Zlakha's pride at New Year's Honour
Zlakha Ahmed (51) set up Apna Haq 21 years ago and is also a member of the national Domestic Violence Working Group.
She was awarded the gong in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for her services to women’s rights and community cohesion in Rotherham.
Ms Ahmed said: “It is an honour and a privilege to be recognised in this way and I feel incredibly proud.
“Over the years we’ve probably helped between 2,000 and 3,000 people, which doesn’t sound a lot, but when you think we’re a tiny organisation in Rotherham working on an issue like domestic violence, it certainly is.”
Ms Ahmed said she founded the group, which is based on Coke Hill, after hearing from victims who felt they had nowhere to go for support.
She said: “I moved to Rotherham when I got married and I came across Asian girls who were suffering from domestic violence.
“They told me they had nowhere to go for help but when I spoke to some of the existing groups they said that not many people had gone to them.
“That frustration gave me an incentive. I thought to myself: ‘Let’s set up an organisation and see if there is the support for it.’
“It’s gone from there.”
Apna Haq, which means “my rights” in Urdu, helps women of all backgrounds, but specialises in those from ethnic minorities.
It employs advocates from different communities including Pakistani, Chinese and Czech who can reach victims and overcome language and culture barriers.
The group has helped 76 victims in the past year.
Ms Ahmed said: “I have seen a lot of changes since we founded.
“I realised that the problem the women were facing were that their issues were not being properly understood and therefore groups weren’t giving the correct response.
“I think what’s been recognised with the MBE is the experience that I have picked up over the years.”
The group was plunged into a financial crisis last year after Rotherham Borough Council said it would end its contract to provide domestic violence support from March.
Ms Ahmed said: “We are currently being funded by the council until March.
“We’ve got three months of reserves after that but we are currently in the process of applying for funding and grants from other organisations.
“I hope that this award will put the organisation back into the spotlight and help with those bids.”
When news of the contract being scrapped emerged in August, the council said it was confident that Rotherham Rise, formerly Rotherham Women’s Refuge, would be able to reach out to vulnerable women across the community.
A spokeswoman said: “We have chosen the provider that is best placed to provide specialist housing related support to black and minority ethnic women.”