Interview with Rania Khan

December 7, 2008


Photo: Suki Dhanda

Rania Khan, 26. Labour councillor for Bromley-by-Bow in Tower Hamlets, London; secondary-school science teacher

‘I got involved in politics because I felt so angry about the Iraq war. I was inspired by the passion and courage of Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob and political campaigner Lindsey German. When I was asked to stand as a councillor I thought it was a completely bizarre idea and that I would never win. Some of the men in the Respect party wanted me to stand in a ward where there was no chance of me winning. But I was selected and in 2006, to my amazement, I won. This year I left Respect for Labour – there’s a lot more resources in the party and I felt I could be fairer to my constituents.

‘I’m Bangladeshi and as an Asian woman I do find you are made to feel like a second-class citizen. The mentality of girls being a financial burden is still there. My dad would complain he didn’t have a son, which I found very painful as a child. That became my driving force. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t lesser for being female; that I was better than any son my parents might have had.

‘I describe myself as a feminist, but feminism doesn’t make sense to me as a separate entity. I see it as part of the wider struggle for equality, alongside class and race.

‘The escalation of the porn industry and lap-dancing clubs really bothers me. I moved from Libya to London when I was about eight and seeing images of women being exploited and used as sexual commodities everywhere made me feel sick. I would walk down Tottenham Court Road as a teenager with my mates, ripping out all the prostitution fliers from the phone boxes.

‘I want to see more women, especially from ethnic minorities, involved in politics. Women need to be educated and empowered to take those key positions; only then will we see change.’

This piece first appeared in The Observer Review.


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