Our Sanctuary Ambassador, Lubna al Zain has just graduated from the City of Sanctuary ‘Sanctuary in Politics’ course. She travelled to Birkbeck College in London to receive her certificate from Sian Summers-Rees, Chief Officer of City of Sanctuary UK. Sanctuary in Politics is an innovative programme, developed in Ireland, where people with lived experience of forced migration can learn about the UK political system and how to navigate it. The modules also include working with the media and effective campaigning. Usually the course takes place in an environment where all the Sanctuary Ambassadors can meet and share their stories and their learning. This time however, due to Covid, the course was online. But that didn’t stop the participants from getting deeply involved
As a part of the course, participants had to produce a project about an issue that they cared deeply about and then to introduce it to an expert panel as a 5 minute PowerPoint presentation. Lubna, as a Syrian lady who came to the UK as part of the Syrian Relocation Scheme, found herself and her family in Southwell, 15 miles from Nottingham. Her project looked into how difficult it was for newly arrived Muslims to find Halal meat in their local neighbourhood shops outside of big cities and as a result many had to make long and often expensive journeys to buy Halal meat, a problem that is important but often ignored. Lubna wrote to all the big supermarkets asking why they didn’t sell Halal meat – not just the supermarkets but the CEO’s themselves! Sadly she didn’t get much positive response but that is not stopping her and she is going to continue to campaign to have Halal meat available in all supermarkets, making it easier for sanctuary seekers to find the food they need without having to travel miles to get it. All participants were asked to present a 5 minute PowerPoint describing their projects in front of an expert audience, giving them the opportunity for public speaking but in a supportive environment.
As her mentor, I was invited by Lubna to join her at her graduation and I was blown over by the power and determination of the participants to take full part in our political system and to campaign for sanctuary seekers rights.