First-time MP Naz Shah, who sat on the welfare bill committee, has said she is enjoying being able to influence change after going through the proposals “in fine detail”.
The Bradford West Labour MP, who unseated George Galloway in a stunning victory scooping 19,977 votes in May, told Eastern Eye it was an “amazing experience” to be in parliament.
Shah was recently handed the GG2 Achievement through adversity gong at the Leadership Awards, where the Power 101 was launched highlighting the most powerful Asians in the UK.
She said: “I’m enjoying being able to influence change. I sat on the welfare bill committee, where I spent days with my colleagues going through it in fine detail, which really was about being a good opposition.
“That was really good to be able to cast my vote, and highlight and tell the government actually this is wrong, to be able to speak for constituents. It’s an amazing experience to be there.”
The former chair of mental health charity Sharing Voices Bradford and ex-NHS Commissioner, said she was “loving” being an MP, apart from during the summer recess when she was “knocked out for five weeks because of illness.”
Shah, who has three children, left school at the age of 12 and was forced into marriage as a teenager in Pakistan. With her siblings, Shah campaigned with Southall Black Sisters for her mother to be released from prison. Zoora Shah was jailed for 12 years for poisoning her abusive partner.
When she returned from Pakistan, Shah worked hard to gain her qualifications, and got jobs in an industrial dry cleaners and packing crisps at Seabrooks factory before becoming a carer for people with disabilities.
She later worked her way up to become an NHS commissioner. Her constituency has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in Britain with 51.3 per cent living in the area.
After picking up her GG2 Award, Shah said: “It’s humbling, it’s a huge honour, it’s not often I’m lost for words. Leadership is my passion, I look to the greatest leaders in the world who have made sacrifices and carried on. They have inspired me, it is why I am where I am.
She was inspired by her mother “because of the adversity she suffered”, as well as her daughter and sons.
“On a wider scale, Nelson Mandela is up there for me because of what he stood for, and Mother Teresa. My biggest inspiration is my Prophet, peace be upon him - I have a lot of faith.”
Shah, born and brought up in Bradford, has championed women’s rights across the country, and has achieved national recognition for her work on preventing forced marriage.
Earlier this year, she told Eastern Eye: “My experiences have made me a resilient person and passionate about inequalities and social injustice; they have shaped me in terms of my politics.”