April 30, 2012 | By wonkum |
Waseem has lived in the ward he now represents since birth. He not only addresses the challenges his ward faces, but he also works with local residents and groups as well as faith institutions to unite the community and provide strategic thought leadership. He also manages a social enterprise that assists young people into employment by providing them with relevant support and capacity building.
Upon graduating, Waseem pursued his passion of working in the community and became CEO of a third sector organization based in Handsworth developing initiatives to support the capacity building and development of young people as well as working on issues of Disaffected Young People and Community Cohesion.
He was appointed a Magistrate in 2008, originally serving on the bench at Sutton Coldfield Magistrates Court before moving to Birmingham Magistrates Court following the closure of Sutton in July 2011.
Waseem has won a number of community awards, including, the Lozells Community Awards 2010 Above & Beyond the Call of Duty Award and the United Streets of Birmingham Role Model Award 2009.
He has since held many different roles in the community including being a Director of Birmingham Tribunal Unit, Advisor to the Board of Directors of National Youth Works Board, Grant Awarding Panel Member for Birmingham Foundation, Grant Awarding Panel Member for Community Champions, Management Committee Member of Holte Leisure Centre, Chairman of North East Lozells Neighbourhood Watch, Chairman of Handsworth Central Neighbourhood Forum, Community Crime Fighter [Home Office Approved], Union Learning Representative for Unite the Union [Birmingham Private Hire Drivers], Founder Member of Independent Advisory Group for Taxi Sector, West Midlands Police and Branch Organiser for Unite the Union [Birmingham Private Hire Drivers]. Over the past 10 years, Waseem has gained substantial experience in a variety of fields, which has allowed him to work more effectively as an elected member.
You can follow Waseem on Twitter at @WaseemZaffar or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Waseem.Zaffar.
1. What inspired you to pursue your current career path (to run for political office)?
I began my social and political activity at a relatively young age when I felt that young people were being neglected by the system but yet criticized for not succeeding. I began by holding elected members accountable. As a result, these same elected officials encouraged me to get involved and have supported me since. I am also proud that my work has broken ethnic barriers, having engaged with all irrespective of the skin color and, most importantly, promoted social cohesion.
I am also proud that I have tackled racism head-on, most notably when the English Defence League, a far-right organization that has travelled the breath of England spreading hate against Muslims. When the organization visitedBirmingham,I became the face of the opposition to them challenging the Home Secretary of the Government, Chief Executive of the local authority and Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police to ban their demonstration against Muslims.
Ultimately, I consider myself a campaigner against all forms of social inequality and injustice, and I strive to do just that as an elected official.
2. You recently participated in a Trans-Atlantic Training for Young Political Leaders; why was that experience important or meaningful? Why is it important to participate inTrans-Atlantic dialogues?
There were two very important and simple lessons that I learned at this conference:
- 1. We have a long way to go before all forms of social inequality are eradicated in the United Kingdom, but we are miles ahead in the equality agenda compared to most other countries across Europe.
- 2. The perception of America and Americans amongst some sections of the community in the United Kingdom, in particular amongst young Muslims is very negative specifically because of the United States’ role in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, talking to, engaging with, and connecting with Americans at this conference has changed already changed my perception, and I am encouraged that this is a step in the right direction.
Without participating in this conference and engaging with the participants, these two very important lessons would not have been uncovered. It is hugely important, in particular because of the global village we now live in, for transatlantic engagement to learn about other cultures and morals and to share and appreciate our common values. Learning from the sharing of stories and experiences is incredibly valuable and was the most rewarding for me.
I am also pleased that we now have the opportunity to sustain the relationships initiated at the conference by sustaining dialogue through social media. Social media is an exciting and useful tool that makes transatlantic learning not only so much easier, but also instant and continuous.
3. What is the key to balancing your professional and social commitments?
Like most people, I feel that there are not enough hours in the day; however, organizing and balancing my professional and social commitments is vital to my success. I feel that I am a relatively well-organized individual, which allows me to allot enough time to my professional and social duties. I believe that my energetic and motivated attitude also helps me stay balanced.
4. What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?
Run before they can walk.
Patience is key. Many a time professionals have been set up to fail by being thrown into the deep-end before they are ready to take on the challenge. It is important that young professionals take the time to develop and fine tune relevant experience, skills, and knowledge within their occupation.
5. What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel? Specifically in elected office?
Get involved because you want to make a change to the quality of life of those around you and your community and not because you want to become a leader. The intentions have to be correct to take up elected office—too often, this is where one fails and, as a result, becoming successful becomes difficult. There is nothing wrong in being ambitious but the heart and intentions have to be correct to be successful.
6. What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?
The best experience for me has been where a positive has been made of a negative. In my constituency, there were horrific riots in 1981, 1985 and 2005. During the most recent riots in the summer of 2011, many areas of the country were hit including all surrounding areas to the Lozells neighborhood in my ward. Lozells is widely recognized as a socially deprived area of the city of Birmingham.
During the most recent riots, I helped organize the community that stood together and prevented any form of rioting in Lozells; in fact, all sections of the community stood united and there was not one report of disorder in the neighborhood. This came as a pleasant surprise to all.
In a report commissioned by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and Leader of the Opposition to look at the causes of the riots last summer across the UK, Lozells and my leadership were singled out as a positive case study. This was again highlighted by a former Home Secretary in the BBC flagship political program when discussing the report.
I would like to think my skills of community organizing and bringing people together as a unifying force were key to this success.
7. What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?
I want to make my constituency and my community the center of the universe. I doubt if this will ever be achieved, but I would like to work hard to improve the quality of life of my constituents. As to where next in my career? I am not sure as I take each day at a time. God willing, I would like to continue giving back to my community.
8. Lastly, give me three words to sum up Waseem?
Organizer, Activist, Strategic