Monday, September 5, 2016

20 Year Reflections | Pooja Saini

2016 is a big year for The Women’s Organisation – it marks our 20th birthday and we have plenty of interesting and exciting things lined up throughout the year to celebrate this! And some fantastic interviews will be part of this! To mark our 20th birthday throughout 2016 we will be interviewing some incredible women and sharing their stories with you. These women may have been long-time supporters of The Women’s Organisation, women who have accessed our support during our very early years, women who have been instrumental in the development of the organisation and gender equality as a whole, or simply women who we think are frankly marvellous, and want to know more about!

We hope that you enjoy these interviews throughout 2016 and can celebrate with us the incredible lives and journeys of the women that we interview. This series of interviews will be called ’20 Year Reflections’ and we always want to hear your thoughts and views. Join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #WOWeAre20

In this 20 Year Reflection we spoke to Pooja Saini a woman whose introductions might need another blog itself! But who has been a part of The Women’s Organisation’s wider network for the past 5 years and has worked tirelessly in her field of expertise improving the lives of women, specifically BME women, across Merseyside and indeed the country.

Pooja is currently a Chartered Psychologist and the Knowledge Exchange and Implementation Manager for NIHR CLAHRC NWC.

NIHR CLAHRC NWC, asides from being possibly the world’s longest abbreviation, is The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast, whose mission is to work collaboratively producing research designed to decrease health inequalities and improve the health of the population of the North West Coast.

Pooja’s interests within this area are Suicide Prevention, New Models of Care and Female Cancer screening uptake in Black and Ethnic Minority women. This interest stemmed from when Pooja was working as a Support Worker in 2003 ‘Whilst working in Rochdale as a Support Worker for South Asian women with mental health problems I witnessed some of the health inequalities faced by this group of women.’

Pooja began to look at developing some ways to reduce these inequalities through Co-Founding a Community Interest Company with the help of The Women’s Organisation; Women Reach Women CIC whose vision is to empower women, in particular BME women to be physically active, emotionally sound and lead a healthy lifestyle. Pooja told us; ‘There was an initiative run by Liverpool City Council called ‘Women Get Active; that aimed to engage women from deprived areas to exercise and improve their well-being. However, there was a lack of participation from BME women’.

As part of Women Reach Women CIC’s pilot programme, culturally sensitive sessions were planned for and with South Asian women who were not engaging or accessing traditional exercise centres. But the results of the programme told Pooja something that she hadn’t known before; ‘It became apparent that South Asian women had some differing knowledge and views of screening practices for Female Cancers.’ After discovering this Pooja decided to apply for match-funding to undertake research in this area and find out exactly why these differences occur.

Pooja’s co-developed project grant which she obtained from NIHR CLAHRC NWC has allowed her to delve into previous studies on social, cultural and individual influences on the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of South Asian women in relation to behaviours that are likely to facilitate early detection and treatment of Female Cancers. Additionally this work has given Pooja the opportunity to form and work within a multi-stakeholder steering group of academics, health care professionals, voluntary organisations, NHS hospital trusts, Public Health, Clinical Commissioning Groups and most importantly with public and patient involvement.‘The review is nearly complete and the findings will be presented at local and international conferences as well as in peer reviewed journals and public awareness events.’

But this is only one part of the incredible life and journey that Pooja has been on. In the first instance it was not Women Reach Women CIC or Pooja’s research career that brought her into contact with The Women’s Organisation. No, it was something quite different entirely...

BollyFit UK Ltd.

‘My favourite hobby throughout my childhood, schooling, university and career has always been Bollywood dancing and teaching groups or individuals choreographed Bollywood dances. I eventually set up my own business, BollyFit UK Ltd. in August 2012 with the help of The Women’s Organisation.’

Bollyfitness is a Bollywood dance based work-out, combining the artistic elements of Bollywood film dances with classical styles, designed to keep you fit. Inspired by the dance moves seen in Bollywood movies and shows, Pooja has always been passionate about dance, and when she was unable to find somewhere that ran Bollywood dance classes, she saw the opportunity to do it for herself.

With the help of The Women’s Organisation, Pooja launched BollyFit UK Ltd. and it went from strength to strength as Pooja developed a training programme and trained up numerous instructors from across the UK over the past 4 years.

You can check out a few blogs we wrote about Pooja's BollyFit business, here, here and here! 

Pooja has achieved an incredible amount and is now focussing on her research career but believes; ‘being self-employed and learning all the skills to run my own business have been invaluable, I use them every day at home and within work.’

‘All of the support I have received from The Women’s Organisation no matter how big or small has been invaluable in shaping me and my working career since living in Liverpool. Organisation’s like The Women’s Organisation gives women the space, knowledge and skills to gain confidence and opportunities to reach their working goals.’

So, how to sum up such an incredible person? A BSc, an MSc, a PhD, 3 children, two businesses and endless experience and hard work into improving the lives of others…There seems to be no end to the skills and talents of Pooja, but her modesty and humility also shine through…

‘I am happy in the thought that I have achieved a lot to date as a self-employed business woman, full-time employed researcher and a full-time mother and wife. But I also know that I still have more to learn.’

We know that Pooja will continue to learn and in turn help others with her knowledge, and we can’t wait discover what move she will make next…

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