Meet Ashia Miah, founder of Shropshire and Telford United Women’s Association and Equalities Champion
As we’re marking International Women’s Day, we took the opportunity to talk to Ashia Miah, Founder and Chair of the Shropshire and Telford United Women’s Association and member of our newly formed Equality and Involvement Committee*.
Ashia, tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Bangladesh but came to Birmingham when I was about four years old and moved to Telford in 1996. I worked my socks off as a mature student, and mother of two children at the time, to complete a BSC Hons in Medicinal Biochemistry at Wolverhampton University. I am now a proud mother of four lovely daughters - three wonderfully powerful women and one amazing 15-year-old.
I have spent the majority of my adult life acting as a health champion within the community. My focus has been on identifying barriers to living well in communities and creating projects that help to overcome them. I love helping people by setting up various projects in the community to meet people’s religious, spiritual, mental and physical health needs.
In 2006, I realised that there was a need to bring women from diverse backgrounds together, so I created the Shropshire and Telford United Women’s Association. Since then, I’ve become a public member of the new NHS Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Equality and Involvement Committee and joined SaTH’s Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Team as a Muslim Chaplain.
I’ve also become a group facilitator for Victim Support, delivering the iMatter Programme. Domestic abuse, violence and coercive control is huge in society, and I feel passionately that more needs to be done to protect our girls and women.
Is there anything you’ve achieved that you are particularly proud of?
I am really proud of the position I’ve achieved within the community as a leader; empowering women, breaking down barriers and striving for equality. I’m also proud to have challenged injustices in society and the societal expectations placed on all women in the wider community, in particular within my own culture and community when expectations are a result of culture or society rather than faith.
Personally, I am very proud to be assertive about my opinions and beliefs, even if I am in the minority, and speaking up for others who struggle to be heard.
Have you experienced any specific challenges or barriers?
Due to my ethnicity, being an Asian of Bangladeshi decent, my gender, and my religion – people’s prejudices about what I can do and can’t do have factored throughout my life.
This, along with the religious needs I have, as a Muslim woman, means that getting involved in things or taking up opportunities has sometimes been more challenging. It has not always been the case that reasonable adjustments have been made to accommodate my (and others’) religious needs so I have had to be quite vocal at times to encourage people to think about what they can do to be more inclusive.
What helped or supported you to overcome them?
Although there have been challenges due to my ethnicity, gender, religion and age (at times), I have had great support from other people and organisations to enable me to achieve my goal of fighting injustice, namely inequalities, not only for women but for all those that face inequalities for whatever reason.
I’m also lucky that I’m confident and comfortable in communicating my religious and cultural needs and I’ve been fortunate that the organisations I’ve worked with have responded and made those adjustments.
What do you think health and care organisations should or could do to improve equity and equality for women, and in particular women from diverse backgrounds?
I would say that health and care organisations have made some good progress. We are seeing more women from diverse backgrounds achieving some of their potential, but there is more to do in relation to education, cultural awareness and just listening to the needs of women. Enabling and supporting more women from diverse backgrounds to take up roles at all levels within organisations would help build trust within the organisations themselves and the communities they serve. It would also give others, like myself, the confidence and aspiration to achieve their full potential.
To find out more about the NHS STW Equality and Involvement Committee, please click here.