Stroud based women's rights activist speaks to the SNJ about her work with Maasai widows

Last week, the SNJ reported how Stroud's Zarin Hainsworth Fadaei was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for her work on behalf of women's rights. Tim MacFarlan met her to find out more.

SHE may have been awarded an OBE but Stroud-based women's rights activist Zarin Hainsworth Fadaei is keen to stress she doesn't work alone.

"None of us achieve anything on our own," she said.

"We always work with other people. We have to recognise that and celebrate the work everyone has been done in this area."

The Ugandan-born campaigner has been involved in many capacities with numerous human rights organisations but it is her role as founder of the charity Naserian in 2010 which was recognised by her award.

Based on a project Zarin saw in Uganda, the group works to help widows of the Maasai tribes in Kenya and Tanzania develop a sense of self-worth and independence and to understand their rights under national and international law.

Traditionally, Maasai women become part of their late husband’s family and lose their property rights and though this was originally for the protection of the women and their children, it can have harmful consequences for them now.

"There's nothing like getting to see how things can be done to completely change your world and your view of what's possible," said Zarin, speaking at her Ruscombe home.

Naserian means 'for the grace of god' in the Maasai language and it has helped make widowhood less of a taboo by empowering women through schemes such as running solar panels, which are able to charge mobile phones for a small fee, giving widows an income.

Born in Uganda in 1959, Zarin came to the UK aged eight as her parents wanted a better education for her and her two brothers.

"I never really felt at home until I came to Stroud," she said.

"It's such a wonderful mixture of different kinds of people - an eclectic bunch. There's a really good sense of community which is a great thing."

Zarin has previously helped students from Stroud College with a visit to the UN headquarters in New York as part of the Commission on the Status of Women.

But despite congratulatory letters from Home Secretary Theresa May and Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire Dame Janet Trotter, she knows her efforts are only one part of the puzzle.

"It's no good if you have got a lot of white women in England doing something for Maasai women," said Zarin.

"It's about them doing it for themselves." For more information on Naserian or to make a donation, visit www.naserian.org

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