MCM: Manchester’s Climate Vulnerable – An Interview with Atiha Chaudry

P1000904Whilst it’s easy to think that all those people ‘really vulnerable’ to climate change live in far away places, the truth is they don’t. They live in cities great and small all over the world. And there are some living right here in Manchester. Who are they? Well, there are the marginalised, the socially, economically and politically vulnerable. They are our old, our BME, our asylum seekers and refugees and whilst our climate keeps changing, we ought to figure out a way to protect them.

Last year, the Manchester BME Network got £15,000 from Defra to do exactly that. They were tasked with “mapping the needs of BME, older people and refugee and asylum communities to better understand their needs and concerns about the impact of a changing change.” The project also wanted to find the gaps and consider how these might be addressed. The project is led by Muslim Communities UK (MC-UK) with direct support from Manchester BME Network (MBMEN), Salford Refugee Forum and Creative Hands Foundation. The partners interviewed 100 people and held four focus groups.

Ahead of the final report which will be released next week, MCFly caught up with Atiha Chaudry, from MBMEN, to talk about their findings and what happens next.

Could you tell us a little about the Manchester BME network and the work it does?

The MBMEN is a well established network supporting BME groups and organisations in Manchester. It holds regular networking meetings addressing key issues relevant to the BME sector and brings together a diverse range of groups, individuals and local stakeholders to meet and share knowledge and experience. The Network delivers a range of projects and currently is involved in the following: a partnership with Fareshare to address the issue of food redistribution and meet the needs of those in most need; climate change and its impact on the BME sector; safeguarding and supplementary schools; sexual health and BME women.

You mention that the network has been involved in climate change before. Could you tell us what form the project took and why you were keen to tackle this issue?

We were invited by NCVO a year ago to work with them on a pilot project in Greater Manchester which would look at working with a cohort of 20 BME groups. We brought together these groups and sat on the steering group for delivering this project . It involved 3 workshops to build knowledge and understanding of climate change, disseminate this to others the groups work with and build a better awareness in the local communities.This was really successful and lead to the success of the bid to Defra for a £15,000 grant for further work gathering evidence of need and developing solutions. The NCVO work will be presented at a national conference where we will have the opportunity to share our experience and influence the national strategy.

Why do you feel it’s important to explore the climate change and BME link now?

Because, many BME communities need more awareness and connection to local strategies so that the particular concerns of BME communities are taken on board. BME communities also have an added issue about the impacts of climate change to their friends and family in their country of origin as well as the overall impact of this on wider issues (eg foods they are used to eating from their countries of heritage).

What do you hope to do with these findings and the information that emerges from your research?

We hope to produce a toolkit that addresses the concerns people share with us so that it can provide advice and support. We are also holding a conference at the end of the project (end of March) to share our findings, engage the strategic and wider sector, influence local work and national strategy and look at ways to continue the work we have started.

Is the funding for research only or will some be available to implement some findings?

It’s for research only but we are hopeful that through engaging local stakeholders we can continue the work.

Originally posted at Manchester Climate Monthly.

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