Be Inspired once again!

International Women’s Day Newsletter Review

by Sabah Sufi on May 9th 2017

Moved by the welcoming and warm acknowledgement we received from the National and local speakers at our MWM International Women’s Day Celebration, here is an independant review of the first event from Areej Rehan, a sister who watched the events videos and gave her review.

“I decided to write in detail a review of the events.  It will not only serve as a reminder to what MWM has achieved but it will also help you all relate with the enthusiasm and inspiration that all the speakers shared.

You will find here, a short summary of each speaker presentation, review of stalls and muslims women in history exhibition review; photographs of the event; concluded with audience response and discussions.”

Day 1, Saturday, 4th March 2017, 2 30- 5 PM

Day 2, Wednesday, 8th March 2017, 6 30 – 8 30 PM

Event Team-Saturday, 4th March 2017
Saturday MWM Team
From Left to Right: Dr. Raisha Nurani, Host & Facilitator; Dr. Hina Qureshi, Exhibition Showcasing; Saira Mirza, Secretary MWM; Dr. Sanam Malik, Stalls Coordinator; Sabah Sufi, Project Coordinator; Dr. Emma Wiley, Creative Lead; Seema Rasul, Technical Support.

Speakers & Contributors for Saturday 4th March #Be Bold

Nuzhat Ali, Opening message as Chair of Muslim Women of Merton- Video

Rommana binte Abu Bakr, Lawyer and CEO and Founder Haute Elan

Myriam Francois Cerrah, Journalist & Broadcaster, video message

Haleema Abu Bakr, TV Presenter & Makeup Artist

Kate Hepburn, Healthy Muslimah – video message

Anjum Qazi, Deputy Head Al Muntada Islamic School

Zohra Kahku, CEO & Founder Halal Gems, video message

Hafsah Adam, Businesswomen and Life Coach, Local Merton Resident

Nafeesa Bakkar,  Co Founder, Amaliah

Shelina Janmohamed, Journalist, Author and CEO Ogilvy, video message

Hajra Memon, CEO Shade 7 Publishing – slideshow

Dr. Siyana Shaffi, General Practitioner (GP) and Humanitarian -presentation



The day was opened by MWM Chair, Nuzhat Ali Al Sibassi’s video welcome message.

Recorded in Fez, Morocco. The event was described: aimed to be an inspirational event that brings back the initial aims of MWM when it was set-up three years ago: to empower Muslim women and bring Muslims and the wider community together.

Romanna Bint Abu Bakr.

She talked about excellence. Briefly she explained the difference between what one calls an achievement and a continuum with periods of failure and success recurring as often as many times in a day in the life  for an entrepreneur.
Romanna started 4 years ago as an entrepreneur. She feels some people are born an entrepreneur. E-commerce was in infancy stage in those days. Travelling through her job and committing to advisory services, she realized “we as Muslim women are empowered and treasured”. It seems almost a pivotal question in her advisory sessions that lead her to take the first step. And she advocated the same – Ask yourself, “Are you really committed to do this?” She expounded a bit on what does is really mean to be passionate. As she puts it beautifully, “Passion is the pain that you enjoy in a journey.” She rightly describes that only when she pursues commerce for a social purpose, in her case, her contribution to Women’s Venture Fund, she is able to move forward and perform. The gratitude and response from this social endeavour keeps her motivated and drives for her a true sense of self-emancipation.Myriam Francois Cerrah. Myriam sent a brief, yet, a beautiful video message about the idea of trying to be bold everyday. For her, it is to constantly about re orienteering  oneself in a direction that is independently set. There is a need to disallow people from determining our decision and our purpose through their expectation. One should have the will and guts to propose and shape one’s own purpose. She hopes that the Muslim Women community can work to support individual challenges and struggles and get away with negative judgement of others.

