The Dawoodi Bohra WomanIt is without fail that each and every Dawoodi Bohra woman deserves a special round of applause for surviving and thriving during the COVID-19 pandemic. From little girls who have been devoid of playdates, to teenagers learning remotely, to young professionals adjusting to working from home in joint-family homes, to mothers juggling homeschooling and full-time businesses and jobs, to women caring for both the young and old, to the elderly who have been away from family and friends in an effort to shield – each and every Bohra woman has made adjustments during this time. We all have had to re-adjust our lives to the new norms, whilst maintaining our values and some semblance of our usual lives. Amidst this all, many women have experienced loss of loved ones – making us all bear scars of the pandemic. Despite all the darkness, women in the Dawoodi Bohra community have been able to keep the cohesiveness of the community in a year of uncertainties and unexpected tension of the pandemic. Each and every one of us have displayed some sort of act of kindness – whether it has been checking in on neighbours and friends, helping others with their groceries, or being available for a socially distanced walk – that has made a difference to the lives around us.
Umaima Saheba ShujaiThrough a women’s global organisation called Daeratul Aqeeq, Umaima Saheba, initiated an online channel in London during the first Lockdown. Forming and spectacularly leading a strong team of women, organising a variety of online classes to keep ladies mentally and physically active, as well as daily hymnal recitation sessions to quench the soul, she created a much needed platform of inclusivity in a time of seclusion. Umaima Saheba organised online classes from cooking, to yoga, to embroidery, to sewing, to baking – ensuring that there was something for everyone to benefit from and learn from. She is a source of inspiration whom ladies in the community, young and old, can confide in and seek advice from. She is continuously seeking methods in which the lives of others can be uplifted, from educating girls to help them before their confirmation to being a friendly confidant and taking the time to talk to individuals in the community to make sure they are keeping well.
Ajab BurhaniAcross the UK, Dawoodi Bohra religious school teachers have had to adapt their teaching styles and methods to adjust to the new reality of remote learning. Like all teachers across the UK, they have put on their thinking caps to replicate their classroom environments to ensure children were still receiving the highest quality religious education without the conventional classroom tools. One such teacher is Ajab Burhani. Ajab, not being a digital native, took in stride the new ‘normal’. Actively attending and absorbing the training received on virtual learning, she optimistically learned the ins and outs of programmes like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to ensure that in no way would her students’ education be compromised. She ensured her cheery and positive attitude shone through to her students by finding creative ways to engage with them through icebreakers and games in ways that made learning an exciting process for all her students.
Amatullah AdamjeeUniversity students across the country have been grappling with their new methods of learning, the changes in routine brought on by the pandemic, and ultimately a shift in their traditional learning styles to accommodate the ‘new reality’ COVID-19 has brought on. One such university student, Amatullah, who is studying dentistry, attends clinics in full PPE, and visits community dentists where she helps treat vulnerable and anxious children whose dental hygiene has inevitably suffered whilst not being able to see a dentist in over a year at such an important age. Alongside the local good she is doing for society, Amatullah and her uni friends organised a charity walk for the Refugee Crisis Foundation. Together they walked over 150 miles and raised £640 for refugees. The lack of access to clean water, soap and healthcare provisions puts refugees at increased vulnerability to COVID-19. Amatuallah and her friends knew it was more important than ever to raise awareness and money for these vulnerable populations.
Amtula NajefiFor over thirty years, Amtula has worked in the NHS as a midwife. She was the Sister in charge of the labour ward and foetal assessment centre where she taught trainee midwives and worked in antenatal clinics. Now retired, Amtula remains active and also helps her children and grandchildren. During the pandemic, she has gone one step further by supporting and caring for her family, including her husband, children, grandchildren, and mother-in-law. Furthermore, she has been a vital part of the support and care for her grandson, Adnan, who has a rare genetic condition. This summer, Amtula and her family walked 888 kilometres over 8 weeks to raise over £2,000 for ‘Designability’, an organisation which uses technology to make bespoke products that enable those with life altering disabilities to live more independent lives. Amtula often took walks in the garden, and even encouraged her elderly mother-in-law to contribute steps to the cause. Their efforts have made a tangible difference to this organisation to help change lives of children who are less abled.
Bilkis, Zainab, Fatema TravadiThroughout the pandemic, Dawoodi Bohra community kitchens and the hundreds of volunteers across the globe were working hard to ensure that no one went to sleep hungry. Through initiatives like sending non-perishable items to community members, to (when government guidelines allowed) serving prepared meals to community members – Dawoodi Bohras have been working hard to prevent food insecurity. Bilkis, a professional culinary expert, and her daughter Fatema, a professional working in risk and regulation, and her daughter-in-law, Zainab, a mother of three, used the community kitchen to provide meals to not only members in Milton Keynes, Northampton, Bedford, Luton, Dunstable, Stevenage, Peterborough, Cambridge, Buckingham, and Norwich, but also to their neighbours and other people in their area – some of whom had never heard of Dawoodi Bohras before or the community kitchens. Despite the limited availability of essential items, the trio managed to use their resources efficiently and wisely in order to provide healthy and delicious food to the wider community.
