Being an immigrant is resplendent with its myriad challenges – especially if you’re a woman. Creating a new life in an alien land not just for yourself but your family, without the help of an extended network of support from family or friends is arguably one of the most daunting challenges in the human experience.
It’s a challenge that few take up.
For others it is a situation in which they thrive beyond even their own dreams. Among those is Nimmi Madadi, a migrant from southern India.
After raising a family and working variously in retail, healthcare and education, Mrs Madadi – a mother of two from Andhra Pradesh – is now entering politics. She will be contesting for a local council seat in Hanworth in West London in local council elections next week.
Mrs Madadi is a member of ILUK and we caught up with her to find out more!
How and why did you decide to make the transition to politics?
This role was offered to me last October and came as a total surprise. I asked my father and friends for advice and he was very excited and suggested I need to accept because it’s an excellent opportunity to give back to the community and serve the community. Unfortunately, Dad passed away in December. After returning from India in January I received excellent support from friends, family and colleagues. I’m not a politician by choice but more by chance. I have attended a few training courses offered by the Conservative Councillors Association and others, attended seminars on Universal Credit etc. I attended council meetings, local forum meetings and conservative councillors’ meetings. I have taken a month off from work this month to meet people and listen to them. So I would say it’s been a fantastic learning curve talking to the residents at their door, listening to their issues and as a local resident to be able to empathize and relate to their issues. I have always interacted with the local community in both professional and voluntary capacities but the learning and experience that has come with this role has been immensely rewarding.
For the lay men and women amongst us, describe the role of a local councillor.
At the simplest level, it’s being a representative of the people, which is a great honour and immensely rewarding. As a councillor we can voice the residents concerns, make a positive difference to the neighbourhood and improve the local areas. we can help improve local public services. Councillors represent, plan, run and develop council business. Councillors help in making decisions about local issues and in scrutinising those decisions and suggesting improvements. Although it sounds daunting there is a lot of training given to the new councillors before starting the role and there is of course support from senior councillors.
Tell us about the specific challenges of being a woman migrant attempting to get into politics.
Women in general face so many challenges; having children, raising them, trying to maintain the equilibrium between the needs and interests of family, work and challenges and finding the time for oneself. Especially for women like me who have migrated to the UK and don’t have the support from an extended family. We have all faced these challenges. My advice would be to take all the support you need and ask for support, don’t try to be superwomen. I have great respect for working mothers trying to juggle the roles and do their best. I was working seven days a week, voluntary roles in the evening and completing post graduate diploma in management from ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) and CELTA (ESOL teacher) qualifications simultaneously whilst raising small kids. That was a huge challenge. I’m lucky to have received the support of my husband and friends.
How did your family and upbringing shape your political outlook?
I have more of academicians and professionals in the family.
My sister and brother-in-law are General Practitioners while other members are in IT. My father was involved in politics as the president of the Janata Party in our home state of Andhra Pradesh. Even at the grand old age of 84 he was the secretary of our local colony and worked for the welfare of residents. When he passed away, colony residents mentioned that he was always addressed as ATM uncle (Any Time Man, offering help at any time). He had visited many countries and was passionate about education. My grandmother’s sister is an eminent academician in my hometown of Vijayawada who endeavoured tirelessly for Women education and empowerment. She was awarded Padmasri for her contribution last year. I had the privilege of working with her in her educational institutions and accompanying her to Delhi. We were in one of the senior communist MPs house at Delhi for a month and had an opportunity to talk to many senior politicians.
Is politics what you expected it to be?
It’s been a fantastic journey talking to residents & listening to their concerns and suggestions. Most days I have been out from 11 am to 7 pm. It’s exhilarating to learn about local government and talking to senior councillors and senior colleagues in the party with expertise and vast knowledge in their respective areas. I met many parents who were concerned about the shortage and lack of youth clubs in the area and I genuinely feel that passion must be brought back into Community Services and youth clubs. The Conservatives have pledged to invest £300,000 into youth services and have more clubs in my area so children have something very constructive and useful to do. We want to tap the potential of volunteers and enhance the number of volunteers, so we can run these services effectively and efficiently. Many people I have spoken to are happy to volunteer. Some of them have relevant qualifications. I’m also passionate about women empowerment, increasing women representation in various depts, increasing facilities to support further education, find jobs and reduce gender inequality. Other areas of focus would be education, promoting health & wellbeing and making our neighbourhoods safer and better
The Windrush scandal has really tainted the Conservative Party. As an immigrant yourself, how do you view the treatment of these immigrants from the West Indies?
I feel sorry for the harrowing experiences and the distress caused to the immigrants and respect their contribution to the British society and in rebuilding post-war Britain. The home secretary has Amber Rudd has apologized and described her apology as “just the first step”. I’m glad to note the government is now determined to right the wrongs that had taken place. It has announced that it will waive fees, the knowledge test, and those affected will get British citizenship.