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Project searches for new generation of Somali leaders

WALES’ HISTORY MAKER: Councillor Omar Ali

CAMPAIGN GROUP Operation Black Vote (OBV) has launched a Civic Leadership Programme in Tower Hamlets, east London, to nurture future Somali leaders.

The aim of the project is to address the deficit of Somalis in civic and public life.

OBV will select up to 50 individuals of Somali heritage aged 18 years upwards who live or work in Tower Hamlets with an interest in contributing to their community. Chosen individuals will participate in a mixture of observation and training sessions across four broad categories of public life: education, politics, the criminal justice system and the voluntary and community sector.

The initiative will focus on giving participants first hand knowledge of the roles and responsibilities of school governors, councillors, trustees and members of the Safer Neighbourhood Team.

The aim is that upon completion, this leadership programme will equip and motivate participants to engage in public life.

Participants will also be encouraged to become community ambassadors, explaining and promoting the benefits of civic engagement and encouraging others to also become involved in community affairs.

Francine Fernandes, OBV’s deputy director said: “The Somali community have contributed and been part of British society since the 1800s. This provides a platform to nurture this talent for the benefit of all communities and enable participants to formally contribute to Tower Hamlets’ political and civic landscape."

Councillor Omar Ali, an OBV graduate, made political history less than six months ago by becoming the first British Somali councillor in Wales.

Councillor Ali said: “People are often politically conscious, but are not always aware of how to translate that into political or civic action.

"OBV gave me a better understanding of how the democratic process worked and I hope that my election inspires other people, particularly young people, to run for office and encourages them to have an input into the decisions made about their area.”

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