New mayor of Islington promises to ‘campaign for the voiceless’

Mayor of Islington, Cllr Rakhia Ismail. Picture: Islington Council

Mayor of Islington, Cllr Rakhia Ismail. Picture: Islington Council - Credit: Archant

Islington’s new mayor pledges she’ll “campaign for the voiceless” and lobby central government for more resources to fund mental health services.

Cllr Rakhia Ismail (Lab, Holloway) became Britain's first Somali-born female mayor when she was sworn in at the annual council meeting last Thursday.

She has 20 years' experience working in the voluntary sector, founded Back 2 Basics Create charity to support marginalised women and mothers and has represented Holloway as a councillor since 2011.

Cllr Rakhia Ismail told the Gazette: "Yesterday, I went to a citizenship ceremony and it was wonderful seeing so many people from diverse backgrounds becoming British. So for me personally, being from a refugee background and giving certificates was an honour. I said: 'Who knows what the future holds - you could be leading the town hall or mayor'. You could see the excitement of becoming British in their faces - it's brilliant."

Cllr Ismail travelled from Somalia to the UK as a refugee in the 1980s.

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It's customary for borough mayors to support they care about - and Cllr Ismail picked Centre 404, in Camden Road, and Nafsyiat Intercultural Therapy Centre, in Lysander Grove. The former offers support and services to children and adults with learning disabilities and the latter provides accessible psychotherapy and counselling services to people from diverse religious, cultural and ethnic communities.

"Mental health is a massive, underrated issue," she said. "And it's something I want to take up to help people suffering silently. If I have to take the issue of recourses to number 10 Downing Street and shout I will.

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"Mental health is affecting our young people, their teachers - it's destroying the fibre of the community and that's why I'm passionate to be mayor.

"We are one of the greatest countries in the world but we have knife crime in the streets and violence - it's hitting the community hard."

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