Creating a fairer Britain
For a young woman like Muna Hassan, accessing the corridors of power is no easy task. Hassan, 26, grew up in a Somali family in Forest Gate, East London. She was politicised by a family tragedy: her younger brother became addicted to chewing khat, a stimulant used by many men in the Somali community. Aged 19, he developed a mental health condition, and Muna was convinced that khat was to blame.
As khat is largely used by the Somali community, local GPs, politicians and other key figures were unaware of the dangerous effects of the drug, which is currently sold legally in corner shops. "Our local GP didn’t know anything about it – luckily he became much better informed, but he could easily have misdiagnosed my brother." Muna became passionate about raising awareness of the negative effects of khat, and lobbying for stronger regulation of the drug. She was held back, however, by a lack of contacts and experience in campaigning and politics.
she says. "I needed help in order to present it well, and to access the people who can make changes."
Muna was fortunate to win a place in the Uprising programme at the Young Foundation, a social affairs institute in east London. The programme included seminars with influential figures and introductions to others in politics and business, as well as campaigning support from Young Foundation staff. The training led to new opportunities: Muna’s khat campaign was shortlisted for the Shiela McKechnie Campaigner Awards 2009, an annual bursary scheme for emerging and grassroots campaigners.