The women I’m working with on this project inspire in different ways. As well as being a dear friend, Saireen is something of a heroine to me. She has educated herself and accrued a wealth of experience in different fields including Finance, Funding, Training, and Community and Organisational Development, all whilst battling many personal challenges.
She feels passionately that BME women should be represented in local services, and worked as a Volunteer Coordinator for Rape Crisis, as well as volunteering herself with The Minorities Police Liaison Committee.
In the late1990’s she educated the Home Office, Media and local MPs on the distinction between arranged marriage, marriage of convenience and forced marriage. She observed that criticism of arranged marriages came across as tarnishing BME communities in a broader sense, particularly Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, and set about addressing this. She established the first project of its kind supporting people experiencing forced marriage, and successfully inspired other organisations on a local, national and international basis to create support services and education programmes to deal with the issues. Her awareness raising was also key in leading the home office to set up one of the first iterations of the Forced Marriage Unit.
These are just some of the things that make her awesome.
She reminded me that sometimes real life Princesses are more than clothes horses:
“It’s very rewarding kind of work when you want to help people, like Princess Diana did. She must have felt she achieved what she had set out to do if she saw somebody else feel better as a result of her work. I felt like I could relate to Princess Diana, not in a physical way, but the experiences she had and her loving nature. She cared for others and I often get told I have that in me, I could relate to her in that way. She was a real woman. She was well known for being a people’s person, the people’s princess, because she cared about people and so do I.”