A Bradord community worker inspired by the struggles of her fellow South Asian women said she was honoured to be recognised at a ceremony last week.
Saliha, who is of Pakistani descent, has worked in mental health for over 25 years.
It was her friends’ journeys which made her want to make a difference.
“South Asian women are sometimes torn between two cultures and are trying to balance them. The reality is, we’ve adopted both cultures. We’re proud to be British, and proud to be South Asian.
“But there is a struggle in maintaining that balance. As time goes on, you find your identity, but there’s so much pressure – both in the South Asian community and in wider British society.
“My parents were educated and wanted me to be independent – I was very lucky. But some of my friends, after school, just had to get married.
“I wanted to be their voice. That’s why I went back to university to get my counselling qualification.”
It is not just South Asian women Saliha – who works for the NHS in her day job – supports.
Women from white British and Eastern European communities have been in touch with her, as have men in need of a helping hand.
Since the pandemic, Saliha has been approached by a growing number of people seeking support.
“Mental health was always brushed under the carpet. But people started speaking out more during Covid. A lot of traumas they’d never spoken about came out, because they were isolated and everything was shut.
“I never turn anyone away. I go the extra mile and signpost people to services that can help.”
Saliha’s win last week came just three months after she also picked up a Yorkshire Prestige Award.
She has been invited to speak as Bradford marks International Women’s Day at City Hall tomorrow, while she has also been nominated in the Inspirational Individual of the Year category at the upcoming Yorkshire Choice awards, along with five other Bradfordians – Emon Choudhury, Jacqui Drake, Mobeen Hussain, Muhammed Ali Islam and Mushtaq Hussain.
“It’s very flattering. I’m proud,” Saliha said.
“We still need to narrow the gap, and my message to people would be to come forward as we need more counsellors and qualified mental health practitioners.
“We can’t do this alone, there are still improvements to be made.”