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Saeeda was born in Pakistan, where she got a college education and married her husband who had been living in England. She joined him in Accrington in 1977 at the age of 23.

Saeeda decided to go to English language classes to improve her chances of employment. Her first role though was a voluntary one at Hyndburn Park School, supporting the children who were struggling to understand English. Before long she had also become an informal interpreter for the Asian community. Within a few months of being at Hyndburn Park, and with the encouragement of the head teacher, she applied for a bilingual teaching assistant post at Spring Hill Nursery. There were 80 applicants – and when Saeeda was offered the job, she was overjoyed. She was so proud of her first pay cheque that she didn’t cash it for several weeks, keeping it in full view of everyone on the top shelf.

Saeeda remained at Spring Hill Nursery for 24 years. She continues to interpret within her community and interpreted for Fazal Jan Awan, one of the other Women’s Work interviewees.



This transcript has been edited for ease of reading.

The full original interview in English can be heard by clicking on the audio player.

My name is Saeeda Farooq, and my date of birth is 27th December 1953. I was born and brought up in Pakistan and we were three sisters and three brothers. My father was in the Army and my mother was a housewife. I used to go to school in Pakistan and I did get married, and I came to live in England in 1977. My husband was living in England. He came before me, so he went back to get married, and I came to live with him in 1977.


I used to go to school and college in Pakistan. But when I came in here, I did a few courses here and they were part-time courses. And I used to attend evening sessions. It was a part of college and it was in the old grammar school and it was based on Blackburn Road. So, evening time, you know, once I saw there was an advertisement that if you want to do any bilingual courses, you can join that course, so I thought that will help me. And I joined that course. And I used to go there and I did level one, two, and three. And I passed that course. And I still remember, you know, there was a teacher, who was called, Mrs. Shamim Ramon. She was very nice, and she helped us a lot, you know. There were a few more students attending the same course at that time, but I haven’t been to college or university in here in this country, but I used to go to college in Pakistan.

That course was basically, you know, they were teaching us that if you want to do any job, you know, so because you can speak more than one language and if you are going to get a job, this course will help you. Because that was a like, you know, a bilingual kind, of course, so, that course, helped me a lot because I did that course and when I applied for a job later on, I showed them my certificates for that course, and that was quite helpful because they chose me that you have done this job, this course, so at least you know something about your job role.


I think I was a, I would like to say, I was 45 years, 5 45, 46 years old.

Actually, you know, I would like to say something about because I lost my mother and I was very depressed at home because I used to have two sons at that time and they were going to school, my husband used to go to work. And I was feeling very lonely and isolated at home and I was being depressed after the death of my mother. So one day, I thought I will go and I will ask school because they have some ethnic minority children and they might need somebody because I did a course as well. So I will go and ask them. So I went to Hyndburn Park School.

And they were very happy. They said, you know, because at that time they used to have a few children and their, they don’t understand their language and they were struggling a lot to help them. So they said, you know, you are like an angel for us. If you can come and help in the classroom. We will really appreciate your help. So I started going in there. I have once or twice, I think twice a week in the morning time I was going and sitting in that class and I was helping the Asian children, you know, who were struggling to understand English.

So one day the head teacher she came and she asked me “Have you got any education?”

And I told her that yes, I am educated from Pakistan and I have done some courses here as well.

So she said “Do you want to do a job?”

I said “I would like to do but I haven’t done any work before, I don’t know, you know what are the rules and regulations in this country, and how can we apply, and how can we go for a job? “

So she said to me “There is a job in our school and that is welfare assistant job.”

And I asked her “What is welfare?” I don’t know, you know, because I haven’t done a job.

So she told me that this job is going to be in the school kitchen and at dinner time, you know. The job is only for one and a quarter hour every single day and you have to come and help the children at dinnertime.

I said, yes, of course, you know, I will go for that. So I started working as a welfare assistant and then after a couple of months, there were some jobs advertised that they needed some bilingual teaching assistants in Lancashire.

So the head teacher, she said, you know, I will bring an application for you and I said to her I haven’t filled any form before. She said she can help me. There were a few questions I didn’t understand, and I still remember the name of that teacher, Karen McNulty she was called. She helped me to fill that form. And she said, you know, you are capable, and you apply for this job. So I applied for that job.

And I was very lucky. I was shortlisted for that job. I think it was in 1989 and we were being interviewed I would like to say either. It was May, May or June. There were some questions, you know, job-related. Have you done this job before? and your experience and that kind of thing, you know.

I was finding it really difficult to understand those questions, especially you know, experience that was a difficult question because I didn’t have any experience in any paid job. So then Karen McNulty that teacher told me that oh, you have got this good experience because you have done this voluntary job. So we will put that as your experience in your job. So I understand I think you know I said that that is okay. And then there were a few more questions. I can’t remember them. I don’t remember, but they were quite difficult.

I remember when I went for this interview, the interview was being done at Spring Hill Nursery and I think that was the nursery head teacher. And I still remember her name. She was called, Mrs. Rowe, and she and there was one or two other people, you know, sitting by her, so there were about three people who interviewed me. And they just asked me a little bit, you know, about my family and my education if I have any education or any work experience. And I don’t think so.

I don’t think the interview was as difficult as I was expecting because it was the first time, and I was really nervous. I thought, you know, they might ask me very difficult question that I can’t answer. But most of their questions I understood, and they were okay. And then they asked me to translate a letter, they gave me a small letter and they said that if you can translate this letter and write it as well, you know, that translation. They want to see written as well. So I looked, there was a paragraph so I translated it and I wrote it down and I gave that to them.

Maybe, you know, they wanted to see either, you know, she can understand, she can speak, so they asked me to translate…they gave me the paragraph in English, and I had to translate in front of them and write underneath and give that back to them.

I think, after a few days, you know, they informed me that you are successful, you know, and you are capable. We are choosing you for this job and I was really pleased because at that time, there were, I think they were going to employ 18 people in Lancashire and the people who went for interview, they were 80 people. 80 people applied for… I was thinking, there is no chance I will be able to get that job, but then they told me I was very, very pleased. And I thought, I am very lucky that I have got this job.

Yes, my husband, ,he said, yes, you know, he’s quite happy that I will work because and he, he knew, that I was depressed a lot. So he thought, you know, going to school at helping teach helping children and be, you know, involved with maybe other community members, you know, I will feel better. So he didn’t stop me. He was really happy that I am going because he was at work, my children used to go to school and sitting alone at home. I was depressed. So my husband was quite happy.

My job was like, the job title, was bilingual teaching assistant. So most of the time because at that time the little children, my job was with nursery children as they start, you know, from three years old when they start coming to school. They were, most of them, not capable to speak or understand any English. So, my role was that when teacher was saying anything to them, I have to explain to them. When they were reading stories to them, I have to explain and teach that story in their mother tongue, either Punjabi or Urdu, whatever they were saying. And translating letter for school, that was my part of my job, as well. I was just at that time. They ask me, we are very lucky. You know, that we have got you and you can translate these letters. So any letters they were sending for parents, like, you know, for parents’ evenings or for any school holidays. The head teacher was asking me to translate that letter and the teachers were asking me to write some words in Urdu as well, you know, for their notice boards. And whenever they were delivering activities for children, they were asking me to translate that in Urdu or Punjabi and their mother tongue as well.

They just told me the basic rules. You know, I don’t think there was any health and safety training in that that time. It could be but I can’t remember any, they just show me, you know, the school and the nursery where I was going to work, what will be my role and how I will help…and maybe you know, a group of children which were really struggling. I used to work most of the time with them as well. So I wasn’t being given any training.

Because at the end at that time, you know, our job was, there were most, most of the time there were female jobs, because when they had advertised bilingual jobs- there should be, but I can’t remember where the school I used to work, I was the only female who used to work with Nursery children. There were about, I would say, the head teacher was male and there were few more male teachers, but most of them, they were female teachers.

Actually, you know, when I did get my first pay, I was so happy. The first time I saw, you know, that and there was something, you know, tax deduction, and things like that. I didn’t understand. What was that? So I showed it to my husband and he explained to me, you know, in this country when you are working, you know, sometimes, you know, they take this is the percentage you know, they take your tax out. Mine was only very, very little, you know, they take because my job was part-time. It was only 16 ¼ hours.

So, but first, I went and they were giving us like, you know, payslips, I keep that. I still remember. I kept that payslip on my top shelf, you know, and I showed because my mum used to live in Pakistan and I told my mom, this is my first wage I have received and I was very happy. I told my children as well. I was showing them. Look, look, look! the first time I have worked in England. I didn’t work in Pakistan, but first time working in here, I feel, I feel really, really happy. And at that time, you know, we were getting the cheque, so I didn’t put my cheque in the bank for a couple of weeks. I kept that cheque!

