Shamim Akhter was born in Uganda, and by the age of 14 she was already married to her older cousin (by arrangement) and was the mother of her first child by 15. This experience taking away her education, freedom and childhood was the start of a difficult battle in life. In 1967 Shamim and her family moved to the UK just before Idi Amin came into power.
In the UK she wasn’t allowed to adapt to the western culture by her family. But with a strong desire for independence she eventually taught herself typewriting that eventually led to her first job. This attempt to improve the quality of her life was met with resistance and family conflicts finally forced her to give up her job.
Over the next few years she continued to face more disruption to her life and an inevitable separation from her arranged husband. This then led to being disowned by her family and banned from seeing her children. She remarried, giving birth to a son, Kashif Siddiqi. But with more stress, upheavals and the disruption of her second marriage, she was left to live alone in a bed and breakfast with her son with no financial assistance or a support network.
But her strength and belief stayed with her and eventually she managed to find employment with a London bank - working hard to support her son and to make a better future for him. These efforts and belief proved successful when Kashif was recognised as an international footballer and has led to him co-founding Football for Peace. Inspired by his mother to help others who suffer from a lack of understanding, prejudice and ignorance. Her ethos and message is to have a strong belief that we all have it inside us to find a way to succeed - but we have to find our spiritual side to help us through.
Shamim is now working on a campaign through Football For Peace to educate both girls and mothers in UK, Africa and Asia on how and what they can do in similar situations to find inner strength and find their way to freedom. Kashif has made his mission to equip his mother and empower her back to pave the way for other mothers.
My mother is my role model! Watching her overcome trouble and inequality that she has had to face in her life but still fought to give me an opportunity has got me where I am today. I was empowered by her bravery and support and am living my dream and have broken many barriers because of her ethos. My aim is to empower her back and help others break through those barriers too.
- Kashif Siddiqi, International Footballer & Co-Founder of Football For Peace