Every word from Bilqees Mauthoor's declaration of acceptance | Converting pain to purpose


Thank you very much.

At the time I found out I was selected to be chairman for 2021/22 I was sick with covid and there was a point that I thought I would not make it. When you see your life flashing before you, it made me realise that I had so much more to do in service and to aspire, to make a better tomorrow. I made a promise that if I recovered, I would push myself that extra mile because everyone deserves to feel special and loved. And we need to play our part and play it well. I am so glad that I’ve been chosen, standing here before you all as the first citizen, ready to serve and represent this wonderful council.

I want to say a special thank you to all the councillors who voted for me as their Chair. I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome the new councillors and the Independent political party in our chambers. I have no doubt our full council meetings will be enlightening. And for the councillors who have stood down after years of service, commitment and hard work, I would like to wish you all the best in your future endeavours, you will be greatly missed.

Now faith is important to me, especially in my darkest days where life was hopeless and unkind. I believe that God will never place a burden on my shoulders that I cannot bear. Usually, it is a custom to bring a person of faith to open and give blessings, but for me, I do like to do things differently. So I would like to share with you a message from my faith to give you an insight to talk about our beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. A man who is our leader, who left a legacy that even after centuries we still reflect upon and compare to our society and what it looks like today. I see his words as a framework; guidance to draw upon how I act; life choices I make; and simply what I would like to expect. And what could be done to deliver a healthier, prosperous and everlasting society.

For the sake of time, I will not read to you the whole last sermon, but I will read to you parts that have inspired me for the theme of this year. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, delivered his last sermon in the valley of mount Arafat. His words were quite clear and concise and were directed to the whole of humanity.

"O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

"O people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord and that He will indeed reckon your deeds.

"O people, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.

"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except in piety and good action. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

"Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer your deeds. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. That was the last sermon."

Sometimes it is the simplest things that we can’t see.

What strikes me from the last sermon is the importance that is placed on women. Clearly honouring women’s rights and equality but more importantly how to treat women. So why is it today that there is still violence against women and young girls?

One in three women worldwide experiences physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. Violence negatively impacts women’s families, their communities and the country at large. It puts strains on healthcare and additional costs regarding legal expenses and losses in productivity.

Although women make up 51% of the population, they are only 29% of MPs, 25% of judges and 24% of the FTSE 100 directors. This means that in politics, women’s voices just are not getting heard, or we women are shouting for change and others cannot hear. So we have to do our bit to end violence against women and young girls.

I owe it to the girl who sees the marks on her body after scrubbing herself clean in the bath. The sound of his heavy breathing - she is scared, she is numb. She has been abused by a man, someone much bigger in size, who has murdered her soul, and she was only eight years old.

To the 13-year-old girl who sat in a bus on her way to school with her bag across her lap. Without noticing, she feels her legs being touched by a man who whispers: “if you move, I will hurt you.”

And to the 33-year-old woman who disappeared and her body was found a week later, her death causing an outcry for things to change. We should not wait for tragedies to happen, then we react. We need to end and put a stop to this. We owe it to them; we owe it to all those victims. We owe it to our children to do our bit in the small capacity we can to end their pain and bring purpose.

This brings me to introduce you to my theme as the chair of Watford Borough Council. I’d like to create a consortium to address ending violence against women and young girls in our society. With five grassroots charity partners on board, I want to adopt an action-orientated, education-focused approach, alleviating and employing awareness around this theme, achieving more through our collaboration.

The programme is called ‘hashtag delete’. To delete the bad memories and to delete the pain, working through resetting mindsets. It’s delivered on two pillars:

The allyship through empowering [and] educating boys and men to facilitate and support girl’s and women’s choices. Pillar two [is] to empower girls to confidently make their own choices by inspiring them to love the lives they wish to lead.

The first of the five main charities I have chosen is Dignify. To the 14-year-old boy who is one of 55% of our young people who has viewed and acted what they have seen in explicit pornographic content, the aim of Dignify is to change porn’s narrative. I’d like to give thanks to Helen Roberts, CEO of Dignify. Thank you for your determination.

Home-Start - to the 20% of families who have been referred to Home-Start - where they have a unique insight into family life and early signs of emerging control and coercive behaviours. I give thanks to Emma Power CEO for Home-Start and thank you for all your endless support to the families.

I also have chosen the Watford Women’s Centre. Over 30 years supporting the women living with gendered violence, expertise and locally relevant domestic abuse service models that empower women to positive and lasting change. I’d like to thank Fiona Miller, Alison Thomas, and Martha for your service.

We also have the Stalking Advisory Service: for the one in five women over the age of 16 who have been experiencing stalking, living a life of fear and feeling unsafe. Thank you to Jane Gentry and Gemma Thornton for their support.

Finally, we have the Watford Palace Theatre, a place where I was part of a community play that brought life, colour and confidence. 9/10 women feel unsafe in public areas, particularly at night. Watford Palace Theatre is an essential part of our night-time economy. Through art and drama, the team will help build confidence, a form of therapy for people, especially young girls and women both in their work, both on stage and behind the scenes. I’d like to thank Samantha Ford and Bridget for bringing such a creative stance to our vision.

I’d want to give thanks to the support of the CVS, Alex, and to Annie and Suzie for making me be the difference. I never thought that I’d ever be in this position, embarking on an incredible political journey, converting all my pain to purpose.

Everyone who is present here today, each and every one of you have played a part in my life that I am grateful for. And to the guests of my fellow councillors, I want to thank you for being part of the most memorable moment in our lives. Don’t be a stranger, please come back and visit us again.

A special thanks to my mother and father, and my brothers for all your support and love. To Zeenat, Sarah and Anne for being my rock, my logic my mentor.

Now, from the bible, the golden rule is 'thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'. Well, I love my neighbours and I want to thank the Leaford residence for your support and contribution to what a community should really look like.

Lastly, to my adorable boys, my Adam and my Shaq. Both young men growing up in a society that is so different to mine. I hope that you will look and learn and find inspiration to serve the community and accomplish more than me.

I ask all of you to pray in whichever way or form for me and my fellow councillors to help us serve you. For guidance to know what is right and wrong, and the strength and wisdom befitting the people of our amazing, diverse town, Watford. Thank you and God bless.