Members of the London and Bradford women’s groups visit Keighley steam railway

Women who are leading a London-based project to tackle the high risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke among their own south-Asian communities have visited Bradford to promote healthy living.

Twenty-three members of the Women’s Health Group, a project run by the Twist Partnership to empower women who are not first-language English speakers, met their counterparts from the Bradford-based BEAP Partnership. BEAP is helping disadvantaged communities in Bradford to focus on positive change.

Shankara Angadi, CEO of Twist, explained: “Our group is leading a pioneering project, which aims to help the NHS in engaging with ethnic minority communities, particularly those in which English is not the first language of communication. They believe they can significantly improve the quality of life of people in these communities.”

Type 2 diabetes is a growing health problem for the south Asian community, the likelihood of becoming diabetic is reported to be six times higher than for Europeans. This increased risk is partly genetic, but is also linked to lifestyle, including a high carbohydrate diet and lack of exercise.

Shankara said: “Our approach is based on empowerment. The project inspires and empowers women to manage the diet and lifestyles of their families by giving them the knowledge and resources to bring about improved health.

“When we show them that, not only can they take part, they can do something to improve the lives of others, this drives them to act and produces great energy. The women are excited about working for change from the inside, using their knowledge of their own communities, rather than being on the outside.”

Many of the London women were referred to Twist through a collaboration with employment and skills organisation Seetec, which is providing support to increase their employability and help them to find work.

Loreta Gruia, Operational Partnership Manager at Seetec, explained: “We help many women with poor English and little or no work experience. Through our partnership with Twist we see their sense of purpose and leadership grow, as well as their confidence and communication skills, which increases their employability.”

One beneficiary of the partnership is single parent Hamida Bibi, who was referred to Seetec from Job Centre Plus. She had never worked before and lacked confidence in her spoken and written English.

After Seetec involved her in the Twist group, Hamida said: I’m very happy with what I’ve learnt and feel much more confident, which has helped me to make friends and engage with others in my community. I’m also far more health-conscious now and more equipped to look after my family’s wellbeing – it’s been a life changing experience.”

The Group’s visit to Bradford proved a great success, with the Lord Mayor of Bradford welcoming the group, and members of the Twist delegation explaining their experiences of changing their families’ diets and lifestyles. After the presentations, the groups visited the local area, including the moors and the Keighley steam railway.

Humayun Islam, Chief Executive of BEAP, explained: “I think it’s going to inspire them, because its coming directly from somebody with the same background, from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community.

“They are saying: ‘these are the changes I’ve made in my diet, and they are going to make a real difference. You could do this as well’. Instead of a practitioner coming in and preaching to them, this is much more powerful. It could empower them, and our group from Bradford could then go to a group in Manchester, for example.”

Shankara enthused: “Few of the women in our group had been outside London and, at first, they didn’t want to go. In the end, they wanted to get up on stage and tell their story. It gave them the chance to look outside their own community.

“Now they will try to extend the collaboration with the Bradford group, who want to visit London to learn how to set up a similar project in their community. Eventually they could establish a group of women who lead on changing lifestyles all over the UK, it’s like lighting a beacon which spreads all the way around the country.”

Nurjahan Bibi from the Twist group said: “When I spoke on the microphone, I felt proud of what I had done and what we were going to do together.”

Shagufta Sabir added: “We were leading on our project for health and they were listening to us about how we can change the lives of so many people. This is the first time I have felt so strong about doing something for this country where I have lived for nearly thirty years.”

A member of the Bradford group commented: “I learnt lots of things about diabetes and healthy food and I really feel inspired to get involved with this project.”

Seetec has been established for more than 30 years, helping hundreds of thousands of people to find employment, gain new skills or start an apprenticeship.

About Seetec - Founded in 1984, Seetec has grown by focusing on high quality delivery and service user outcomes to be one of the largest employee owned business service providers across welfare, skills, justice and public services in the UK and Ireland. Our portfolio of contracted programmes spans numerous Government departments and local authorities including the Departments for Work and Pensions, Justice and Business, Innovation and Skills in the UK and the Department of Social Protection in Ireland. We work with over 100,000 individuals every year, delivering interventions, tracking progress and outcomes and integrating funded provision to add value to individuals and their communities. Seetec’s FY16 turnover was £82m and employs c.1250 individuals across 115 delivery locations in the UK and Ireland.

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