The Councillor is.. In the Spotlight
In the spotlight is a small section of the paper which shines a light on community activities which are being put into practice across neighbourhoods. The aim of the segment is to raise awareness and promote these programmes or individuals for greater community cohesion. This issue we have Lozells and East Handswoth Councillor, Waseem Zaffar, MBE Honour recipient and proud Aston Villa fan.
How did you get in to politics? Was it always a career choice?
No. Whilst at university, I was actually studying logistics. Growing up in Lozells, there was a lot of inequality and issues around social deprivation. There was just a lack of opportunities for young people. So, I set up a youth organisation and I quickly realised that to create a fair and equal society, politics is crucial to that. So I got involved with the Labour Party. I felt a necessity to get involved in decision-making, just to create a better life for people who live in Lozells and Handsworth. I was born in Lozells and lived my entire life in the area and today I represent it as a councillor.
Tell me about the community work you are involved in.
Sport has always been one of the passions I’ve had. I’m a huge Aston Villa fan, but I also love cricket. After playing the sport at school level, I went on to start coaching, which was my first ever experience of community work. I think it’s important that when you have a busy life you should do things that matter to you, drive you and give you personal satisfaction. I am also involved in charitable causes which included helping charities such as Amirah Foundation. Charities that work with the most vulnerable in society are crucial to us. It’s important that we give back to the community.
My first passion is the community and I think I’ve just a part of politics as a means to address some of those concerns. Sometimes I miss the real work in the community due to civil duty responsibilities, but making Lozells and Handsworth a better place to live and work is really important to me as an individual.
September marks the first ever Birmingham Heritage Week. I understand it was your idea?
Back in the 2012, I was elected as the chair to the Social Cohesion and Community Safety Organisation Scrutiny Committee. I instigated a scrutiny inquiry in ‘What makes us Brummie?’ Without realising it – it became the ‘Brummie Inquiry’ and gained a lot of local and national media attention. We have such a diverse city, but historically, we haven’t been the best in selling ourselves.
There is so much positive happening in this city yet we fail to sell that. So, we came up with this idea that we would tell the Birmingham story to the rest of the world. It’s about promoting the story of Birmingham and its communities. It’s about telling the story of inner city families and its diverse society. The report recommended a “Birmingham History Week”. I took the recommendations with both hands. So, since last year, we have had volunteers from across the country come together to make this a reality. We have 100 events over a seven day period with the project being launched at the House of Commons. It really is a celebration of Birmingham’s history.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Celebrating Villa winning the Premier League and a year after that, winning European Champions League! I love doing what I’m doing. I represent the ward I live in, so face the same challenges everyone does. This city has given us so much and if I’m playing a small role in giving back then I would love to stay where I am.