Layla Ismail is development manager for Refugee Women of Bristol and has worked with a number of government agencies and communities to help people settle into a new life in Bristol.
She was named winner of the Contribution to the Community Award at the Bristol and Bath Women in Business Awards. If you google her it says ‘A Bristolian who has campaigned for the rights of women and girls affected by female genital mutilation has been honoured for her work.’
When I first moved to Bristol, I met Layla, a new mum with very young children when I was teaching a Learning Communities family learning course at Maypark Primary School. She explained that at that time she didn’t know how the British school curriculum worked and how before doing the course her eldest daughter used to wait for her father to read a book with her. When Layla offered to read it she didn’t want her mum to read to her. Layla felt shocked.
She joined the newly started family learning course for parents or carers and their children at the school. Layla remembered how the classes ran for two hours; ‘ The first hour the parents learnt all about how schools work, they read books together, they did key word games and it gave them skills to help their children, they familiarised themselves with aspects of the school curriculum through fun, informative activities for example phonic sounds, rhyme, reading with your child, making puppets etc’
Layla gained confidence through the family learning course and her children were more respectful as they saw her in the school, in the classroom. Layla remembers the course all those years back: ‘Fantastic!’ she says and ‘I’ve never looked back’ ‘ I’ve never been a full time, stay at home mum since that course’.
She went on to become a school governor, then worked as a LSA on a level 3 creche worker course, then did a teacher assistant course level 2 & 3 followed by a 18 month placement. Layla found it too much to have a family and work in schools. She felt exhausted in the evening and couldn’t help her own children. She moved on.
At the same time as co-founding Refugee Women of Bristol, she trained to be a level 3 IAG worker subsequently working as a money advice advisor at the Somali Advice Project and at Shelter for eighteen months. Layla started working for FORWARD https://forwarduk.org.uk/ from 2010 -17 and then started the campaign for the rights of women and girls affected by female genital mutilation in earnest. She has since trained 48 women to do FGM awareness and has increased the funding and number of staff at Refugee Women of Bristol by 100% in the last 3 years.
Layla definitely hasn’t wasted her time since that Learning Communities course gave her the learning bug.