Jasmin is a single parent and trustee at Gingerbread. She is passionate about improving the lives of single parents, young people and their families. She is a a former deputy headteacher and also advises on various public sector panels while currently working as a freelance education consultant.
This weekend will mark Eid al-Fitr and as always, it will be embraced with lots of laughter and joy, both in the UK and globally. After a whole month of fasting, self-restraint and discipline, Muslims all around the world will be able to eat during daylight and that much needed tea or coffee will be consumed again.
In the UK, it will fall on a bank holiday weekend, another reason to celebrate despite lockdown.
For Gingerbread, it will be a time to support Muslim single parents and carers who may find things challenging. Often during events such as Eid, single parents are ostracized and are not invited to big clan-like shindigs.
And if they are invited, awkward questions by those “well-meaning” relatives are often asked about the family status. Especially if those parents have left of their own volition because of domestic violence, honour abuse, or are even widowed. They are often excluded, and money is often tight. With COVID-19, this will be even worse and the effects of being in isolation and straitened circumstances will be felt even more deeply.
Single parents all over the world will still “thrive and strive” and still make events like Eid special, but the lack of inclusion is felt by them and their children.
This year, with lockdown, things will be different, but I am sure there will be virtual forms of stigma.
The Muslim community (I am not saying all are like this) has proud traditions of looking out for the vulnerable and the needy, charitable giving and creating a sense of community, especially during Ramadan. But sometimes this support does not often extend to single parents.
This was my own experience as a single parent who left a very abusive relationship. I am lucky as I have great friends and created networks who have supported me. Not everyone is so lucky.
While I have little to do with the organised part of the religion, it is really clear in the Quran that single parents are vulnerable and must be identified as needing support.
In fact, within the history of the world’s monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism and Christianity) single parents play an important role, with many examples of single parents within the holy books. Mary, or Maryam, the mother of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad’s own mother Aminah are key examples.
As a deputy head, working for the most deprived children in the country, many of the children I worked with were from single-parent families from all types of backgrounds. Some witnessed honour abuse, domestic violence, financial abuse or just trauma when things haven’t worked out.
Some parents were single parents who were young and were victims of their choices. I witnessed pain, isolation and helplessness, but those single parents continued to work hard to look after their families despite being shortchanged. The Gingerbread helpline is a stark reminder of how desperate people have become.
When working in schools, it was heartbreaking to listen to the single parents who often felt excluded or children were not asked to play because people were too busy with their own family commitments. Single parent fathers were looked at as odd creatures. Holidays such as Eid were difficult times.
Being a single parent can still be a stigma wherever you come from, but in some communities, it can be much worse than others.
If you are a single parent who is struggling, you can reach out to Gingerbread for practical advice and guidance from the expert advisers on our helpline. We can also support you if you think you may become a single parent and or if you are ringing on behalf of a single parent. Find out more about the helpline here.
If you are someone who knows single parents that are struggling, please reach out to them and also tell them about Gingerbread, a charity dedicated to supporting single parents and their families.
Before the Eid prayers, every Muslim must pay Fitrana, a charitable amount for every member of their household which is obligatory. This leads into my heartfelt request: please help Gingerbread reach single parents during the lockdown by donating to their emergency appeal.
Gingerbread offers expert advice, information and a peer support network of single parents that can help many single parents who need support. They also carry out valuable research and campaign for change to improve the lives of single parents and their families. It provides support when single parents from all incomes are the most vulnerable.
Being a single parent is not means-tested and as a single parent myself, I know that it isn’t just about financial poverty, but emotional poverty too. Anyone can suffer from stigma, isolation and loneliness.
Gingerbread’s staff are passionate about improving the lives of single parents and their families, no matter who they are.
So go on, dig deep and make a difference to those who need it. Every penny and every pound makes a difference! Make a donation today.