Share & Connect
The Global Peace and Unity (GPU) has come a long way since the first event in 2005. This year, the sixth GPU event took place in London from November 24-25. GPU celebrated outstanding achievements within peace by honoring individuals, companies, and organizations. The 2013 GPU theme was ‘Freedom for all’, a revived hope for a peaceful world. The aim behind GPU is to empower the audience to build peace and unity in their community and to be a cohort of considerate world citizens and leaders for a global social and dynamic change.
The conference convened renowned figures from government, academia, business, the nonprofit sector and the faith community to explore collaborative approaches to resolving conflict and advancing peace. One such representative was Cllr Rabia Bhatti, Britain’s youngest elected Muslim female politician, who has a passion to engage young people in politics and to change the face of UK politics. Toonari Post conducted an interview with Rabia Bhatti at the GPU event at the ExCel Exhibition centre on November 24, 2013.
Toonari Post (TP): Please tell our readers a little about yourself
Cllr Rabia Bhatti (CRB): Hiya, It’s both an honor and a privilege to be speaking to you today. My name is Cllr Rabia Bhatti and I am indeed one of the youngest Muslim female politicians in this country. Its a pleasure to be here at a Global Peace and Unity (GPU) an event that is exceptionally important in building bridges and breaking down barriers that will help us to learn about each other, our cultures, our religion, our beliefs, something that is very important in understanding our society, each other and our neighbors as well.
TP: Tell us about your interest in Politics?
CRB: Well I’m a elected politician so my passion is politics. I love politics and I think it is so important for young people to engage in the system that makes decisions about them from what time your trains runs to what domestic policy is? So it all revolves around politics and young people need to have a say in what ‘s going on because it’s ultimately going to affect your lives and therefore I think political engagement is fundamentally important.
TP: We have seen how women are a minority in politics, which women do you think has had a great impact on UK politics, culture and society?
CRB: I think every woman who is in politics, mainstream politics, local government politics is an inspirational role model and the fact they are there in this system giving it their all is fundamentally important . It is amazing to see people from different nationalities, different backgrounds, different cultures and beliefs, really getting involved in the system and trying to make a difference.
TP: Which campaigns are you passionate about?
TP: Why should people listen to you?
CRB: Because I believe I can help everyone else make a difference. I am only one person and I want there to be more people, more young people out there influencing the government , their policies. It’s important for every single person out there to engage and I may not be best person for it but someone reading this might be.
TP: What is your vision for the future of UK Politics?
CRB: My vision for UK politics, I would love to see more young people involved in the political spectrum and I would like to see education curriculum really being representative of what students need and for it be accessible to every single person out there because I think it’s fundamentally important. I would like to see UK politics be more of an open institution where everybody feels comfortable enough to have their say , to make a difference and to believe that they are making a difference.
TP: What are your views on UK University tuition fee?
CRB: University tuition fees, I mean I am against the university tuition fee and like I said earlier in education every single person out there has a right to and it shouldn’t be made any more harder and difficult to at all.
TP: How much are you involved with the UK’s Muslim community?
CRB: Exceptionally involved, I mean, I am speaking at Global Peace and Unity today and I do numerous events where I speak out to Muslim audiences. I think engaging with people of your faith is exceptionally important because you have things that are common and you share the same values and morals and the same principles, and engagement in all different and various forms is key to learning. They learn from me and I learn from them and it’s a two way street in whatever audience you’re participating with.
TP: Aside from education, will you be working on some of the issues Muslim women face in the UK community?
CRB: I run my own network where I mentor young women to empower them, not just to get into politics because that’s not what every single person out there wants to do. You need the right skills set, the right leadership skills set, in order to empower yourself and others around you to do something with your life, to achieve your ambitions and to inspire. That is what we work towards.
TP: There is a lack of awareness on eating disorders in Muslim communities, and we know how widespread eating disorders are in UK; will you be doing something about this current pandemic?
CRB: Of course I will be, I mean, eating disorders cannot be taken lightly and they play such an integral part in people’s lives in what you eat and how much you eat. It really kind of determines your health, both your mental health, your physical health and your emotional health. There needs to be more awareness about these issues and this needs to be taken more and more seriously because it impacts on people’s lives so much. It can stop someone from achieving what they want to achieve and it simply eats away at your self-esteem, your self confidence. It can impact on your job, your relationship and it is something that impacts your whole life and it’s not something that can be taken lightly. It is something that should be brought to the table, put on the table and really dealt with.
TP: We have so many excellent female political voices, but with time they disappear. Will we be seeing you for a long time to come?
CRB: Well I hope so, I am here to stay. I am here to serve the community and I am here to give the people of Britain another voice that will voice their concerns and be there, so I have no plans to disappear anytime soon.
TP: What are some of the obstacles you faced in your journey and what cultural boundaries did you push to get engaged in UK politics?
CRB: Being a young Muslim female woman from a working class background and trying to establish herself in mainstream politics is very hard and you face all kind of cultural barriers, all sort of obstacles. The trick is to really believe in yourself and not to give up, because when you stop believing in yourself then other people stop believing in you.
TP: What can the UK do to help the situation in the Middle East?
CRB: I think by raising awareness and by listening to people. It’s not for us people in Britain to sit here and decide about we think needs to happen in the Middle East and the time is not to take action. The time is to listen and to help in a way that the people want.
TP: What is your view on Britain’s involvement in Iraq, in attempting to establish a democracy in Iraq?
CRB: Well, I’m completely against the war in Iraq, I don’t think it should have ever happened. I mean, when the British public walked down those streets and protested against the war, the Labour government should have listened, Tony Blair should have listened. It was not his place to make such a big decision and when your country is not behind you, to take such a drastic step and to go into another country is wrong.
TP: Tell us about the current best Conservative policies that will really benefit the public?
CRB: Well I don’t think I can really turn around and say this is the best policy; this is the best policy, because you need to look at it in a broader framework. Each policy is there for a reason and is addressing a very specific question, so for example an immigration policy is going to be good for immigration and a housing policy is going to be good for housing. You cannot really compare the two.
TP: Coming back to this event, how do you define peace and unity?
CRB: Living with each other and understanding each other. Being patient with each other, and being open.
TP: How do you think humanity will achieve peace and unity?
CRB: By being open with one another and by learning from one another and by embracing similarities and differences.
TP: Last Question, what is your message to young girls out there who wants to be involved in politics?
CRB: Don’t ever give up the belief that you are an amazing individual with the power to make a change.
Image credit: rabiabhatti.com