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Champion for Local Women

Sharon Hanooman

The following article is reprinted with the kind permission of Operation Black Vote (OBV).

Sharon Hanooman is a champion of OBV's (Operation Black Vote’s) values.  Not only is she a graduate of OBV’s Magistrates Shadowing Scheme and now a serving magistrate, but through her work as Director of WHFS (Women’s Health & Family Services), Hanoonman is making a positive difference to people’s lives every day.  OBV’s Angelica Encinales visited the recent WHFS Annual General Meeting to find out more.

2013 was a challenging year for WHFS, an organisation based in Tower Hamlets that aims to empower women and their families through health initiatives and education.  Like far too many in the voluntary sector, they experienced massive cuts in funding, amounting to nearly £100,000, which represented about a third of their budget.

Moreover, in the midst of all this, leadership changed from Jo Weller, the director of the organisation for the last fifteen years, to Sharon Hanooman, a woman with more than 25 years experience in the service of the community, but a new face to WHFS.

The AGM was a celebration of the people that volunteer for this organisation.  With only 9 part time staff members, WHFS relies heavily on the assistance of over 100 volunteers to run their cancer screening, diabetes awareness, maternity assistance, and language support programmes for the Tower Hamlets community.  Hanooman praised the volunteers by saying:

"We rely solely on volunteers, so they give everything from their heart, and this is what inspires me.”

Hanooman was optimistic for the future and reiterated that the organisation has welcomed the changes and does not plan on slowing down.

This celebration, also indirectly became an ode to diversity, community partnership, and women. Tower Hamlets is one of the most multicultural boroughs of London, so it is no surprise that the crowd was filled with faces from all backgrounds.

What was surprising was seeing so many different people becoming a family at the service of the community they love.  It was also lovely to see women show their full potential by engaging in various roles.  There were women serving, women speaking, women organising, women dancing, women as volunteers, and most importantly, women as leaders.

Hanooman and all of the people that work for WHFS want to see the organisation continue to expand.  This year, they amended their constitution to be able to offer their services not just to the residents of Tower Hamlets, but also to the residents of neighbouring communities.  However, WHFS has more challenges to face this year, as their funders are considering executing further cuts.  Nevertheless, they are still striving to maintain the level of quality service they are known for and there is no doubt that with the commitment and tenacity of Hanooman, they will continue to be a lifeblood organisation for women in Tower Hamlets.

Angelica Encinales