Yesterday was a great and very busy day for Islington Giving with 17 staff volunteers from The Guardian supporting the groups that we work with as well as helping the campaign develop how we get our message out about Islington.
Two of the volunteers Laura and Olivia went to speak some of our UnLtd award winners, we’ll have more on their interviews and all of the other projects coming up on the blog over the next couple of weeks but as it is International Women’s Day we thought it would be good to start with Laura’s impressions of meeting Huda Al-Amin and chatting about her ‘Women in the City’ project:
“ Huda Al-Amin is an impressive woman. The social enterprise she has set up is a direct reaction to experiences she has lived through: arriving in the UK as a refugee in April 1999 she “did not fit any box” when she applied for support financially and to get back into work. Undeterred she set up a scheme for getting other refugee women back into employment. And not just any employment – jobs that match skilled women who’s entry into the workplace in the UK is often hindered by obstacles that we take for granted, such as poor spoken English at interviews or a lack of assistance with filling out business plans and application forms.
With her latest scheme backed by a grant from Islington Giving, she is funding training for refugee women to gain their security licence enabling them to work as security guards for high profile clients. She wants these women to aim for highly-skilled jobs and contracts, utilising their other skills, such as fluent Arabic and cultural understanding of Arabic clients. There is a skills gap she says between what is currently on offer to the most high-profile security employers and those for local businesses where these women can make a career. To test out this theory and to help develop a support system for these women during their training, she is going through the training herself – ever the pragmatist.
Huda is just one of a range of social entrepreneurs that Islington Giving is helping to support. Entrepreneurial in her ability to spot gaps in the workforce and skills in people; and undoubtedly social in her drive to help integrate women who are often isolated and frustrated by language barriers and a lack of self-confidence. Speaking to my colleague Olivia and I as we interviewed some of the social entrepreneurs linked to Islington Giving, Huda described herself as always living on the border: between Hackney and Islington and Islington and the City, between cultures and between skilled workers and employers in need. This is personal and personnel development.
What’s next for the security training project? The Olympics, she says, and working to try to get her women some high-profile contracts around the games. Huda’s work is an embodiment of what she wants for the women she works with and I fully expect her to achieve her 2012 goal. “We need to create new jobs because the jobs do not fit,” she says, and through her own entrepreneurship she is showing other women in the borough how to be enterprising, create careers and take different routes back into work and society.”