Saba Nasim, a coach from Forest Gate, has just been given a British Citizen Award for her commitment to volunteering and “breaking down barriers” in her local community.
The 29-year-old, who set up Redbridge Rangers Cricket Club which was the first girls-only project in the borough, began her volunteering activities as she wanted to get more young women into coaching and playing sport at a professional level.
Also being a captain of Wanstead Cricket Club women’s team, Nasim has always found it important to be a positive role model for girls who have been told that playing sport is not compatible with their faith.
“I was really surprised but delighted that my work at a grassroots level has been recognised,” Nasim, who joined Wanstead Cricket Club in 2009, became a volunteer coach in 2010 and a qualified coach in 2013, said.
“I am trying to break barriers and show girls from my community that you can be Muslim and play sports. Some girls from Asian and Muslim communities are told they can’t play sport because of their faith. They are told it’s not a female sport.”
She added: “It’s great to let girls know that they can play sport. I see myself as a female sporting role model. I want girls to be inspired by me.”
Speaking about her overall aims, she argues that by drawing attention to the way in which her faith has influenced her success she is in turn influencing the next generation of female Muslim cricketers.
“My faith plays a good role,” she says. “It keeps me grounded. I inspire girls of a similar faith to go out and play. I want girls to embrace the sport and reconcile their faith with cricket.”
Nasim thinks that seeing girls develop from beginners into coaches and high-performing players is one of the main highlights of her role.
“The most rewarding aspects of the job are seeing girls focus, answering their questions, seeing them grow in confidence and become leaders in their own communities,” she explains.
“Most of the girls I coach are from Asian backgrounds and they have gone on to play club cricket and taken on the courses which is great to see.”
Launched in 2015, the British Citizen Awards recognises the “exceptional everyday individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society”. And judging by Nasim’s activities over the past eight years, she thoroughly deserves it.
Featured image credit: Saba Nasim via Twitter