I’ve been volunteering in my community since 2013. My goal was to meet Muslim women and children to connect and socialise with. I wanted to make friends and for my children to have other children to play with. I met people through different ways – work, baby groups, husbands friends but my heart was never content. I didn’t know why.

In October 2013, I decided that I had to do something – my faith has always been important part of me so I plucked up the courage to go my local mosque and be received by a warm and receptive Imam encouraging and supporting my ideas of getting more women and children into the mosque. This was the start of me finding myself, I worked relentellessy hard with many dedicated women on improving the services in mosques for women and children.

This journey has had a transformative effect on my life – I have learned so much about myself, about my faith and about the problems and issues people in my community face. I have had to learn to be resilient and tenacious to work in a heavily male dominated environment where subjugation and deeply entrenched cultural views have clouded what was the message of Muhammad (pbuh). I have learnt that life has so much more meaning than studying, work, raising children and dying. I have learnt that I must live up to my core values of being just, fair, honest and kind.

An-Nisa Network has become a group where women come and now seek solutions to issues they may face – isolation, self esteem issues, confidence issues, mental health, finding a sense of purpose, asking for spiritual guidance from faith leaders and the list is endless.

The environment we live in is becoming increasingly challenging for Muslim women – hate crime, Islamophobia, deeply entrenched cultural expectations in society and integration, discrimination – getting into the workplace and progressing. Muslim women are constantly under the spotlight.

Speaking for myself, my roots are from Pakistan but I am British. My faith is more important to me than being Pakistani. This is true for many second generation women . We turn to our faith leaders for guidance on the common issues we face but sadly I have witnessed faith leaders failing women leaving them with nowhere to turn to. The masajids are run on a patriarchy system where it seems that the priority is to keep erecting buildings to offer salah and it’s acceptable for the buildings then to remain empty. Barriers and blockages are common for the youth and women.

The challenges for Muslim women are endless – my question is where do Muslim women turn to for support? How can Muslim women live a fulfilled life and be supported and empowered through the ups and downs life throws at them? What needs to change in the workplace to allow women to progress and be successful contributors to our economy?

The current system -if one exists is failing Muslim women. Therefore, do Muslim women now need to front the change themselves and build a sisterhood in Nottingham to enable an infrastructure is in place to support women from all walks of lives?

All views welcome.

Saema Mohammad
An-Nisa Network