Having narrowly escaped death in the London terrorist attack on 7th July 2005, Sajda Mughal OBE left her corporate background to lead the multi-award winning women’s charity JAN Trust in its work to educate communities to tackle extremism, marginalisation and violence against women and girls.
The daughter of Ugandan refugees expelled by the dictator Idi Amin, Sajda is passionate about empowering those from under-represented groups (particularly Muslim women) and over the past decade and a half, has supported thousands of women and young people across the UK. We spoke to Sajda about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the JAN Trust and the wider charity sector.
- How has your work routine changed since you’ve been working from home?
We had to shut our centre in North London, in order to protect the health of our beneficiaries and staff, in March. Since then, I have been juggling working at home with home schooling my two young children. This has meant my routine for working has had to adapt to ensure I have time for both home schooling and work, meaning that whilst I still work through the day, I am also working in the evenings and at the weekends.
- What, for you, have been the biggest challenges of working from home?
Working from home has indeed presented it challenges. In particular, given the work we do as a charity, we have been supporting vulnerable women from the local community for over 30 years and have yet to experience the high volumes of calls we are currently receiving from women requesting help due to the consequences of isolation on them and their families. Existing inequalities have deepened throughout this crisis. By and large, for JAN Trust, requests for support focus on issues surrounding mental health – in particular depression and increased domestic abuse. The reality of this crisis is that our services are in greater demand than usual, but there are immense complexities involved in providing support. This increase in demand, on top of juggling other demands and home schooling has created a lot of pressure…it rarely feels like there are enough hours in the day!
The reality of this crisis is that our services are in greater demand than usual, but there are immense complexities involved in providing support
- And what have been some of the benefits?
For me, the greatest benefit of working from home has been the ability to spend more time with my children. I am always incredibly busy, and therefore, spending this extra time with family has been great. Despite the adversity to helping our beneficiaries during this crisis, the ability to do so has shown to me the strength of the charity.
- How has your team had to adapt to the current situation?
The team is working remotely, meaning we have all had to adapt to using online platforms, as well as learning how to communicate with each other effectively whilst working remotely.
- What changes has your organisation undergone?
The most significant change we have undergone at JAN Trust is the closing of our women’s centre in North London. Much of our core work takes place here, so having to close our doors, for the time being, to the women we work with week-in, week-out has changed the dynamic of our work, and this has felt like a huge change. The crisis has also meant we have needed to focus on ensuring we can help these women as much as possible and as such, much time is spent ensuring we have funding to assist during this crisis in order to alleviate the pressure on the charity.
- What advice can you share for managing and leading a team during a crisis?
Managing during a crisis means extending further empathy to colleagues and understanding extra difficulties they may be facing during this time. Ensuring that there are regular interactions taking place, not only to catch up as you would usually in the office, but also to make sure you are supporting them and listening so that they are able to work to the best of their ability during the crisis.
Managing during a crisis means extending further empathy to colleagues and understanding extra difficulties they may be facing during this time.
- How do you think the charity sector will change as a result of this situation?
The charity sector is already showing that it will be seriously affected, in particular BAME charities. Many of these organisations, such as JAN Trust, already existed amid a funding crisis, struggling on a daily basis to keep their doors open, whilst maintaining their commitment to the communities they exist to support. The current crisis further exacerbates these funding issues. There exists an increasing demand for services and the need to adapt systems to support the need for safe working. This is putting a greater financial strain on BAME organisations. The Ubele Initiative has found that 90% of BAME micro and small voluntary and community organisations could face permanent closure. If specialist service cease to exist, then we are at risk of leaving these communities’ at risk.
The Ubele Initiative has found that 90% of BAME micro and small voluntary and community organisations could face permanent closure.
- What is coming up for you over the next few months?
Over the next few months we will continue to focus on supporting BAME women who are struggling as the crisis continues, as well as on ensuring our sustainability as a charity to make sure we are able to carry this vital work on for foreseeable future – small charities like JAN Trust working with communities on the ground are in need of support! To find out more about our work for marginalised women, please visit www.jantrust.org