Redbridge women’s empowerment charity celebrates 15 years
PUBLISHED: 12:13 23 July 2017
It has given women in Redbridge a voice in the community since 2002 and today charity Awaaz is needed more than ever.
The group - which is dedicated to improving and protecting the rights of women - recently celebrated its 15th anniversary.
From their headquarters in Holstock Road, Ilford, women can receive advice on a range of issues including domestic violence and mental health.
Founder Bushra Tahir set up Awaaz - which means “voice” in Hindi - after struggling to find an outlet after suffering feelings of isolation and depression.
Now the group, which meets weekly, advises women on a range of issues including domestic violence, mental health, and gang crime.
Member Sam Khan joined the group nine months ago after she was referred to the group by her doctor after battling depression.
She said: “I suddenly experienced a few deaths in the family.
“I didn’t realise it would have an impact on me but actually, I didn’t have time to mourn.
“In my culture, I was expected to deal with a lot of things immediately after, and I didn’t have any time to think about it.
“It made me look at everything that I had in my life and the role that I held in my family.”
Very quickly, Sam said she found herself in a spiral of despair but felt unable to reveal how she truly felt to a counsellor.
She said: “Something had to give because I would have done something stupid.
“My biggest fear was that I would end up in Goodmayes Hospital. No matter how much time I spent with my family, I just couldn’t shake it.”
Through Awaaz, Sam says her life has been turned around - not only is her mental health better, but she says feels empowered as a woman.
She said: “It was daunting at first, but at the first meeting, everyone made me feel so comfortable.
“I have never felt more relieved in my life. You could look across the room and tell everyone had a story.”
Through the group and one-on-one chats with Bushra, Sam says she feels like she herself again.
She said: “By being surrounded by all these amazing women, it reminded me who I want to be.
“It has rubbed off on me.”
Fellow member Uzma, joined the group in 2010, after she was beaten by her husband and abandoned by her family.
Now, she says the charity is one of the most important parts of her life.
She said: “They’re like family to me. Being part of this group has given me so much confidence and happiness.”
Any women - of any faith - is welcome to attend the drop-in sessions that are held every Wednesday at the Loxford Children’s Centre, on Ilford Lane.
Attendees enjoy an hour long yoga class, vegetarian lunches provided by Mahal Buffet and talks from figures in the Redbridge community.
For International Women’s Day this year, Bushra organised for community figures to join the women, along with male religious leaders.
She said: “I wanted the men to explain the role that women hold in each religion.”
Awaaz, which is run wholly by volunteers, celebrates a variety of religious festivals during the year,
Alongside their regular weekly sessions, the group focuses on tackling domestic violence and reducing gang crime in Redbridge.
Bushra was inspired to carry out the outreach work after seeing murder victim Khalid Mahmood embroiled in a fight just moments before he was fatally stabbed.
Following the incident, in 2005, Awaaz has mentored teenage girls and mothers in order to tackle knife crime and reduce the risk of more teenagers being killed.
Alongside the serious projects, the group enjoy an active social life with trips abroad, to London landmarks and places of culture across the UK.
If any woman is interested in joining, details are available at awaaz.org.uk.
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