WHY WE NEED MORE WOMEN IN POLITICS
By Fati Gorezi
Rehana came to the UK in 2003 to study for an MBA in ‘International Business’ after nine years of marriage and after having two children. After working for several Corporate organisations she started her own business in 2011. Rehana always had a passion for politics from a very young age but due to family and career demands she was unable to become involved in politics until later in life. She joined the Labour party in March 2016 and in order to transfer her corporate skills to public life she applied to join the ‘Fabian Women’s mentoring programme’ in September 2016. She then contested the City’s Council elections in March 2017 for Vintry ward as an independent candidate and she beat an established councillor of 33 years standing thus becoming the first Indian born woman elected to the City of London Corporation in its 950 year history.
You have become the first Indian-born woman to be elected as a councillor to a ward in the UK. How does that makes you feel?
I am immensely pleased about it. It makes me feel good that I have paved a way for other women and demonstrated that first generation migrant women can enter into politics and can make a vital difference in society. So now my message to all migrant women is to dream big and keep pushing yourself towards the things you want to achieve. Keep your eyes on the prize in spite of all the challenges you are bound to face.
What are your key focus areas?
As an elected councillor my key focus areas are road safety, improved air quality, mental health and better representation for all types of business as part of the Brexit negotiations. I aim to promote the city’s businesses in international markets and to develop the city’s presence overseas.
How do you remember your early life? When did you discover your interest in politics?
Born into a family of 4 daughters and one son, I was the eldest child. My parents never differentiated between the daughters and the son. They always believed and supported the belief in providing the best education for all their children. Education was the top priority for my parents. My father was the leader of a trade association and I have grown up seeing him resolving their issues and representing them in appropriate forums. This is why I was inspired from childhood to be like my father and to be a leader that listens to people and helps them to resolve their issues. Over the years I took on small leadership roles at school and at University and politics was always an interest but never a serious choice. But having lived in the UK and seeing the way politics has evolved over the years I felt that now was the time for me to enter pubic life and make a difference in the interest of many other migrants in the UK.
Were there any disadvantages that you had to face as an immigrant in the UK?
During my first few years in the UK the first disadvantage was that in spite of having the right level of International qualifications my pay was not on par with colleagues of similar experience and background. I had to work harder than my other peers to prove that I am capable of leading large project teams independently. In my early years in the UK there were times when I felt that migrant women were being treated like bargaining chips in the workplace. There was not enough support available to reach out for help. But things have evolved and the situation seems to be improving now.
What were the most difficult moments of your life as a migrant woman?
As a working mum the most difficult moments in life were when I used to struggle to find the right and timely child care support when my children were growing up. Secondly, there is not alway family support available as leaving family and home behind when you migrate comes at a painful price. I had to develop a range of coping strategies to ensure that I could manage both career and family life. Thanks to the support of my husband we managed to share our responsibilities which meant we were also able to balance family and work life.
What do you think about the participation of women in politics in the UK? What more should be done?
There is unquestionably no equal representation of women in politics so more women need to be encouraged to join politics. In order to attract more women to enter into politics there should be adequate training, mentoring support and network access to help build the required confidence and skills needed to make a successful contribution to policy making and political representation. There needs to be a better mandatory quota system to ensure that more positions are filled by women candidates.
What in your opinion are the five main secrets for achieving great leadership?
1.Great leadership is about helping and mentoring the people around you to achieve great things
2.Being adaptive to change and open to new ideas
3.Being a risk taker with good decision making skills
4.Having an open door policy with your team
5.Being a good listener and putting trust in your team