Photo of Sada Abdalla

Sada Abdalla

My name is Sada and I’m a member of the Leeds Swahili cultural community. I have a busy lifestyle with five children.

I’m interested in supporting my community to achieve a good quality of life and also knows that this is challenging because of cultural barriers.

Convincing men to allow their wives to attend activities is tough – and convincing parents to allow their children to participate is even harder.

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

My passion has been to support women and youth to express themselves through education, but I didn’t know where to start. Then I was introduced to the Leeds City Council’s Migrant Access Project, where I contributed to discussions and engaged with services. I started a youth group, which was small at first.

I organised a six-week drama session for young women at the University of Leeds and could see how their wellbeing improved as they expressed themselves.

Then I started a women’s group for the same women, who had come to understand the positive impact I had made and now support me in running the sessions. It has brought them out of isolation and into contact with someone they can trust.

What’s worked?

Engaging with services has been very positive as this has built trust. The Migrant Access Project provided a safe space which allowed me to voice my concerns and ideas. I was able to take action due to the encouragement, basic funding and support that I received.

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

There were ups and downs, with some in my community accusing me of leading the kids astray. Although at times I was ready to give up, I continued with determination. Young girls started to confide in me and I was able to provide them with the support they needed. I’m known as everyone’s ‘aunty’ now!

Building community capacity takes a long time. Support from services as well as presence within the community is really important. Our community needs education on running groups, as well as equality and leadership.

What’s next?

I’m encouraging other women to take part and have responsibility in community life. I do this through encouraging them to attend training and other opportunities to develop themselves.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

I would suggest big organisations such as the Council who have the power show their support at local level because they can really support changes.

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