Haleema Abu Bakr Learned that she is a single mother, and CEO of H Beauty. How she relates her life story with such joy, cautious and positive after-though was amazing to see. She related, “Living in S.A., I have always been in the presence of spiritual reminders. I have prayed for happiness everyday for a very long time. I faced the challenge of being a working women given my background. I was always trying to make everyone happy. When I broke my engagement and went back to S.A., I realized I have something in me that needs exposure and development. I needed to do something for my family. The exposure in Hong Kong and it’s Market let me see and seek the potential in Makeup business. Describing her personal challenges, she took some bold steps. Thereafter, it was like a spin ball, as a Muslim women coming on TV, just being me, finding support in colleagues. My parents each day have shown opposition to my endeavour and hope I leave it soon. It’s really bold to oppose it.  I have to talk into my dad and each time I bring a spiritual argument such as, ” I cannot say No to opportunities sent to me by Allah himself”, especially as he has graced me with this after my prolonged prayers and devotion” sharing such personal experiences can not be an easy task.

Kate Hepburn from Healthy Muslimah website.
Very engaging message, in which Kate relates a bold moment as to when she realised that she lacked the essential knowledge on healthy living in order to realise her big idea of teaching and advocating healthy living. She decided to take up a two year nutrition course. Her message:
“Don’t wish for it, pray and work for it”
She also included a short message on healthy eating:
“Taking care of oneself physically, mentally and spiritually is a beautiful way of worship of Allah.”

Anjum Kazi, Deputy Head Al Munktada Primary School.

She had prepared a proper written speech yet, began very humbly by deride her efforts in preparation. It was quite quizzical to guess her forthcoming content throughout the speech.  She began, “All success is from Allah, and possible through His decision. So we need to ensure that whatever we do we should never compromise on Islamic principles. Relating her academia, she mentioned double Post graduation studies after pursuing literature. Her mother formed three Islamic schools, and pressurised her to pursue MA in Bombay initially. And her father was overjoyed when she completed it.  She expressed, “My self confidence was subdued at that moment. I had always looked up to successful women and that is still my inspiration for life. If they could so can I.” Truly when a woman is confronted with self doubt and low esteem, it is so important to have role models around you. Role models inspire confidence and self worth. Coming abroad from Bombay, she was taken aback by a surprise, she had to redo her degree to pursue teaching career in UK. She completed her studies after the birth of her children. She related how she lived here alone bravely with her children while her husband was away for family commitment.
Later on she described her latest challenges, “Moving to a private school with low salary and intense inspection regimes, I felt alone as a deputy head. I had to be patient as it was forthcoming with internal promotions and changing relationship dynamics. I followed one principle, every day is a battle and today I will combat.” As women we go through battles, it is so important that we do not give up and persist. It was well understood what she meant when she added a concluding message, “be Bold to change” given changing circumstances.

Zohra Kahku, Founder Halal Gems Leading halal dining platform, sent a brief video message. She quickly related her Bold moment when she made the choice of picking values over money. It is worth mentioning that Halal Gems took this bold step when they were absolutely out of money. An investor approached them with good a business offer but he had different values. It was difficult decision but she relates that her learning from that point in time is “Always make the decision that is right for you. If an answer is unclear sometimes, try to think of the decision that you will be proud of in about 5 years.”

Hafsah Adam was literally as she described herself: determined, entrepreneurial and eternally optimistic. She is certainly passionate about healthy women to see the best in themselves.
Remembering her bold actions to create positive change, she realized each one of them had one theme, to beat people and a difficult situation, we had to stop listening to our internal critic. What I understood from her is that the first time we see the spotlight on our internal critic and ignore it to do what is best for us, and then we continue to take the same decision each time; there comes a time when we decide for ourselves that is the best and it resonates within also as the loudest call.
She related her bold moments, when once she walked out of a business opportunity which was not fulfilling enough. Then again when she faced public speaking as her nemesis. She made three clear point from her experience:  1. Never give up on tawakkul, trust in God. He will facilitate you. It gives you superhuman strength. 2. Do your inner work, find to embrace your weakness and strength and decide which one needs to be turned around. 3. Take small tiny actions to your journey.

