Blog Series, Gardening, International Women's Day

#BreakTheBias and British Islamic Gardens

In celebration of International Women’s Day [IWD], we want to take a look at some women gardeners and those who support women in a horticultural environment. We believe these women are breaking the bias against women of all different backgrounds.  Want to read the intro to this series? Check it out here!

As part of International Women’s Day theme #BreakTheBias we are showcasing three community gardens. The first is British Islamic Gardens [BIG] which is a non-profit organisation who work entirely with the help and kindness of volunteers. Their project was started with the hope of inspiring others into getting involved and becoming active gardeners. 

Spurred on by the current climate situation, they want to raise awareness of environmental issues and to push this awareness through their own sustainable practices. 

With the help of Shaheen from BIG, we spoke to some inspirational women volunteers about their involvement in community gardening and how they #BreakTheBias. 

One of the volunteers asked to be called “ADA – meaning- shine, illuminate, torch, enlighten, lighten.”

What made you decide to be part of community gardens?

In lockdown it was important for my autistic son and I to have outdoor activity and a sense of community/connection.

What were you expecting from it? 

My expectations were to roll up my sleeves and get stuck in and to learn something about gardening. I’m a complete novice.

How does being part of a community garden benefit your life? 

Being part of a community has been good for the soul. I met like-minded women who shared stories. Highs and lows, aspirations and worries whilst we were gardening. 

How does the act itself of gardening play a role in your continued support of the gardens?

Gardening has allowed me to appreciate nature, natural cycles and the power of healing whilst working with plants and the soil. It provided me with the ability to ground myself and ‘just be’. It provided me with a choice of both solitude and connection.

Can anyone be involved in BIG? 

We’ve had all ages come to gardens. We’ve participated in art workshop events, fairtrade events etc.

Why is inclusivity important to you?

The gardens provide a much needed balance to us and our environment. It’s a place where volunteers from groups far and wide come together and not separate/ segregate through “identifying” as separate groups but more as “common humanity”, in a nurturing, safe environment.

I’m going through a tough divorce, already 3 years gone. The garden provides me a place to work with my hands when my mind races and also be of service. It’s allowed me to share my creativity and practical troubleshooting skills, often with light hearted banter to accompany it.”

Shaheen said of ‘Ada’- she “is a lovely soul and it is always wonderful when we are blessed with her and her dear family’s company.”

International Women's Day

Another female volunteer said of being part of the community gardens:

What made you decide to be part of community gardens?

After retiring I was looking to get involved with the community. During lockdown I needed interaction with people, lots of us had lost loved ones. 

What were you expecting from it? 

To learn new skills and be able to meet new people and make a difference at the mosque.

How does being part of a community garden benefit your life? 

After each gardening session I feel mentally and physically relaxed. I forget all my worries momentarily and feel energised.

How does the act itself of gardening play a role in your continued support of the gardens?

I have learnt a great deal about plants and I appreciate nature more. I’m already applying new skills learnt from BIG gardening experts in my garden. 

Anyone can get involved at any age. I originally thought I might be too old but people of all ages and abilities are welcomed. There is always something to do no matter what your ability. Everyone is made to feel special. 

Why is inclusivity important to you? 

It’s extremely important as not everyone has interaction with extended families or friends on a daily basis. So it’s nice to meet people from different walks of life and different countries. It gives me inner peace.

International Women's Day

Our last volunteer says:

What made you decide to be part of community gardens? 

I wanted to join a gardening group and help whilst learning.

How does being part of a community garden benefit your life? 

I have met some really interesting and wonderful people and learnt some new skills that I have used in my garden.

Why is inclusivity important to you? 

It is important that everyone feels they belong and can learn from each other.

There is strength to be drawn from being part of a community and gardening has been an important and successful backdrop for it. Learning and supporting each other, these women have each gotten something positive from this experience and are moving forward to #BreakTheBias 

This is just some of the fantastic work they have done: