A new initiative that aims to help migrant women in Croydon develop their business skills is beginning in May.
Reem Al-Awadhi, 25 and Amina Malik, 26, from South Norwood, are co-founders of Yalla Hub and have set up a five-month programme, which gives women the opportunity to learn about starting and maintaining a sustainable business.
The enterprise is based at Communitea, a vegetarian cafe in South Norwood High Street.
It aims to increase the presence of migrant and BAME women in businesses through a tailored support system, helping them with their confidence, self-esteem and mental wellbeing.
In an interview with EastLondonLines Reem Al-Awadhi said: “I wanted to see more initiatives and organisations that support migrant women that were also led by migrant women.”
“We want to support them in starting up their own businesses, social group circles and as a result a greater sense of belonging.”
Yalla Hub offers creative workshops, one-to-one support, business knowledge and development sessions.
The workshops are designed to explore different aspects of setting up a business, for example, book keeping and marketing. They aim to combat unfair treatment through creating supportive spaces that provide resources, knowledge, experience and understanding as methods to help migrant women have an easier work-life experience in the UK.
Grassroot support organisations like these are non-government organisations that provide support to disadvantaged local groups. The initiative is funded by UnLtd, a foundation for social entrepreneurs.
Reem said: “I wanted emphasis on mental wellbeing, sense of belonging, and personal growth on the same level as attaining language skills, employment and business knowledge.”
Although there are services out there for migrant people, many focus on aspects such as ESOL (English as a second language) and CV building. Reem said: “There is a difference between the needs of migrant women and what is being offered.
“I think that there is a slow shift towards help and support services being more user-led, which I think is the way to go.”
The inspiration behind the initiative was from her childhood, where she faced the challenges of being a migrant as she grew up between Yemen, the UAE and China.
“Growing up as a migrant meant that the idea of a home is never stable, you never feel like you belong. It was hard to find someone to relate to and feel safe to speak around, especially in China. I didn’t meet anyone with the same background as me, which made things more daunting than they should have been. You had to figure things out on your own a lot.”
Many female migrants are migrating independently for work, education and as heads of households. In comparison to males they face stronger discrimination and are more vulnerable to mistreatment.
Being brought up in a migrant family has led Reem to want to create a bridge between migrant women’s personal identities and their access to opportunities in wider society.
“While it was less difficult for my father to navigate work in different countries, my mother’s career and ambitions came to an abrupt stop when she became a migrant. This was when the disadvantages that can arise from intersection of gender, citizenship and economic opportunities became clear to me.
“The Hub is an embodiment of the term Yalla which means ‘let’s go’ in Arabic, it is commonly used as a way to encourage others. It is a platform for migrant individuals and communities to support each other in their aspirations.”
Reems hopes for the future are that Yalla Hub is “to lead as an example for grassroots in tackling disadvantages that migrant women face.”