Nafisa Bakkar – Amaliah

To the point and very inspirational message from Nafeesa Athar, founder of the leading muslim version of cosmopolitan, Amaliah. Her Bold moment was to quit her well paid and secure job.  Despite being offered a new role, she reflected that at that moment: “if I took the decision to continue job it was just my safety net only.”  She summarised that one should led oneself by hopes and not by fears.

Siyana Shaffi

The multi talented and ambitious Dr Siyana spoke next. Dedicated to whatever goal she puts herself to, she introduced by showing gratitude for MWM for giving her an opportunity to reflect on herself, her achievements and where she stands now.
She remarked, “I work in NHS for pleasure really.” She shared her experience of being part of multiple entrepreneurial endeavours.  Hayati,  figs and olives, Kitrinos Healthcare, and Zaytoun London. She had a montage presentation of some big and small bold moments in the form pictures that made her feel proud. I must say it is indeed a great collection of self inspiration that she has compiled through  the  MWM’s  platform beginning from the first bold moments when she learned to use the x ray machine. She related that: “My journey to crucial success started when I started praying regularly. I was prepared for the worst back then. I was organizing and raising money for floods in Pakistan, until the problems came closer to my home, Gaza towards Syria. With every single appeal that I made, I realized that it was not enough and started a literal distribution. Then came an opportunity to spend five days in the middle of the crisis was taken up despite criticism of neglecting my children and not coming up to the expectations of me. I did it each time, I decided to go bold. I realised that my  three sons, our world is not the microcosm and that it is much bigger.” Where she is today is because of her Bold steps and decisions and she confessed herself that such an attitude and living has made her very fortunate in that she is leading a dream job where she is not asked why questions.She related more miracles of her life. Divorce was very painful for her as it is for everyone.  It must be beyond imagination for her as she remarried at the age of 40 with 4 children.

Even those around her wonder at her accomplishments, often people end up asking her, “who supports you?” She feels immense pride in making this support eminent, “it’s clearly my social circle only and not some external agency like U.N., MSF, WHO.” The last bold Moment she picked really make us think that we can find out bold moments in small activity and everyday challenge… it was trying snowboarding. Some people dream to swim even, other dream to barely step out of their house to merely walk. And you really try once even, you will feel the thrill and the sense of self emancipation in the smallest effort.

Question and Answer Session


The session was very light with speakers reiterating their point of view. Raisha asked the first question, “ How do you deal with? If I do this, is it me being selfish, the inner voice and the internal conscious?”

Haleema answered that we need to see that is our real duty to just look good for our husband and raise good kids. Your business is your baby too. Make self reflection and decide for the good of both worlds.

Anjum added, It’s not selfish to follow your passion because it makes you a better person, in numerous ways, then you are definitely a better contribution to your family and duties. Believe in yourself, you are unique in that as a women you can multi tasks. Siyana added that eventually as you see how happy you become, and those who love you , they will recognise and appreciate you as well.

From one of the audience, “How much time does it take to become a known businesswomen?” Haleema answered that one can escalate promotions through social media, by targeting Instagram influencers who have massive followers. She has pointed out to:”Please don’t be afraid to ask anyone anything”. Make these Instagram icons connect with your idea, and then convince them to acknowledge your product on social media platform.

Hafsah added that normally it takes two years to be really sure of yourself. To manage your social circle, to be around people who are go-getters, not timid but dynamic. A lady in the audience challenges that advertising and media is not all that comes in handy. She felt that staying calm and believing that it will be true makes some sense too. The Speakers made an argument that despite hope one has to make an effort.

Another question from the audience: “How to follow a passion that is surrounded by numerous obstacles ?” Haleema related her experience that one should find mentors and spend time with them. Let them do the pros and cons for you. Align your reasons for pursuing your passions and make it one small good reason. Taking risk, coming out of a thing and let God guide you through it is the process that she advocates now. Siyana added that if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.  She added, “I did not take a risk or a particular decision until I was sure and felt well prepared.”

Prominent Guests

Siobhan McDonagh, Local MP;

Aimee Poirot;

Kate Allen;

Adele Hetherington

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