I haven’t got any kind of experience (of inequality) because where I was working, all the staff, they were all female. There was not any male staff working in there because we were all bilingual teaching assistants and the teachers, they were all female. I can’t remember, you know, any like I would like to say that any physically or any that that kind of racism. But once you know, the I think one of the teaching assistants, she raised this point that she mentioned, you know, my name to head that, you know, this she is getting the Equal Pay, like we are getting and she has not any experience or any like, you know, teaching assistant qualification or any Nursery nursing qualification, and she is getting the same wage.

So, I’m sure, you know, the teacher, the head teacher said to her, that you are not bilingual. She is bilingual and she is getting equal pay because she has got this, you know, this different kind of unique skill. She can speak and understand more languages. So that’s why you’re equal, you and she is getting equal pay.

I didn’t take any notice. I thought you know, of the teacher, because the head teacher, who is responsible for all these things or the County Council. I don’t know, either she went to the County Council or somebody told me that she wrote a letter to the County Council as well or either the head teacher, wrote the letter to County Council, but they replied the same.

The trade union, I think, when I start this job in the beginning, I didn’t see anything that there is a trade union or just the union. I would like to say. After a couple of years, I received a letter even, you know, I remember, you know, they came in the school and they said, you know, that we are from union and if they told us, you know, why you need to join this union. Because if there is not any equal pay, or, you know, when anything is if you want to complain or anything, you know, you can join the union and I asked somebody else and I asked my husband as well. You know, what is the benefit of joining the union?

So, he explained to me that where he works, he has joined a union as well. And this has recently come. So I said, yes, I will join the union and they were only taking. I would like to say, three to four pounds per month, out of my wage. So I joined that union and I asked the teachers, you know, what is this union for? And the nursery head, she told me that they are starting this union because a couple of years ago, the men and women, they were not getting the same salary in this country. The women were getting less salary than the men and she told me that here as well, you know, the women came out and they did a big campaign they went on strike and they said you know why are we not getting, you know, we are working the same and why are we not getting equal pay? So now, you know, they have made this union and if anybody is thinking, you know, that they are not treated equally this union can help you.

I think I was finding it difficult when I started working because English was not my first language. And in these days, you know, the girls who are being born and brought up in this country, they can go in any field wherever they want to go. I actually know I was quite happy, but at that time I was thinking that if my English was better or if I have done a few courses or you know, go to university level of education I could go for a good profession, because in health sector and some other jobs in this country. Because if you have got a bilingual language you can go for really good jobs and the salaries are good as well. You know, some people told me that bilingual people they are earning a lot of money per hour as well. So that was my thought you know, that if I could do better than that, you know, maybe, but I really enjoyed that Nursery job as well. I have learned a lot that give me really good experience and through that job, you know, I was helping my own children as well.

I could remember, maybe there should be opportunities. But because I can’t speak very good English and I haven’t done any courses in this country, I don’t know. There should be some job. I didn’t see anybody, you know, the when the people were looking at me the community people, they were really they were feeling really proud and happy, oh, look, you know, an Asian woman is in this school, and she is working.

And because at that time, most of the people, they don’t understand any English, and especially the ladies, and they were coming to school, nothing. They don’t understand anything. So they really feel happy that we have got here. And she’s explaining our feelings, and she is a bilingual as well, to understand our language. So yes, they were feeling really happy, and I think I was feeling happy at that time that I have got this opportunity to help my community and they are always happy. So I really liked that job.

I finish my job in 2015-16. I worked for 24 years, the same, yes, in the same school and I really enjoyed working in there. There were a few more years I could work. But because, you know, I was diabetic and I was finding it really difficult because working with nursery children, it is, it is not easy. You have to run after them, you know, you have to then I was feeling really tired, so I thought I will get early retirement and at that time, you know, we could get early retirement. So I decided to get an early retirement.

I think I have mentioned that if I used to have better education, I could have gone, you know, I’d like to work in health sector because there are quite a lot of people, you know, they need help in their health. Because sometimes I go, I go with the ladies, I am doing this voluntary work sometimes. I am going with these ladies. Sometimes they go you know, to see a specialist and they don’t understand and I’m helping them. You know, this is a voluntary job. I like to go with them and sometime, you know, if they need to make an appointment or if they need to go to see the teachers, I am still, you know, going with them. So I was thinking if I did get the opportunity and I would