ADEEBA MALIK, Deputy Chief Executive of QED Foundation, pays tribute to her mother, and the generation of women who came to Bradford from the Asian subcontinent in the 1960s:

IN February 1961 the Queen and Prince Philip went on tour to the Asian subcontinent and visited Lahore in Pakistan.

In the dense crowds outside Badshahi Mosque, there were three young teenagers who were so excited to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple. Little did one of the young girls know that one day she would be joining her Majesty and the Royal family for lunch to commemorate her 80th birthday, at Mansion House in London, in 2006, as well as attend garden parties and two investitures at Buckingham Palace.

One of the young girls was my mother Fahmeeda Malik, a royalist who left her beloved family and Lahore in 1966 to settle in Bradford.

In 1965 Fahmeeda went to Sialkot and from her sister’s bedroom she peered out of the window to look at the man in the forecourt of the house next door. Standing there was Mohammed Sadiq Malik, a textile worker who had travelled to Bradford in 1958 from Sialkot by road and returned to find a wife. Fahmeeda and Sadiq were married and very soon after that the couple left Pakistan to start a new life in Bradford. She didn’t want to leave her family, she didn’t want to leave Lahore, she cried throughout her journey. There was a deep sense of loss, loneliness, uncertainty and fear.

Quite often when we talk about the contribution the Asian community have made to places like Bradford, we will talk about the men who worked in the textile mills. We don’t talk much about or acknowledge the women who joined them, like my mother.

In 1967 there were 67 women and 3,000 men from the Asia sub-continent settled in Bradford. Most of these women were like my mother - wives of men who had settled in Bradford to work.

Women like mum experienced so much and they had so much in common. Settling into a completely different environment, the weather, dress, language, food, houses, free healthcare, transport, schools, the list is endless. There were a handful of women who worked. Mums friends included a couple of teachers - Aunty Parveen and Azra, a doctor - Aunty Husna, women supporting their husbands’ businesses like Aunties Ajaib and Zainab, but the majority were like her, housewives/homemakers.

How many of us would accompany our mothers to the doctors because their English was insufficient to understand and converse? ESOL and integration courses like the ones QED Foundation runs for new arrivals were not available to help mum and others to better integrate into Bradford society.

My mother would say: “I am just a housewife”. But to me she was more than she could ever imagine. It was she who fed, clothed and cared for me, my siblings and my father and forsake everything for herself so her family could have the best of what she could afford. It was she who took me to the school plays, concerts, shows, the sport clubs, attend parents evenings and make sure I did my homework, despite being laughed at because of her poor English.

It was she who managed the home, the children, the husband and members of the community. It was she who gave us love, support, wise words and unconditional commitment no matter what we did - good or bad. My sister wrote about mum in the award-winning book, We Are a Muslim Please.

Sadly I lost my mother before Christmas. Those who know me personally and professionally know how important she was to me. As time goes by, we are losing more women who first came in the 60s. When I think of what mum sacrificed for a new life in this country my heart hurts a lot, sometimes it makes me cry.

Never let us forget the contributions these women made to places like Bradford. Quietly, with compassion and grace, in the background supporting their families regardless of the challenges and difficulties they were going through personally. They have been my unsung heroines. They planted the seed for women like me to succeed and there was nothing more that gave my mother pleasure than seeing her children doing well and contributing to society in their own way. She lived her dreams, her aspirations, her life through her children.

I dedicate International Women’s Day to the much loved and dearly missed Fahmeeda Malik. She was my soul, my rock, my heroine. She was beautiful inside and out and I am eternally grateful to her and all she did for me and my siblings, Tass, Zaiba and Ahsan. All of us achieved beyond what our parents could have imagined, because of their efforts and expectations. We will not forget.

I also dedicate International Women’s Day to all the women who were the first new arrivals. I thank them for sacrificing so much of themselves for their families and communities here.

For those of you who know these women, please thank them for all they did and never forget their contributions to our society.