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Rita wears reindeer antlers whilst preparing food packages on Christmas Day

Trailblazing Labour candidate fights to paint West Central red

A Westminster City Labour councillor and mother-of-four hopes to take the West Central General London Assembly position from the Conservatives for the first time since it was founded in 2000.

Elected as Maida Vale’s first Labour councillor since 1986 only days after her father passed away in 2014, Rita Begum went on to be re-elected in 2018 straight after the birth of her fourth child.

She now fights to win the West Central GLA seat on the 6th May election from Conservative colleague Tony Devenish who has held the position since 2016. 

Begum said: “The main difference between me and Tony Devenish is that I come to the GLA with fresh eyes.

“My kids have been very supportive, and so has my husband.

“I want to win this. I want to make sure I do it for them and do it for my community. I am what I am and I’m hoping to make a great assembly member.”

“MY FAMILY HAVE BEEN SO SUPPORTIVE”: Rita Begum campaigns in Maida Vale with her young son

Knowing no English when she first moved to England from Bangladesh aged eight, Begum was the target of racial abuse and bullying at school which built her resilience and determination, especially in the face of the discrimination she still experiences. 

Begum said: “I’ll nod my head and get on with it, but it was horrible and it didn’t stop. I still put a face to it, and get on with it, that’s the kind of person I am.

“I get people coming to me sharing these experiences. We want to make it better for everyone.”

Inspired to become politically active by MP Karen Buck, Begum has delivered many successful campaigns over the years, particularly her huge role in the six-year-long successful campaign to re-build the recently re-opened historic Carlton Tavern ‘brick by brick’. 

Growing up in Queens Park Estate, Paddington, Begum particularly benefited from The Avenues Youth Project and is driven to provide other young people with these opportunities. 

She said: “I had to learn English quickly, and I did that as a child, to be my parents’ advocate. I managed that for my community too, and I still feel really committed to doing that.

“Thanks to Avenues Youth Project in Queens Park that I attended as a child, I managed to visit all those fantastic places we have in the UK which my parents couldn’t take me to because they didn’t drive. 

“I have been able to explore that with my kids thanks to the opportunity I was given.”

500 CARE PACKAGES ON CHRISTMAS DAY: Rather than spending Christmas with her family, Begum sought to lift spirits and help those less fortunate than herself

Over lockdown, she has particularly focused her efforts on supporting food banks in her constituency, helping charity The Smile Brigade distribute 500 meals for Hammersmith and Fulham residents in need on Christmas Day.

She added: “People are so delighted and so thankful, when you look at the smiles that they give you it feels like an amazing privilege that you can do that for them.”

She echo’s Sadiq Kahn’s stance on everything from creating more youth opportunities to tackling violent crime from the root, quoting him verbatim, but reiterates that as a young BAME mother she particularly wants to amplify the voices of those who ‘continue not to be heard’. 

Photos courtesy of Rita Begum

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