Ummul is co-founder of Bidna Capoeira, a charity that uses the Brazilian art-form of capoeira to help traumatised children deal with the devastating psychological and physical impacts of war and conflict. Ummul runs projects in Syria and Palestine.
I’m a Muslim woman from a working class Bangladeshi immigrant background who grew up in London. At the age of 29 I made a fundamental change in direction, and set up a charity, Bidna Capoeira, that uses the Brazilian art-form of capoeira to provide psychosocial rehabilitation to traumatised children in refugee camps. Coming from a South Asian immigrant background, my choice to give up a successful career at The Economist was, to the say the least, an enigma to my family.
The charity has gone from strength to strength. From projects in women’s prisons in Syria, to a refugee camp on the Iraqi border supported by UNICEF, and then to refugee camps in Palestine supported by UNRWA. Working in conflict zones is challenging—staff often end up traumatised themselves after witnessing shootings and child abuse. I watched my team in Damascus slowly crumble as the civil war in Syria started. I had to cope with physical and sexual abuse as I travelled through conservative countries that are prejudiced against women.
In this presentation I’ll share my story of growing into the person whom I choose to be—and my constant struggle to fulfil the potential that Bidna Capoeira has. I still don’t know if I will make it, though I believe I can. In this talk you’ll learn:
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