Hajira Mahomed

Job: Policy Adviser

Organisation: Government Equalities Office

Years in Public Service: 2.5 

My grandmother/mother was …

An alien! That was the name given to white South Africans who broke the law. Her crime was marrying an Asian man. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act was an apartheid law in South Africa that prohibited marriages between "Europeans" and "non-Europeans. This made my maternal grandmother a “traitor,” whipped around the ankles at the signing office, exposing her and her family to brutal and demeaning treatment, and trapped them in a cycle of deprivation, lack of access to education, poverty and repression. Despite this, my grandmother now 71 years old loves to tell the story of when she proudly voted for the first time in an election in 1994, the year that South Africa got universal suffrage. My mother inherited that strength, a power woman in the corporate world, accomplished in her own right. Like the suffragettes and suffragists and all women facing their own struggles, the women in my family are all robust, valiant women, stalwarts for the struggle for equality and freedom, whilst always embracing the spirit of *Ubuntu.  I am grateful for the sacrifices that were made for me and for the hard-earned freedom and strength that I have inherited.

That is why, when I stood amongst giants in Parliament square on the 24th April, watching the statue of Millicent Fawcett being unveiled, I felt honoured to be amongst icons like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, both who fought to break the shackles of apartheid which gave a nation, including three generations a right to vote.

Me in a paragraph

In his freedom speech to the nation, Madiba said, “education is the most powerful weapon” so I broke the mould and with my mother and grandmother behind me, I made it to university, the only person in my family, yet, to do so. For me, everyday is a school day, not just at work, but in my interactions with other people- admittedly people watching is one of my favourite past times. When I’m not amongst other humans, my green fingers find peace in plants (yes it includes talking to them!) animals and relaxation in cooking, though the most enjoyment for me, is in the eating. I choose to live a simple life, immersed in books, culture, nature, and heritage (I have a previous life in conservation) and travel because “the world is my oyster.”

My Role

I am a Policy Advisor in the Governments Equality Office where I currently work in the Women’s Political Representation team, specifically on the centenary fund. Having been brought up in a place where women (and men) had to fight for equality, it is a privilege to be a part of the centenary team in the same year that 100 years ago women got the vote in the UK. I am inspired by the women in Britain who fought so relentlessly, the injustices imposed on them, and those who continue to fight that ignorance today. Ghandi said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” so it’s my turn to take the baton and continue the struggle– for female empowerment and gender equality on issues including maternity leave, equal pay, childcare, domestic violence and increasing female representation in Parliament. I am in the perfect position and place, the civil service, to do so whilst working alongside some ordinary/ extraordinary women (and men) who show me daily that it’s possible.

If I had a magic wand, what I would do to accelerate gender equality?

I would wave my wand and make society more representative and gender- equal: provide equal opportunities to all including access to education, privilege, power, independence and freedom. I would start with providing an education for all, especially all girls, and change negative cultural perceptions of girls in education. I would remove gendered language, gender bias in books/ textbooks create gender-neutral marketing and media and eliminate gender stereotyping.

Anything else you’d like to say

In the spirit of Ubuntu, I ask that all humans play their part in continuing the struggle against gender inequality. This could be through joining a march or a silent protest, writing or singing or drawing about it, talking or shouting about it, stand up and be heard…do something, whether its small or big, “courage calls to courage everywhere.” Millicent Fawcett.

*Ubuntu- Zulu term for “I am because we are,” connection, community, mutual caring

1 comment

  1. Comment by Kadees posted on

    Thank you for this inspirational article!


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