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At the heart of Better Start Bradford, we have our Partnership Board who are responsible for making the key decisions regarding delivery of the programme. The Board is made up of representatives from the public and voluntary sectors in Bradford, joined by representatives from the local community. One such community representative is Salma Nawaz - mum to four children under the age of 10. Salma joined the Better Start Bradford Partnership Board to help to give an insight as to what life is like when you have young children and to have a voice in her community.

Salma’s story

My name is Salma, I’m 40 and I am mum to two girls and two boys. Hibah, my eldest daughter is 10, my two son’s Salahuddin and Abdullah are six and four and my youngest daughter, Hawwa is aged one. I have two degrees and had a good career before I had children, but I didn’t want someone else bringing them up as I wanted to spend that time with them myself. It took me a while to fall pregnant with my first daughter, so they are even more precious to me. I really value this time with them because I can always go back to a career, but I will never get this time back with my children. I found out about Better Start Bradford at a Festive Fun event at The Vine and bumped into Abida from the Family and Community Engagement Team. She told me all about the work of Better Start Bradford and some of the activities and projects happening in the area. She also mentioned a Parents in the Lead project, a local play group called Thornbury Tots, that interested me and once I had access to a car, I started going when Hawwa was three months old.

I really like to get out and about with my children and meet new people

I really like to get out and about with my children and meet new people. I regularly go to BD4 Family, Better Start Imagine Story and Rhyme Time sessions and the Vine Project. It makes a massive difference to small children’s social skills, helps their emotional development and their capability of communicating with other people. In the baby group that I am now part of, it’s amazing how many mums are comfortable offloading to us and feel empowered to be able to talk about their feelings. As a stay-at-home mum you can sometimes lose your own identity and can feel like you are getting a bit de-skilled. You are only known as someone’s mum and someone’s wife. I know from my own experience how important a support network is outside of your own family and friends. I had pre-eclampsia with my youngest son, who is now four years old. When he was one, my anxiety levels went into overdrive and I was having irrational thoughts around my health, so I sought help from my doctor.

Mental health can affect anyone and my anxiety was out of my control

Some members of my community would suggest that I was being ‘stupid’ to consider that I may have a mental health problem as I was too ‘intelligent’ for that. I may have had good jobs before becoming a full-time mum and I may be well-educated, but mental health can affect anyone and my anxiety was out of my control. When Abida mentioned the Community Board member role to me, I jumped at the opportunity to be able to give an insight into what challenges can be faced within the community. For example, I was criticized for exclusively breast-feeding all of my children, and not bottle feeding them after a certain period of time. Abida really encouraged me and showed me that I had the life experiences and parenting skills to succeed in the role – it’s hard to self-evaluate yourself like that. The Community Board member role is helping me to find myself. I love being a mum and a wife, but I now feel like I need to concentrate and find ‘me’ again. I have lots of skills including being organised, good planning, confidence, knowledge, good communications skills, empathy - especially having suffered with mental health issues myself.

By being involved, it makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile

I’m not judgmental. People are a certain way because of their life experiences. I can look at someone’s behaviour and not judge it as there may be more to their background than anyone realises. I can look at the bigger picture and that is so important when representing a community. I feel by getting involved with the Better Start Bradford Board it keeps my mind occupied and it makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile. When you have been at a point yourself when you have felt isolated and alone, you don’t want other people to feel like this and that they are not alone! I have attended the Better Start Bradford HENRY project which was brilliant as you are given great ideas and tips around healthy eating and lifestyle. I really liked how I could take the ideas and build upon them in my own home. I am also going to be doing the Incredible Years course too as I think you can never learn enough new information around the benefits of being in touch with your children’s emotions and the benefits of child-led play. There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities that are available - this can give you great experience and confidence. To find out about all the free events, volunteering opportunities and the projects happening in the Better Start Bradford area please visit the website