Shipa Khan

Shipa Khan is Vice-Chair of the Portsmouth (PBBA) Portsmouth Bangladesh Business Association and Community Development Officer at the Portsmouth City Council.

Shipa enrolled in the AWE program to merge her community development based work with a ‘What’s My Social Purpose?’ workshop and ‘Business Builder’ modules, looking at how our work can impact surrounding communities. Her professional background in community development within local councils and the NHS heavily focused on community-based work. 

Through her participation in the AWE program, Shipa became more aware of the intersectional barriers that women in her community face when it comes to self-employment. As someone of Bangladeshi heritage, she understands firsthand the numerous obstacles that women from ethnic backgrounds encounter while trying to establish their own businesses.

“ I can fully understand that sometimes we put those cultural barriers on ourselves. I come from an Asian cultural background, and it was never expected of me to get a high level of education.”

Shipa says that the community usually expects women to prioritize marriage and motherhood instead of pursuing a career, and how this way of thinking creates a narrative that can make it difficult for women to consider other options.

“ Once we are married, we then say, “Maybe I’m getting too old for this,” or “My children are still too young. I haven’t got the time”.  It’s about giving ourselves the time to see how we can work around these barriers. We still have our responsibilities, but actually we have a duty of care to ourselves as well, and to do what’s good for us and right for us.”

Shipa also shared with us the ongoing challenges of racism faced by ethnic minorities in the UK. Despite some progress over the last three decades, she highlighted how members of her community are still advised from a young age to ignore any derogatory language and to steer clear of certain individuals when walking down the street in order to stay safe.

“When I was a young person starting out, trying to get my first job, you know, I looked a bit different. We still experience a lot of racism.”

Despite these obstacles, Shipa finds inspiration in the resilience and determination of women in her community. She witnesses women who are fully dedicated to their families but remain committed to building a home-based business.

“When I think of their stories, it just gives me goosebumps because. They come from experiencing domestic violence to leaving their husband’s home, to buying their own property, to getting into work. It’s just really inspirational stuff, and these everyday women, they’re not famous women, they are just everyday.”

Shipa’s participation in the AWE program allowed her to explore the intersectional barriers faced by women in her community when it comes to self-employment. Her experiences highlight the need for continued efforts to break down barriers and provide support for women from all backgrounds to achieve their goals.

Case Study produced by Sass Adams for the AWE programme.