Even after losing the support of her family, due to not wanting to be traditional, Husna has not lost sight of what's important; being a businesswoman, a role model and coach and giving back to women in her community
"I had an arranged marriage at 16 years old so didn’t get my GCSE’s and didn’t know how to pursue further study but I knew I wanted to better myself and continue my learning. I did Business Administration NVQ after I got married. In very challenging circumstances.
I went to LSBU as a mature student and chose it because the location was close to home, the campus was clean and I was living in Clapham North and I was able to drive in as there was a car park on campus, but then the congestion charge was introduced and I stopped driving in.
While I studied I was working full-time and attending 6-9 classes, 3 nights a week. I fell pregnant in my 3rd year and continued with my course right up until the month before my due date. I remember being 7 months pregnant, sitting my exams and the baby would not stop kicking, I couldn’t sit still or focus, I did a 3-hour exam in 1 hour and of course, I failed. The University was understanding and I was able to re-sit.
I had some genuinely inspiring lecturers, I may not remember their names but I remember what they said. One lecturer openly told the class she didn’t want to go to work when she was younger, but it was her Dad who told her ‘people may not want you but they need you and that’s why she went into work instead of sleeping. Another one said ‘I m not just teaching you I’m learning from you', I found that profound as she had so many accolades and qualifications under her belt. There was another lecturer, he was old fashioned, lovely and approachable. When it was exam time, he said he doesn’t like examining his students, which was comforting to hear.
Graduation was the most beautiful day
When I look back, I don’t know how I managed it all and I can only think that God guided me. It wasn’t easy but I am a very self-motivated person. Before I came to LSBU a colleague at work said to me, ‘the next 4 years will go by anyway so you may as well show something for it’.
My marriage was challenging, I saw my husband very little during the week and It got to the point where I thought my education was more important than him. Every time I came to University, I thought to myself ‘I’m doing this for me, my family and future’. One colleague said ‘if he is still there at the end of your studies then it’s meant to be’. But he was supportive of me. When I graduated I was like wow, I was so proud of myself that I took that step. I’m an older Asian Muslim woman who carries the stereotype of cooking, cleaning, raising kids and staying at home. It was challenging.
Graduation was the most beautiful day of my life. I felt like I was getting married to my education, I bought a beautiful traditional Indian outfit. My brother came to the ceremony as he believed in me, and my 2 older daughters came but my husband at the time stayed at home to look after our baby. I achieved it for me, no one else.
My achievement inspired my daughters to go to university. I once heard my older daughters say to each other ‘don’t be like mum and wait, get a degree and then have a family’. Inspiring them was the biggest thing for me. Children don’t listen to what you say but do what you do. People say ‘how are your kids so good’, and I say ‘they follow me’.
5 years ago I qualified as a Personal Fitness Trainer. When I was at University I put on weight, I wasn’t looking after myself, I was comfort eating. I was working as a finance officer at an academy, a woman introduced me to Herbalife and after 10 months I resigned from my full-time job. So I’ve been building my nutrition company and my degree helped me with that business knowledge.
None of my siblings went to University, my brother had the opportunity but didn’t want to, he believes in the University of Life. He’s smart but he learned by doing rather than theory. I’m passionate about education. I don’t want to be a traditional woman I need to have a varied life there are so many sides to a person. I use to see my family every weekend, but I don’t have their support as much now as I’ve become a different person.
Do it with excellence
I am a confident person. I don’t’ like half jobs I do things properly, if things get to me I brush myself off and get on with it. I get that from my mum, she never went to school, her mum died when she was two. She would say ‘if you can read and write you have nothing to worry about so get on with it’. She would say ‘stop crying and get on with it’. I’m strong because of it, I wasn’t babied and I didn’t baby my children, you aren’t giving them the tools to live their lives, I lost my mum at 24, yes I was an adult but I still felt like I had to grow up over-night.
Giving back is the most profound gift, it’s about giving time and I give a lot. I started a sister circle so Muslim women can live in their religious belief; I give free fitness sessions via zoom. I coach people as well, been doing it my whole life, just speaking and helping people, people get stuck in life I want to be the person I needed when I was stuck.
My advice to anyone is that the journey won’t be easy but it will be worth it. A lecturer once told me, 'if getting a degree was easy we would buy it from Tesco'.
I consider myself fearless, I live by hope, not fear, anything is possible, you have to believe in yourself, and because of what I have been through I am fearless. My dad told me whatever you do, do it with excellence and I carry those words with me".
We feature alumni each month who have had an interesting journey. To nominate someone email email@example.com.