On a snowy Christmas day in 1960, my father set foot in the UK – leaving behind his home in Pakistan. The heavy snowfall that year was perhaps symbolic of the cold challenges he was about to face. The initial years were tough: he shovelled coal onto trains, facing the biting cold of both the weather and the society he was trying to fit into.

By 1962, he found a more stable job with the Royal Mail. In March 1967, he married my mother, who joined him in England to build a new life. But this new life was not without its challenges. The racism they faced was palpable. The signs reading “No Black, No Irish, No Dogs” were just the tip of the iceberg. The verbal abuse and derogatory language thrown at Pakistanis were heart-wrenching. But my father, with his indomitable spirit, didn’t let these challenges deter him. By 1963, he had saved enough to buy our family home.

Our family also celebrated the successes and milestones of each member. Among the most notable is my sister’s Lubna’s achievement. Lubna is now Councillor Lubna Arshad, Lord Mayor of Oxford. Lubna is the first woman of colour, first Muslim woman, and the youngest Lord Mayor representing the city to hold this esteemed position.

As for me, I’ve had the honour of being a PPC in Stretford and Urmston. As a multi-powerhouse I can speak four languages. I’m a school governor in one the most poverty-stricken and deprived area of Ealing.

But it wasn’t always that way. I met a parent who worked hard long hours, to bring food to the table, and we must never let down these parents’ aspirations for our children. As Oracy lead, we aspire that every child including BAME girls have the confidence and ability to speak up in classrooms and that they are part of a team at school and as a family unit. Now I’m able to identify how passive behaviour can be transformed and facilitated children into oracy buddies, a student council, an oracy club, a debate club, a soapbox and promote advocacy in each child. We will ensure that every child gets an opportunity to thrive.

I’m also a proud member of the Co-operative Party Women’s Network steering committee. It’s heartening to see the incredible work women are doing within the party. We’re not just members: we’re vocal trailblazers, celebrating intersectionality and pushing for change.

Our political beliefs grow from a strong affection for ourselves, our fellow women, and our community. This love empowers us to persist in our efforts and advocacy.

Our family’s journey, from my father’s arrival in snowy 1960 to our achievements today, mirrors the journey of many immigrant families. It’s a testament to resilience, hard work, and the belief that no matter where you come from, with determination and support, you can achieve greatness.

In the Co-operative Party, we continue to champion these values: ensuring that every voice, no matter how marginalised, is heard, respected, and celebrated.

Today we face different challenges: pandemic, war, technology and climate change. Co-operative values will enable us to build better NHS, Police, and schooling system.

This is why we want to be right at the very heart of our community, so people like you and me can be part of the Co-operative Party.

The theme of Islamophobia Awareness Month 2023 is #MuslimStories.