About the project: ‘Uncovering’
In June 2022, we announced the four successful projects to receive funding from the Dying Matters Community Grants programme, supported by end of life provider, Dignity.
One of the successful recipients was ‘Uncovering’, a project delivered in collaboration with WomenZone, Dr Jamilla Hussain, poet Sharena Lee Satti and The Leap, Bradford.
The project set out to address the lack of safe spaces available to Muslim Pakistani women to connect and chat about the experience of death, dying, bereavement and caring, on both local and national scales.
Statistics show that there are large inequities between who can access both hospice care and bereavement support. For example, in 2016-2017, people of South Asian heritage in Bradford only made up 8% of referrals to specialist palliative care services, despite making up 47% of the population. Bereavement support services can be hard to access for families too, often depending on where and in whose care a relative has died.
In under-served communities such as this one, it is recognised that death, dying, grief and caring for people at the end of their lives are a reality, yet professional services often play just a small part in what are inherently important social events.
Palliative Care Expert Dr Jamilla Hussain says that 'Uncovering’ was formed to directly address challenges faced by these communities because of inequitable support from local services.
She explained that the project offered the opportunity to connect, using their combined strengths to create something important. “It was really important that this project was led by Pakistani women, for Pakistani women, in our community – it helped us start with us, rather than the agenda and capacity of services.”
Starting from that principle, the project has created and leveraged links between community organisations, a palliative care expert, and – for the first time – a local poet.
Being heard: listening to experiences
Rubina Khalid, Co-CEO of WomenZone, a key facilitator in the project, explains: “We heard and uncovered the experiences of Pakistani women living in under-served areas of Bradford, with this pilot project. The project facilitators brought professional, personal and cultural knowledge and experience with the artistic approach to the project which added a significant value.”
The Leap in Bradford further supported the project with a trip to Brighton’s The Death Festival to showcase participants’ artistic work, in turn helping to highlight the need for change in the way bereavement support services are provided.
I really hope society and services step up to do their bit.
Dr Jamilla Hussain
Art as communication
The use of art sparked ideas between local poet Sharena Lee Satti and The Leap, which allowed ‘Uncovering’ to capture the community’s experiences in a respectful and accessible way through poetry workshops. By using oral poetry, the project drew on Islamic oral traditions, and opened up broader lines of communication within and beyond the community.
Sharena says that using oral poetry to talk about death, grief and caring was powerful. “It encourages people to express their own emotions in a gentle, creative and cathartic way. People can share their own truth and feel empowered by doing so.
I really loved seeing the women go from sharing their grief, their pain and sadness – to performing their poems, feeling empowered and happy that they feel heard.
Sharena Lee Satti
Scratching the surface
Dr Hussain added that whilst this was a promising start, there is still a long way to go to open up conversations around end-of-life in the community. “We have scratched the surface of the importance for us to make space to talk about these issues with each other, and the strength and love we provide each other when doing so... and also the failings of wider society and services in providing equitable support for women like us and our loved ones.”
Womenzone are a Bradford-based charity which aims to empower, inspire and enrich the lives of locally-based women have collaborated with The Leap, another Bradford-based charity. They aim to inspire people to create, and also have experience of supporting grass-roots and culturally sensitive approaches to art.
About the Dying Matters Community Grants Programme
Supported by end-of-life services provider, Dignity, the Dying Matters Community Grants Programme funds innovative and creative projects with the aim of starting conversations about death, dying and grief, with communities that we know are least likely to have received such support.
At Dying Matters we believe that by starting the conversation, and breaking down taboos, we can work towards a society that is better equipped to support people through these life changing, but inevitable, experiences. The arts, in all its forms, can play a vital role in creating spaces where these conversations can flourish.