Ismail was co-opted to the Board in January 2023 and brings expertise in equality, inclusion and diversity.
Where are you from?….No! where are you REALLY from…? This is a common question and one which annoyed me at first (born in Merseyside, bred in Lancashire, South Asian heritage, lived & worked in five countries, speak six languages and currently living in Cheltenham if you’re interested). However, it took a while to be able to turn this into a positive and an opportunity to share my rich heritage and culture beyond appearances.
Much of my career has been spent working in fragile and conflict affected countries such as Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh where the right to education is denied through poverty, conflict, weak institutions or deliberate government policy.
This started a career at the British Council as Director of Education and Society to devise child centred approaches so young people could learn despite their situation and develop resilience, confidence, creativity, and independence to last a lifetime.
These approaches resonated with Waldorf inspired learning and I was inspired to join the foundation as a trustee, and whilst having reservations about elements of Steiner’s philosophy this dissipated rapidly when I met my fellow Trustees and their openness to change and challenge, seeing that I could play a critical friend to the board.
My current role as portfolio lead for Afghanistan & Pakistan in the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office FCDO is working to ensure women and girls can continue in education and work and contribute to lasting peace and security in the country despite the Taliban edict banning them from studying and working (no easy feat!).
These experiences have led to a lifelong commitment to diversity and inclusion, working as part of the People Group at the Home Office and Global Lead for Anti-racism at the British Council to develop inclusive cultures, practices and values so that all can have equal chances in life regardless of who, what and where they are in the world.