure on politicians, seize media opportunities and get ‘out there’ on the streets to educate and empower the public to make their own decisions.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

Contacts who understand the economic (as well as the wellbeing and environmental) case for preventing fracking. Leigh says “I’m a lover, as well as a fighter! I’m all for taking the battle to the fossil-fuel overlords, but really I want a clean, sustainable energy future for everyone. Being able to connect our frack-free campaign with a more positive renewable energy campaign would be brilliant.”

 

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Pay it Forward

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Non-Awards’ event in November – so-called because we don’t believe in shortlists and want to publish all relevant stories. Do you know a Yorkshire woman who deserves recognition, or would you like us to feature your story? Then please share it!

Share your Story

We’re inviting supporters to enable women with limited funds to attend the event by purchasing a ticket for them. You can do so via the button below – and also book your own place!

Fund a Pay it Forward Ticket

Your personal brand – not just for appearances’ sake!

 

By Anj Handa

At many of the business seminars for women that I have attended, talk about personal brand is often limited to dressing for success, wearing the right colours, how to accessorise. So many workshops teach women to focus on their appearance. As if we don’t get enough of that from the media.

Your personal brand is so much more than the way you dress. Dressing appropriately is, of course, an important component of your personal brand, but it’s certainly not the only part. It’s also more than having a firm handshake, good posture, an important title or fancy business cards.

As a small business owner who works at board level and is regularly featured in the media, my reputation and my income depends on having a strong brand. I’ve had to get really good at it and I’m going to share some tips (and a slip-up) with you here.

Get posting

In a digital world, people make assessments about you before you even meet in person. An online search on Google and LinkedIn can quickly establish your credibility in the eyes of new contacts – or have the reverse effect.

For example, if you position yourself as an influencer in a particular field, but don’t have any related articles published online, your claim will called into question. People want to see content, whether it’s in the form of an article, a video or photographs of an event where you were able to influence debate.

I accept that it’s not always easy to be published in the media, but how about getting a blog on your company website, posting LinkedIn articles, guest blogging, or simply using relevant hashtags on Twitter? These are just a few ways to boost your professional online presence.

Be a follower as well as a leader

Some social media experts teach others how to build their online following, yet only have a small number of engaged followers themselves. In my experience, the most effective way to build your following online is by engaging with people that you look up to. Also engage with their followers. Has somebody made a good point? Then comment or share.

If you’re sending a connection request on LinkedIn, add a personal note. We are all flattered by attention, so include why you especially would like to connect with them in your introduction. E.g. I read your post with interest because…

Look for the people who share your values. Social media is so fast-paced that it’s easy to build a picture of someone. Are their posts congruent with who they say they are?

Feedback from people who I meet in person for the first time tell me they were drawn to meet me because I appear informed but non-judgemental.  With fourteen years’ lobbying experience, I’ve learnt how to get my voice heard in a way that is direct but not confrontational.

Your posts shouldn’t be contrived. Simply show up as the best version of yourself. My personal motto is ‘Speak from the heart to be heard’ and I drum this into anyone who attends my public speaking and media handling workshops!

Handling your mistakes

You might slip up sometimes. We’re only human. And the more you post, the more likely it is that you will make an error. In my first detailed blog on Afusat Saliu’s asylum situation (the lady whom my Change.org petition was based on), I made a factual mistake about a certain date.

The error arose as a result of her emotional and therefore jumbled account of her circumstances when we first met. A follower picked this anomaly up months later and called me out on Twitter. By then, I had been through Afusat’s legal paperwork and had established a clear chronological order. I replied owning the mistake and explained the reason, which satisfied the query. Integrity is crucial.

Build your brand

Be yourself. I want you to take at least thirty minutes so sit in peace and think about what makes you tick – the whole person and not just the work ‘you’. Which additional skills, attributes and contacts do you have that others would value? What sets you apart? So many women struggle with this exercise, but please get over your self-deprecation, only you will read the list.

Then consider what lights you up. Is it sports, volunteering, art? What’s unique to you? How might all of these gifts be used to help others? Circle the words that jump out at you. Now I want you to play around with them. Can you create two sentences from these words which sum you up?

Your personal profile

Your profile text may vary slightly, depending on the social media platform. This is my Twitter profile text: Connections-centred Change Activator. Advise leaders on creating social impact. Founder @wmnchangemakers Chair @Freedom_Studios Governor @LeedsCofArt #FGM

And here’s my LinkedIn profile text: Connections-centred Change Activator – I advise leaders on creating social impact. NED, speaker, lobbyist, coach.

Did you note the slight difference? On Twitter I want people to quickly see my broad interests, whereas on LinkedIn, my aim is to connect with the right people for business opportunities.

Though focussing on my values and creating social impact outside of my work sphere, I’ve scaled my personal profile and the opportunities that it brings by considering the way I show up – online as well as offline. My experiences led to the creation of my mission-driven business, Inspiring Women Changemakers, because I want women like you to benefit too.

I’d love to support you in building your brand through a range of ways. It starts with a conversation. Email me at anj@inspiringwomenchangemakers.co.uk

 

Dr Geetha Upadhyaya – Diversity-Driven Organisation

Photo of Dr Geetha Upadhyaya

Photo of Dr Geetha Upadhyaya

Dr Geetha Upadhyaya co-founded arts organisation Kala Sangam with her Consultant Clinical Psychologist husband, Dr Shri in 1993. She is a Consultant in Metabolic Medicine and also has a post-graduate degree in classical Indian dance/music (Bharatnatyam and Karnāṭak).

The couple had observed that South Asian communities rarely came together, so Kala Sangam meaning ‘Art’ and ‘Confluence’ in Sanskrit, was set up to bridge this gap.

In 2007, after having rented space for over ten years, Dr Geetha and her team were awarded £1.5m by the Arts Council of England’s lottery award to establish its centre of excellence at St Peters House, Bradford.

Who will it help/who has it helped already?

Kala Sangam now works with all communities, age ranges, ethnicities and abilities. Its arts programme is very diverse and its audiences are reflective of this. The organisation also works with young people and children to
run an academy of classical dance, music, yoga and languages. 

What’s worked?

Regular review and adaptation to meet diverse audience needs is key to the development of Kala Sangam’s arts programme.

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

Dr Geetha gave up medicine to dedicate her life to Kala Sangam and the growth of opportunities for children and young people and promote the great arts culture and heritage of South Asia. Persevering to acquire St Peters House was a huge step for a small South Asian arts company. The building itself is an 1886 Grade II listed property. By its nature, being able to make repairs and improvements can be a challenge.

What’s next?

Having just retired, albeit working as a visiting lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Geetha has now been awarded lifetime President of Kala Sangam and is still active in the academy, heading the classical Indian dance classes.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

The organisation welcomes people from all backgrounds and encourages you to experience its performances.

____________________________________________________________________

Pay it Forward

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Non-Awards’ event in November – so-called because we don’t believe in shortlists and want to publish all relevant stories. Do you know a woman who deserves recognition, or would you like us to feature your story? Then please share it!

Share your Story

We’re inviting supporters to enable women with limited funds to attend the event by purchasing a ticket for them. You can do so via the button below – and also book your own place!

Fund a Pay it Forward Ticket