ICYMI last week Naz Shah was selected to run as the Labour candidate in the Bradford West seat against George Galloway in the up and coming General Election. It was seemingly another day, another parliamentary candidate.
But then, this weekend, for International Women’s Day, Naz did something pretty incredible: she told her incredibly moving life story in her local paper The Urban Echo – and now she and it are going viral.
Why? Well, in the piece she revealed she was only six when her dad abandoned her and her mum and siblings and eloped with the neighbour’s 16-year-old daughter. She also wrote about how she’d grown up in rat-infested houses until her mum sent her to Pakistan aged 12, where she was forced into an arranged marriage.
She then went on to explain about her mother’s relationship with an abusive drug-dealing partner, which ended in her killing him, and how she was sent to prison – leaving Naz to bring up her siblings.
In the piece Naz explains that one the main reasons for her running as a candidate was for her mother, who has since been released from prison. ‘When I did finally get home that night I was selected, my mother sat up in her bed and held me close whilst I cried. We cried together knowing that whilst my past and my present are the dreams of my mother and her inspiration for me, my future is about the dreams I have for my own daughter, she is my inspiration to bring change and equality for the world in which she is growing up in, the community we live in and the wider society.’
The article was an incredibly honest and brave story of strength, which in itself is unusual from politicians. But more so it was a very welcome step away from the usual commentary we expect from those in politics: Eton boys sniping at one another about seeminly pointless stuff in coded languages.
Instead here is a woman who having overcome her own difficult personal experiences, and who isn’t afraid to be open about her life in a very honest human way.
We’ve written at length about how many young women plan not to vote at the next election – 9.1 million women who were eligible to vote just didn’t turn up to vote in 2010. But if there were more candidates speaking openly, like Naz, no doubt more young women would be encouraged to show up for them. I know I would.
Sadly the fact that Naz is different from other candidates has meant she’s already come under attack. She wrote, ‘Already my “character” has been attacked and desecrated through social media and trolling... But it does not scare me, will not change me, and it in fact fuels my passion for change more.’
Hear hear, to that.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.