Photo of Bahar Kheshwari

Bahar Kheshrawi

Bahar 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.

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in our region!

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!

Stories fuelled by our Inspired Sponsor, CNG Ltd

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