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Meet our Board Members - Salma Nawaz

At the heart of Better Start Bradford is our Partnership Board, responsible for making key decisions about the programme. The Board is made up of representatives from the public and voluntary sectors in Bradford, joined by representatives from the local community – our Community Board Members.

Salma joined the Board to help to give her insight into what life is like with 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.

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 (now HEY! Fund) project, a local play group called Thornbury Tots, that interested me and once I had access to a car. I started going when my daughter was three months old.

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 young 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 and 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 ill-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 issue 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 ill-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 criticised 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 has helped 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 Partnership 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 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 do 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 other volunteering opportunities available that can give you great experience and confidence.

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Impact Stories / 12th October 2018
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