Shattering the Glass Ceilings Webinar Event
International Women's day was a day to celebrate the "social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women." This year, the campaign continues to forge for a gender equality world with its theme #choosetochallenge, to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality.
MSA, in association with mend, ran the "Shattering the Glass Ceilings" webinar as part of International Women's day to challenge gender stereotype by celebrating women's achievements. The goal of the webinar was to shine a light on women's achievement from our own community and increase the visibility of women's successes. This would help break down the stereotype of what a Muslim women is capable of and further open people's minds to increase inclusivity and accelerate gender equality. Our vision is to help empower more Muslim girls and women to rise up, with confidence, and continue climbing the path forged previously by others.
We had an inspirational evening of conversations with three different women from our local community, each sharing their amazing life journeys. We spoke to three successful Muslim women from our local community; Umm Amaar (Hijama Nation), Reha Ullah (MSA) and Sister Saira (PL84U Al Suffa). Each woman had a different story about the path that lead them to where they are now, who inspired them, how they motivated themselves in times of difficulty or when progress was stagnating, openly shared the obstacles they faced on their journey and how they overcame them.
Umm Amaar's passion for Hijama Cupping originated from her own near death experience. Hijama Nation is a pioneering organization which successfully established Hijama Cupping Therapy as a recognised natural therapy by regulatory bodies. There were many challenges she had to face because Hijama Cupping Therapy was not seen as a serious remedy, Islamophobia clouded people's understanding of the therapy and most doubted the healing power of Hijama. Facing one challenge at a time and using the power of digital media marketing tools to educate and communicate the benefits of Hijama Cupping Therapy, Umm Amaar was able to persuade and change people's views about the therapy. This therapy is famously recognised by celebrities, athletes and regulatory bodies. The practice of Hijama Cupping continues to spread as Umm Amaar has coached hundreds of people to set up their own Hijama businesses globally. Throughout her journey, Umm Amaar has shared the importance of perseverance and patience by never giving up hope and never doubting yourself.
MSA trustee, Reha Ullah, developed a life-long passion for Sports from her Primary School days. She faced negative attitudes and impressions from people about playing sports while wearing her hijab in Secondary School. It didn't dishearten her, but she wasn't able to find clubs that would let her enjoy sports and be herself. She took on the challenge by her sisters to be her best at everything and keep learning. Fast forward in time and Reha became a participant of MSA clubs. She found an environment where she could pursue her love for sports and still practice her religion. That led her to joining MSA as a trustee, becoming a coach for many sports, co-ordinator for East London British Fencing and the first manager to enter a team in a football women's league. It was so important to personally speak to the players and encourage them to take part on the team. The most influential person in her life is her mother who was the "embodiment of patience, perseverance and good character." Despite her and others growing up without support organizations like MSA, she wants to continue opening doors and help create safe passages for our youth in order to help them achieve their dreams. Reha encourages all of us to counteract the thought of "If you should." She continues by powerfully stating, "yes you should and yes you can and I want to make sure all the girls feel that......take the first step...whatever you have a passion for." Her next vision is to see role more models-hijab wearing champions-in every sport.
Our final speaker was Sister Saira, the CEO of PL84U Al Suffa. She witnessed the poverty around her and realised that there was an opportunity for the Muslim Community to help others. She wanted to take action and counteract the negative views of Muslims in the media by showing that helping others is core value of being a Muslim. Regardless of religion, race, colour, gender or etc., her Food bank (started in 2013) in Walthamstow offers hot meals, food, clothing and other services (such as arranging cricket training and matches for homeless community members with help of local cricket organization). All of these services developed were led by the needs of the community; to fulfil their health and mental well being. Funding was one of the challenges facing PL84U. She would regularly visit various organizations to raise funding. It was important to be transparent about what support she needed and welcoming people to come down and have a look at their work. Sister Saira reminds us of several valuable lessons. An importance to build bridges with others by the simple action of talking to each other and getting to know the other person. A common theme amongst all the speakers are that they always persevered. She reminded us to keep knocking on doors and if you get a no, don't give up and ask why they said no. Also, to look out for opportunities and don't avoid taking the first step because no one else is doing it. "If you don't see somebody doing it, start doing it yourself because it could be for you...if you don't (see anybody else doing it), that's because you are supposed start it yourself, for others." The work of PL84U Al Suffa has inspired others to use their model in setting up Food banks and services. Her next step is finding the Food bank its own site and offer even more services to the local community.
Through the intimacy of conversations, sharing stories and asking questions, each one of us left the event empowered by knowledge and experience of these wonderful women to use in beginning or continuing our own journey towards achieving our dreams.