W.O magazine had an interview with Waheeda Soomro, she is a UK based Pakistani woman, who has worked extensively across the district of West Berkshire to support community engagement and development with marginalised groups, working particularly with women. Read ahead for an exclusive interview.
Q) Tell us something about yourself?
A: I am UK born, a Londoner now living in Berkshire for over 20 years. I have many positive experiences of school, university and work in England, but also recall the challenges growing up in a racist environment in the early 1970s. I am one of five children, as an adult I am more in awe of my parents who took such a brave step to travel from Pakistan to a foreign country to build a better life for themselves and their family; I don’t think I appreciated the enormity of their sacrifices as a child.
I was very fortunate to have met and married Nadeem who was a good kind man, he died suddenly leaving behind me and our children aged 12 and 14. The past 7 years have had their trials; I’ve learnt a lot about resilience and inner strength, as well as anxiety, depression and mental health issues.
Q) How important it is to have community engagement and development with marginalised groups?
A: From early adulthood I have had a keen interest in community engagement, development and support. It is vital to ensure all sections of our communities are valued, represented and included in conversations; why should any group be left behind? One of my soul fulfilling roles was running a community interest company working in equality & diversity and supporting marginalised communities. By gaining a better understanding of all our communities we harness a stronger connected community that participates and contributes fully in society, this benefits us all.
Q) Tell us about your trip to Pakistan and what inspired you to plan this solo road trip?
A: The reasons for embarking on this journey are multi-layered; to reconnect with my heritage, challenge my own perceptions of a culture that I have never been fully immersed in, do something meaningful in memory of my late husband in supporting women in Pakistan, and to take you all with me on this journey of discovery.
I feel blessed to have rebuilt my life after the passing of my husband, and I want to demonstrate my support for women who, because of where they live, possibly face much greater challenges. I’m working with two Non-Governmental Organisations (IMCHF & Behbud) that work in improving the lives of women in Pakistan, through education, skills building and development. I will travel by road from the south (Karachi) to the north (Gilgit), along my journey I aim to meet women who are making waves and challenging norms and, speak to women whose lives have been changed through the support received. This is a great way to honour International Women’s Day (8th March) by making equality more accessible.
You can be part of my adventure by following and sharing my Facebook page: Fundraising Road Trip Across Pakistan, and also donate to my JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/waheeda-soomro
Q) Being a public figure how can you contribute to women empowerment?
A: I don’t see myself as a public figure at all. My contribution is to be part of a mechanism that supports women to have a voice, to be valued and be visible contributors in society. I urge our women to keep learning, education is one of our greatest tools, so build skills, grow, become financially secure, contribute in society and make your presence known, it will make a difference to you, your children, our collective future.
Q) Do you have any message for females of the world?
A: I believe that the world is full of ordinary women living extraordinary lives and we can all contribute to our empowerment, enlightenment and growth. We must be kind to one another, compliment, appreciate and value one another. None of us needs to step on or over anyone else to get to where we need to.
Be brave, be strong, believe in yourself and the power you hold within you to achieve more than you think possible. Trust in yourself and your abilities, learn a new skill, discover your inner talents, set new goals and strive to reach them. Yes, there will always be challenges and hurdles, but have faith and the belief that you will find a way around them.