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INTERVIEW WITH JEBU

Tower Hamlets Resident and volunteer Community Engagement at Collingwood Community Centre, which is run in Collingwood Estate E1 5AY

Q: Please tell me a bit about yourself. A: My name is Jebu Nahar. I live in Tower Hamlets E1 and I am a mum of 2 kids. I currently work for Collingwood Community Centre. We work with women of all ages We have a pensioners’ club and a food bank. One of my favourite things about the community centre is, what we call, ‘Chai-chat’, which is when all workers of the centre come together to have tea and have a chat. Many women struggle at first when coming to the centre as they experience loneliness. But they start to get more confident and open up after getting to know the people at the community centre. My colleagues and I are like their second family. For example, two ladies came to the centre who were suffering from depression, and they did not want to go out of their homes. After my colleagues and I offered help and support, they said that their depression reduced by almost 50%.

Q: What are your aspirations and challenges? A: Because of the many different people and cultures in Tower Hamlets, I have learnt some Spanish and Bengali. I would like to continue learning more languages. One of my current challenges is getting my heating fixed. In my house the heater is not working, and it has been like this for the last year. Due to the COVID restrictions, the Council was not able to come check it. After the restrictions were lifted, they agreed to come have a look and fix my heating system, but they never came. After many failed attempts to come to my house, there is still no resolution. I am still waiting for them to resolve my heating issue, but I have no idea when this will happen. Another issue within the borough is booking doctor’s appointments. It is very hard to get one booked because there is a waiting list. It has been particularly difficult during the past year and a half due to COVID as most of the appointments are over the phone. Q: How do you feel about being part of Tower Hamlets Women's Network? A: I feel good. It gives me the opportunity to share my experiences and also help other women in the borough. Women’s issues are important and we need to talk about them more. Q: What do you like about living in Tower Hamlets? A: What I like the most about Tower Hamlets is the diversity of cultures and also there are a lot of friendly people. You can try many different foods and you can meet people from different cultures. I like shopping, so it nice that there are a lot of shops not too far away. The transport links in the borough are good, so It is easy to travel too. There is a good variety of community centres who offer programmes and facilities who support the diverse community of Tower Hamlets.

Q: What do you dislike about Tower Hamlets? A: I do not like that there is a lot of anti-social behaviour, in particular people who drink and abuse drugs on the streets. There are also a lot of people who smoke under other people’s house windows, so the smoke gets inside the house and pollutes the air which is bad for people. I also do not feel safe in the streets of Tower Hamlets. A woman told me once that she got harassed by a young man and her bag got ruined. She contacted the police immediately, but the criminal run away because the police arrived at the crime scene 30 minutes later. They did file a report, but also said that not much can be done as he already escaped. Another thing I do not like is the fact that the streets are dirty most of the time and there is broken glass everywhere. There is a ‘bin problem’ as people do not respect the rules and throw a lot of things on the street. Maybe people do not know the rules, so they need help learning. Q: What changes would you like to see in Tower Hamlets? A: We need more street police in Tower Hamlets. I would like to see less anti-social behaviour in the borough. I would also like to see changes of the social housing services. The buildings they offer are way too old and need refurbishing. One of the main issues is overcrowding because too many people live in very small properties with many other people or their families. Also, to apply for social housing, you need to provide proof of address for the last 5 years and the waiting list for social housing is way too long and sometimes the Council does not even get back to you. On the other hand, private housing in Tower Hamlets is way too expensive and many people cannot afford it. I would like to see less Chicken shops in the borough. The quality of the food they serve is very poor and it is especially bad for the children. There is 80% obesity in kids in Tower Hamlets and most of the food they eat is chicken and chips because it is very cheap. I think more English Conversation clubs are needed. ESOL classes are not enough because they do not focus much on the speaking part. Many women that do not speak very good English are shy and embarrassed to speak. They feel like they will be laughed at because of the language barrier. The Conversation clubs would give women the opportunity to get together and network, but get them confident in communicating in English while mixing with different cultures and people. Q: What is your message to the women in Tower Hamlets? A: Women need to take more care for themselves, especially when they have kids. Support for new mums is essential when they have just started a new job. Women should not be scared to say what they think because they are an important part of Tower Hamlets because they live here and contribute to the community. Q: What is your message to Tower Hamlets Council? A: I believe that TH Council needs to provide more facilities and programmes to support the women of the borough. We need more job facilities and opportunities for the women in Tower Hamlets. When single mums want to find a job and want to work, there is not enough support provided. Facilities for their kids while they are in education are necessary. They should improve the swimming sessions, offer more sports activities, and also health and well-being facilities for women. There has been a budget cut and facilities are closing down or become too expensive. At the Collingwood Community Centre we had Zumba and Yoga classes, but we had to close them because we did not have enough funding. The classes may resume again in January. I also think that Nutrition classes are needed in the borough to help women and their families take better care of themselves by improving their diets. In the borough, here are many older ladies struggling and are isolated from the community. It has been difficult for them to socialise especially during COVID as most of the communications between people are online and these women do not know how to use internet. Computer lessons programmes can help them. The safety of women and their children should be a priority. There is not enough policing of the streets, and more needs to be done, such as educating people of the dangers they can ran into, but also not to harm other people. Housing needs to be addressed. Many of the properties are overcrowded, there is not enough housing and many people live in very small places with multiple people.

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