Category: testimonial, Housing, Religious beliefs, Faith, Faith & Culture, Staff Testimonial, Religious Observance, Religion, Supported Housing, PA Housing, House-building, islamic, muslim, religious networks, religious, islam, religion belief, social housing, faith & belief
Saarah Bunglawala – Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Recruitment Coordinator at PA Housing
PA Housing: Religion and Culture Month Series
Here at PA Housing, we pride ourselves on the diversity of our staff team and a key aspect of this is diversity of belief because it allows us to gain insights from a broad range of different cultures and traditions. We also pride ourselves in recognising that Everybody is unique and that everyone can be themselves at PA. To find out more, I conducted several interviews to discuss the personal faith of our colleagues and what this means to them. Through these interviews, I hoped to better understand some of the individuals within our wonderful, multicultural working environment.
I caught up with Saarah Bunglawala – our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) Recruitment Coordinator – to see what she had to say.
Hi Saarah, it’s nice that we found time to stage this interview. Hope you’re doing well! As we work alongside each other, I already know, but for everybody reading online, do you belong to a specific faith or belief system? And if so, what is it?
“Hi Marco, I’m good thanks, it should be cool! Yes, I’m a Muslim and I follow the religion of Islam. I was brought up Muslim, so it is something I inherited from my family rather than a decision that I came to myself. That comes with its challenges, but it is something I am working on every day. My family and the people around me have taught me a lot, but I’m still learning as I go along.”
What does faith mean to you as a concept?
“That’s a tough question because it’s such a broad topic, but the first thing I think of is just having a belief in something, and not necessarily a religious belief. For me, faith is something that gets me through a bad day and keeps me grounded when I’m having lots of good days. Another thing that it does is make me feel connected with people, like I’m part of a big, global community.”
How would you say your faith affects you on a day-to-day basis? At home and at work.
“At home, it affects me in quite a few ways. Because my family and I are all part of the same faith, many of our principles and value systems are based around Islam. Our days are often scheduled around praying and various religious rituals. I also observe certain rules such as what I can (halal) and can’t eat (haraam) and I choose to wear a headscarf too – which is considered a requirement for some, but it is up to interpretation. Of course, faith is a choice, so I do this because I want to observe these religious traditions, yet it does come with challenges and some days are better than others.
“In the past, it has been quite challenging to fit my faith into my work life, like finding the time to pray frequently or sometimes even feeling like I have to hide this part of myself. Previously, in other organisations, I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable speaking about my religion and my identity, and it felt like it took a lot of energy to inform people about ED&I and how important it is. However, at PA Housing, the culture is so inclusive as a lot of people are open about their beliefs, and I feel like I can be real and authentic with everyone here. I think that this confidence is partly down to my role –I’m always striving to make the business a more inclusive and accepting place, but I also think that it’s partly down to the people I work with too. They are curious and inquisitive, and I think that’s a really positive thing.”
Okay, here’s the fun one. What is your favourite religious festival and why?
“Well, there are 2 Eids in a year, but I quite like Eid-ul-Fitr which is the celebration after our month of fasting for Ramadan. Sometimes, we can get too used to excessive consumption and comfort and not everybody has access to the same privileges as we do. So, fasting reminds us to enjoy the little things in life whilst doing our best to help others in need. Then, we have a huge family get-together and I get to see people that I hardly ever get a chance to see. We also exchange gifts, and we like to cook really nice things. It’s actually quite a shock to the body when you haven’t eaten in the daytime for so long, but it really makes you appreciate food a lot more. Oh, and another thing I enjoy about Eid is that it’s an opportunity to get dressed up and bake some homemade goods such as Viennese Swirls and Shortbread biscuits. After a month of stripping back luxuries, it’s really nice to treat yourself.”
Are there any parallels between your values – either spiritually or generally – and the values of PA Housing?
“In terms of general values, ‘doing the right thing’ and ‘being in this together’ really resonate with me and they are definitely a big part of the PA Housing ethos. And for my religious values, I’d say that trying my best to help people who are not in the best situation – just generally being compassionate and caring – are things that we pride ourselves on at PA too. In my faith, having a sense of family and community is something we care deeply about, and PA is like one massive, supportive family.”
Because of your role here, I feel like you will have an important insight into this one. Would you say that PA Housing is generally an inclusive organisation to work for?
“Absolutely! From the second I arrived I could tell that people felt comfortable being themselves here. Also, they hired me [Laughter]! Having somebody who is dedicated to EDI issues in the recruitment team demonstrates that we take Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion seriously at PA Housing. Another thing we are doing is hiring a Diversity Business Partner at senior level which should continue to drive our inclusive culture. We go out of our way to make people feel involved which is a lovely way to be.”
Since you are here, I thought I would also ask you what we could do to improve on in terms of our work culture?
“Well, I’m based in the Leicester office and so I know that the culture here is positive and welcoming, but as we’re not all in the same location, it’s difficult to make a judgement on company culture as a whole. So, we have to keep making sure that everyone across the whole business feels like part of the PA family. Also, based on the recent reports on the gender and ethnicity pay gap in the business (gender-pay-gap-report-2020.pdf (pahousing.co.uk)), it would be great to see more women and people from different ethnicities in senior roles so that we can better represent the communities we serve.”
Thank you for that insightful glance into your values and your faith, Saarah!
If you would like to read the complete series of PA Housing interviews for Vercida’s ‘Faith and Religion Month’, check out the articles section here: PA Housing - VERCIDA.