As the eldest daughter, we know that the big sister role doesn’t disappear when all of our siblings are no longer in nappies. We saw how our mothers struggled to support themselves and their large families. We saw how they aged before their time and how their bodies continue to ache from the back-breaking work that they do carrying their families. And all this without thanks. Just people who expected them to give and give and give without any concern on how it impacted them.
Our mothers were never taught to say no. They were never taught that they can’t pour from an empty vessel and that putting yourself first is not an act of self-indulgence, but rather, as Audre Lorde says, it is an act of political warfare.
They taught us that we too must contort ourselves so that we can fit into society’s expectations of us. They taught us that we must be ‘good’, obedient daughters who can cook and clean. But we must also do well at school. And we must also bow for the spiteful aunties. And we must dress as modest girls. And we must jump at the calls of our fathers and husbands. And we must, and we must, and we must!
But we said “no”.
And then we took it one step further and created Home Girls Unite. Home Girls Unite is a support group that helps eldest immigrant daughters, first and foremost, learn to say no. We provide a safe space free of shame and guilt and free of the need to use disclaimers such as “but my parents are actually nice people” or “I did have a good childhood!”
It started off with a simple tweet after realising that a number of my friends who are eldest daughters and from immigrant families had very similar experiences to me. As the eldest daughters we were expected to cancel outings with our friends because we had to babysit our younger siblings, and we were unable to revise for exams because our mothers needed emotional support after another heated argument with our fathers. And so it created this need in us to constantly put others first and ensure that our loved ones were always well looked after; often to our own detriment. After tweeting my initial thoughts and admitting that I had no idea how to go about creating such a group I was inundated with messages of women who wanted so desperately to be part of such a sisterhood. I also received a message from my now co-founder, Yasin. Yasin promised to help set the support group up and we have been side by side since.
We now run monthly events (now online due to Ms Rona) and a weekly podcast that tackles a range of topics including anxiety and setting boundaries. Every other week we interview a ‘Home Girl’ to discuss how our lives are similar and yet different, and seeing as each of them have different backgrounds it’s always an interesting discussion.
We’ve supported hundreds of women during the short period that we have been active. Women like Amina who say that Home Girls Unite changed the course of their life. Amina came to one of our events on her birthday and days before she was planning to move out of her family home for the first time. As many Muslim women know it is very difficult to move out of the family home before marriage and Amina was extremely worried, but we rallied around her as if her happiness was intrinsically linked to our own. And that is what we do for each and every one of our ‘Home Girls’. We show up and show out with love, compassion and understanding. We are so proud of the community we have built up and we have done this very much needed work all on a voluntary basis. We are now hoping to take it to the next level.
We are currently crowdfunding to give 500 women access to therapy. Your donations can ensure that these women get the unique help that they need.
HOW YOUR DONATIONS WILL HELP:
– £2000 Donation covers 10 online sessions with 10 coaches
– £500 Donation covers the cost of miniating our online support resources
– £250 Donation covers 5 one to one sessions for one woman
– £100 Donation covers 2 online workshops on mental health & wellbeing
– £10 Donation covers lunch for 2 women at our sessions
Please donate what you can and help us help others. To find out more follow us on Twitter @HomeGirlsUnite and on Instagram @homegirlsldn.
Hanna is the co-founder of Home Girls Unite (HGU). Home Girls Unite is a support group for eldest daughters from immigrant families. We aim to empower these women, who were forced to become adults before their time, to put themselves first and start taking the necessary steps to take back control of their own lives. We do this by running monthly events and a weekly podcast. You can find us at: @HomeGirlsUnite (Twitter) @homegirlsldn (Instagram)
By Afroze Fatima Zaidi