Education: Bridging the Language Barrier; PILOT PROJECT TO HELP BANGALDESHI MOTHERS LEARN SKILLS TO SETTLE INTO THE COMMUNITY I Feel Confident with English Now

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Byline: DIANE PARKES

BANGLADESHI women can often feel isolated from the larger community due to a lack of language and cultural skills. As their children grow up in Birmingham schools learning the English language, making friends across cultures and learning new technology skills, these mums can also find it increasingly difficult to communicate with their youngsters.

But an education scheme based in South Birmingham is aiming to turn that around by helping Bangladeshi women gain language and computing skills.

The scheme has recently ended a three-month pilot project which saw more than 30 women gaining skills, and the hunt is now on for funding to allow these women to continue with their studies.

The courses are part of the pilot Bangladeshi Women's Capacity Building Project, commissioned by Birmingham-based Bangladeshis for Equal Rights and funded by the Government Office of the West Midlands European Social Fund.

Roushan Ara had the job of recruiting women to the course.

'I went round door-to-door telling families about the courses,' she says. 'When they began we had just two women, but then word spread and by the end we had more than 30.

'I know how difficult it can be for Bangladeshi women as I came here myself just two years ago to study at the University of Central England.

'They can feel that language and family barriers prevent them accessing courses. But we motivated them and told them it was an all-women environment and it really caught on.'

Local businesswoman Shajna Begum, who was employed to assess the success of the courses, says that the students gained a great deal.

'We found that women feel they need these courses to help them participate and evolve in society,' she says.

'Some Bangladeshi women see themselves as irrelevant to society, but ensuring they have this education means they can take a greater part in their child's education and get into employment.

'It is crystal clear from my evaluation that these courses need to continue if these women are to be able to take advantage of opportunities in society.'

BER Trustee Board chairman Jan Alam has approached various organisations for continued funding.

Bangladeshi communities in all parts of the UK and according to all the indicators are described as among the most deprived groups,' he says.

'If we want to come out of this we need it to involve Bangladeshi women.

'They need the education to take their rightful place in society. Women need the opportunity to learn the language and skills to participate in the workplace.

'We have shown there is a desire to learn there - we have 30 women on a waiting list. Bangladeshi womennow have the confidence to participate in society - we just need to give them the skills. …