'We need more support': Muslim women in the UK are being disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis
The National Zakat Foundation has said that while there is a disproportionate level of ethnically diverse women being affected by the cost of living crisis, Muslim women are particularly struggling.
Fatima, 36, (name changed for confidentiality), a single mother of two from the UK says she has been compelled to turn off the heating to keep bills at bay.
"When my kids are at school I off the heating for hours, wear at least two jumpers and put a blanket around me. Sometimes I go outside, into shops or to the mosque just for some warmth. I put the heating on at least half an hour before my children return home because I’m worried I won’t be able to afford the bills at the end of the month," she tells The New Arab.
"Findings from the Money Advice Trust (MAT) revealed that ethnically diverse communities are most likely to be behind on their bills... 25% of people were late or unable to pay bills in comparison to 9% of white British people. In addition, 34% of women worried about money daily, in comparison to just 23% of men"
“It’s not a nice way to live, it's affecting my mental health, but I’m alone with the kids and have no one I feel I can turn to. I have been told to apply for help from charities but I feel so depressed that I am in this situation to reach out. If it wasn’t for my kids and my faith things could get really overwhelming.”
Kiran, 45, faces similar challenges as a divorced woman with one child, who used to be entirely dependent on her husband for finances.
“I had a messy divorce which left me hard up and I worry how I will be able to support my child. I know that the government offer benefits but it’s really not sufficient. I have not been able to keep up with the bills and feel awful having to ask family for help.”
Findings from the Money Advice Trust (MAT) revealed that ethnically diverse communities are most likely to be behind on their bills – 25% of people were late or unable to pay bills in comparison to 9% of white British people.
In addition, 34% of women worried about money daily, in comparison to just 23% of men.
“Women like me need more support, the government need to recognise that more funding needs to be given to support us. I am up all night sometimes thinking about how I am going to afford the groceries. It shouldn’t have to be this way for me or for any woman,” Kiran told The New Arab.
Recent findings from The Living Wage Organisation reveal that even when women do have jobs, a fifth of them will be paid less than the living wage, making it even more difficult to keep up with inflation increases.
Asfa Mohamed, 38 is a single mother of three who is currently looking for work to support herself and her three children without having to rely on benefits.
“It’s like I am living in a nightmare. I look around my house to see if there is anything of value I could sell to get money. There isn’t anything but what I’m getting to support me and my kids is simply not enough. My ex-husband doesn’t contribute to expenses for my children and it’s all on me," she tells The New Arab.
The newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that he would be committed to supporting the most vulnerable with "compassion" and has also pledged to offer support with household energy bills – but for many families like the ones we’ve spoken to at The New Arab, this may not be quite enough.
"With the current inflation levels, many Muslim women can barely put food on the table for their families," said Dr Sohail Hanif, the CEO of the National Zakat Foundation.
"Around half of the UK Muslim population already lived on the poverty line post-pandemic, despite having paid jobs. And with inflation rates rising to their highest levels ever, it’s worried that even more of our community will face the poverty line.”
Like many single parents, Asfa worries about how the impact of the cost of living crisis limits her from spending on her children during school holidays.
“When it was half term I couldn’t even afford to take my kids out anywhere like their other friends and I feel so bad. On my mind is what our next meal will be and how I will afford the bills at the end of the month. It’s all I ever think about,” Asfa tells The New Arab.
Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and Universal Peace Federation Ambassador. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Middle East Eye, CNN, BBC, and others. She was awarded the FIPP global network of Media Rising Stars in 2018.
Follow her on Twitter: @tasnimnazeer1