Fareedah JiwanjiFareedah is a self-made entrepreneur who specialises in creating bespoke curtains, blinds and soft furnishings – whilst also balancing being a mother of three young girls. Although the manufacturing of her furnishings toiled on seamlessly in her home workshop, she was faced with the challenge of not being able to do face to face networking within her field. However, she overcame that challenge by participating in a Buckinghamshire-wide initiative, where herself and many others stitched ‘wash bags’ for care homes and nearby hospitals. These bags helped NHS staff and other frontline workers be able to safely and effectively wash their clothes and scrubs, whilst minimising any transfer of harmful bacteria or infection. Together, this Buckinghamshire group donated over 1,000 bags to frontline workers. Like many others, Fareedah was also very much moved by the Yemen humanitarian crisis. She used her sewing skills to sell homemade masks whilst donating her profits to UNICEF and the Yemen Emergency Appeal, donating over £100 to these organisations. Not only was she able to give to these important charities, but she also raised awareness about the crisis in Yemen, and inspired others to also donate and learn about ways to help.
Fatema HafizjiAs a mother and a wife, Fatema’s priority has always been to want what is best for her family. However, when the pandemic struck she knew that, as a Health and Wellbeing Consultant, she was uniquely positioned to be able to make a difference and share her knowledge to uplift people during these difficult times. Throughout the pandemic, she ran a series of workshops for women in the Dawoodi Bohra community covering several topics, such as, healthy eating during Ramadan, nutrition, movement, sleep, mental health, and mindfulness/relaxation. She extended her reach, and provided workshops for Dawoodi Bohras in Ireland, too. She also ran a health and wellbeing session for children through Saturday school, the Dawoodi Bohras’ religious education for children. Outside of these workshops, Fatema ensured that she was available to provide consultations to community members in the areas of lifestyle guidance and to better their health and wellbeing during the pandemic. With the lockdown and many elderly and vulnerable people isolated in their own homes, Fatema’s workshops provided practical tips and skills to help them maintain their health – physically and mentally during these trying times. Through sharing her own passion on this subject, she has shown an incredible proactive spirit and enthusiasm in being a resource for women across the community.
Haseena HatimThe pandemic led to many mothers juggling between working and homeschooling and dealing with everything in between. Haseena, has a unique situation as a care assistant at a primary school for children with special needs, including those on the spectrum and as a mother of three, two of whom have severe global development delay. She also does voluntary work as a PTA member at Kingsley High School and is a member of the Harrow Parent Forum. Usually, her daughters attend a Day Centre where they have various activities to keep her daughters and others engaged and simulated throughout the day. With the pandemic, this Day Centre was closed and Haseena took each day as it came – managing her household and taking care of her daughters by trying new activities with them, attending Zoom sessions hosted by the Day Centre, and re-creating an educational environment for her daughters. Throughout this all, Haseena truly embraced the benefits of technology and remained positive and optimistic that this experience made her stronger and that despite the uncertainty of it all, she learned so much.
Humera ShamsuddinLike many other entrepreneurs, Humera started her own business during the first lockdown. As a passionate baker, she opened ‘Humsiee Cakes’ alongside her full time job working as a project manager in a law firm. Humera found herself learning more techniques and experimenting with different flavours. Despite the troubles the pandemic had brought, Humera was aware that globally the world was suffering – for causes unrelated to COVID-19. Therefore, Humera actively decided to ensure her business had a charitable aspect. During the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, she donated 20% to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where a child dies every ten minutes. This fundraiser raised over £250. Later in 2020, Humera held two charitable weekends where all the proceeds from her bakes were donated to charity. Over the two weekends, Humera raised almost £400 and was able to donate to relief efforts for the bomb blasts in Beirut and to aid the Yemen crisis. On a more local level, in December Humera donated two cakes and cupcakes to a local food bank, at which she helped to distribute food that day. She felt it rewarding to be a part of a local team to help provide and distribute food to those less fortunate and make an impact in her local community.
Husena Jiwanji, Nafisa Husain & Batul Rasul
From a young age, Dawoodi Bohras are taught to care for and treat their elders with utmost respect. Husena, a retired registered nurse, Nafisa, a senior health care assistant, and Batul, a homeopath, live their lives exemplifying this ethos. Throughout the pandemic, despite their age and own family responsibilities, they took it upon themselves to focus and provide assistance to those elderly who are alone, are without any next of kin, and have no other family support. For many years, and especially during the pandemic, Husena, Nafisa and Batul, made social visits to the elderly to help fulfil their basic food shopping requests. They would also accompany them to doctors and hospital visits and provide support for them during their social care requests. Using their healthcare professional backgrounds, they acted as liaisons for the elderly with other health care and social service workers to ensure they got the best help and support, as they equally deserve and need. With mental health illness on the rise during the pandemic, Husena, Nafisa and Batul helped many of their peers overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation whilst helping them build confidence to advocate for themselves.