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International Women’s Day


To celebrate International Women’s Day and Women's History Month, we are honouring the achievements of inspirational local women, throughout March.


Meet Asma Begum, community teacher, creative talent and recent winner of the Tower Hamlets Civic Award for outstanding service to the community.

Asma currently runs community sewing workshops at Bow Community Hub, using her experience and love for textiles, to teach others.

People who’ve attend Asma’s workshops tell us how, in addition to learning new skills, their confidence has grown and the value of having the opportunity to socially interact with others, after long periods of lockdown isolation.

“I’ve been to Asma’s session which honestly gave me the confidence to get creative and started. I now have my own small business due to her.”

Asma told us which women’s achievements motivate her and who she will be celebrating this International Women’s Day:

“My mum is my muse. She worked from home as a seamstress, bringing in money, while raising four children. There is unknown history of Bangladeshi women like my mum, who in the 1970’s and 80’s filled a dual role of wage earner and homemaker.

She was in many ways multi-talented and hardworking against the odds. Having had open-heart surgery at 30 years old, she had a positive outlook but sadly passed away in her mid- 60s. As a homage to such a beautiful soul, I donated my mum’s industrial sewing machine to the Museum of London.”

Asma also takes inspiration from Coco Chanel:

“Being an orphan who was taught to sew by nuns, she achieved a lot! From being a hat maker to clothes designer, to a perfume purveyor to designing bags. A global brand icon. There was no end to her talents and determination in what was then still very much a man’s world.

A quote from Chanel which inspires me is: ‘In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.'”

Helen and Ashton

Helen and Ashton, from our Sales and Marketing team, help people get on the property ladder for less in Tower Hamlets through shared ownership.

Working closely together, they have accomplished so much as a unit over the last couple of years, from successfully selling almost all of our shared ownership homes at Emerald Gardens during strict pandemic lockdown restrictions, to receiving an impressive 97% customer satisfaction rate.

Ashton told us:

“I have been extremely lucky to have Helen as a mentor over the past several years considering I didn’t know anything about shared ownership prior to working with Helen. I like to think we are quite the dream team! Despite being stressful at times, we do really love what we do. We are very lucky to work with Natalie and Frances too, who are amazing and have enabled us to do great things.”

Helen too, is inspired by her all female team and says:

“Without Ashton, Frances and Natalie, there would be no Sales and Marketing team.  Over the last 4 years, we’ve all developed and grown, making shared ownership in Tower Hamlets a success in every sense of the word, in particular to the 180 people we’ve helped to buy a shared ownership home.”


Christine Searle MBE, is a local resident and co-director of New Mill, a unique consultancy which offers advice to tenants and leaseholders going through regeneration and redevelopment. She was also a founder resident director for Poplar HARCA and was awarded an MBE for services to communities in 2004.

Christine told us about three women who inspire her every day.

“The first woman who’s achievements inspire me is Sister Christine Frost.  If I can achieve the things Sister Christine has, for our community, I’ll be very happy. I haven’t met her loads of times but I follow what she does with Neighbours in Poplar, closely.”

“Clara Grant inspires me too.  She founded the Fern Street Settlement, over 100 years ago, which is still going now as a family centre. They called her The Farthing Bundle Woman of Bow. The farthing bundle contained food and clothes. Her ethos was about the children of the estate and east London, making sure they had enough to eat and clothes on their back.”

“Anne Matthews, a former director of community and neighbourhoods for Poplar HARCA,  did a huge thing for me which is always in my heart and will never, ever leave me.

She used to get funding in for community projects, and there was a project called the Guide Neighbourhood programme, about 20 years ago. It was about supporting residents to engage more with their local authority and housing providers, to improve services for everyone. There were 15 Guide Neighbourhoods across the country.

Anne wanted to set up an individual company which would get funding through Poplar HARCA for the first 3 years and hopefully stand on its own two feet, afterwards. She encouraged me to go for a job interview for this new company. She said ‘I know you can do it, I believe in you Christine.’ She kept on at me. And I got the job.

New Mill, a unique consultancy for tenants and leaseholders, still exists now. And the company has flourished. We’re 15 years old. I’m one of the directors and I live in social housing. So, if you’re going through regeneration or development, we’ve been there, done that, got the cap and we can support you through it.

Anne Matthews Court on Selsey Street is named after her.”

Which women’s achievements will you be celebrating this month?


Asma’s Make and Mend workshopsIWD 2022Shared Ownership Neighbours in Poplar