The big move
Jahanara moved to England in 1965 and she was one of the first Bangladeshi ladies (from East Pakistan) to join her husband in Colchester. Her husband Mr Loqueman opened the first restaurant in Colchester in 1962 “Curry India”.
Life felt very lonely for Jahanara, she was an extremely shy individual who would not go out or talk to anybody. Jahanara found it very difficult to adjust to the culture, food and everyday life and with no one to talk to she wished the walls of her home could speak so she could talk to them in her native Sylheti language! Everything was so different to back home.
Her husband encouraged her to learn English, so Jahanara had English tuition. Jahanara and her husband would go out a lot however her isolation and homesickness lasted for a very long time. In the early 1970s, other restaurant workers wives came to join their husbands in Colchester after the Bangladesh Liberation. Her experience of settling in a new country was useful to other women. She slowly but steadily learned not only to cope but also became a source of help and support to other members of the community.
In 1966, expecting her first child and with very little support from her husband due to his studying and work commitment Jahanara realised she need to do something to help herself so in time she started to venture out and helped with her husband’s restaurant business which gave her a big boost of confidence and improved her English speaking.
After her husband sold all their restaurants (1962-1967), with twenty years of restaurant experience finding a job in Colchester was still a struggle. By then, Jahanara had four children. In1987, there was a new initiative called Project 2000 course for Health Care Assistants. She found the right niche for herself not locally but in Tower Hamlets. Unfortunately, due to a back injury, she was unable to complete her nursing training. Jahanara was an eager learner and always wanted to help others. Eventually, after many struggles, she managed to find a health advocacy position in Tower Hamlets. She flourished in that role as her passion has always been about women’s health. She even managed to get three different awards including an EU award for her work on continence: Commonwealth Award for Excellence in Women’s Health – 1977, Smith Kline Beecham Community Impact Awards -1997, First European Health Education Award -1988.
Tragedy then struck her life as she lost her daughter, a teacher in the year 2000. Jahanara was desperate for support but no services were available to her within the NHS, only comfort was her family and members of the community. Before Jahanara’s daughter’s tragic death her daughter had been receiving counselling from a trainee councillor at a GP surgery who had no experience of BAME communities’ culture or religion.
Jahanara visited the library one day to return her daughters books, she noticed a leaflet “Colchester Own Health Service – What do you think?” The leaflet invited the public to voice their views on health services in Colchester and this led to Jahanara Loqueman attending the presentation on 5th October 2001. After the meeting, a needs assessment seminar was held on 11th June 2001, organised by the Primary Health Care Trust to discuss the needs of local people. Jahanara had the opportunity to meet members from other statutory and voluntary organisations, including the Directors of Colchester Community Voluntary Services (CCVS). Jahanara shared her experience on how the system failed her daughter due to no culturally sensitive services.
An organisation is formed
Jahanara’s daughter always said, “mum, if you want to do something for the Bangladeshi community you can”. Today these words continue to inspire Jahanara’s passion and motivation in everything she does. Jahanara decided to get the women together to discuss the needs of our local community. The group was formed to start the organisation at CCVS premises, 15 Queen Street, Colchester which is now known as ‘community 360’.
The first formal meeting was held in August 2001 at 15 Queen Street, Colchester. The group was named “Colchester Asian Women’s Association”. In 2002 the group was re-named “Colchester Bangladeshi Mohila Somity” (CBMS). The original name covered a large group of ethnic minority women and involved more outreaching and networking therefore, the members decided that we needed to work on a smaller scale by focusing on Bangladeshi women as the majority of the members originate from Bangladesh and speak little or no English only ‘Sylheti’ dialect.
A special thanks
Jahanara Loqueman wishes to acknowledge the help and support of Samantha Drummond, Late Carolyn Roberts of Grey Friars and to the many numbers of the Bangladeshi Community especially Committee members first formed in 2003:
And members who have supported to grow this organisation: