Emma: So, I’ve just asked everybody to introduce themselves at the beginning so something about themselves, who you are, just introduce yourself!
Zee: My name is Zee. Err, I head up Zfit which is a women’s health and well-being – I think it started off as a fitness/Zumba but it’s kind of evolved a little bit into a sort of health and holistic well-being organisation in Leicester. I also…err…work at the job centre. I am a single Mum. I think that’s me.
Emma: Why did you want to take part in this project? Why did you wanna do it?
Zee: [clears throat] Erm, it all kind of started when I saw the artwork at the African Caribbean centre and the pieces that I saw just told such a story, and i…just thought well you know- I… had well I’ve erm. Zfit’s been going on for about 8 years now. It wasn’t just about me it was more about what I knew of the ladies of Zfit and I just thought, you know what? Err, something like this would be so good…for some of the women of Zfit. Just cus they’ve got so much, th-there’s just so much there to tell and for the world to know about. So, then I tried to find out who was behind the project and well, you know it was someone that actually came to one of my classes! I thought you know what this is just meant to be, this is just destiny, so. It was just, the the paint- the paintings drew me. And I just thought, I wanted to be part of this. I don’t know how, I don’t know how it’s gonna evolve or, where it’s gonna take me but, the woman of Zfit and, we just need to be involved in somehow.
Emma: How do you describe strength?
Zee: Strength is a combination of your physical…it’s not actually it’s not even physical. It’s internal. Strength is an internal reflection of…how you deal with the circumstances that you’re in and, and what life throws at you. It’s how you react to circumstances, is strength.
Emma: And, what do you feel resilience means?
Zee: It’s your ability to keep getting back up when you get knocked down.
Emma: Who is the most resilient person you know?
Zee: My Dad. Yeah, my Dad without a shadow of a doubt.
Emma: Why is he?
Zee: My Dad met my Mum when he was very young, fell in love. It was a mixed religion marriage so he had a lot of battles, right from the onset back in the 70’s. And erm…he had a lot of resistance and he had me as well, quite young. They were both quite young. But as soon as they both had me, my Mum she got postnatal depression and she couldn’t cope with being a Mum. She went through quite a traumatic experience after that, with the medical profession, which meant that she, literally in herself was gone so…my Dad literally from the woman that he loved, he knew for 3 years…was left with a woman that was a shadow of, well she wasn’t who she was but he’s been caring for her ever since. For 40 years. His whole life he’s devoted. When it comes to mental illness, it’s a massive stigma. So, he’s basically had no support from his family or anybody. It’s only just really in the last few years that people have started to come out and talk about, to help and support people who are going through it. But back in the days I was growing up and when my Mum got ill. It was just completely hidden, especially with our culture. So, it was just me and my Dad. So, I grew up caring for my Mum, so I-I did all the work during the day and my Dad would come home from work and, and that was his life. When he retired, from morning to night he, he just cares his whole life. And whatever life throws at him, he just keeps getting back up.
Emma: Do you think you are a resilient person?
Zee: I would like to think so yeah, well I hope so.
Emma: Do you think you’ve always been resilient?
Zee: Yeah. Yes, yeah I had to be, I had no choice. [laughs] Had no choice in that matter, growing up cus I-I kind of grew up without a Mum. Dad was obviously busy looking after Mum so it was kind of, erm, I just had to grow up didn’t I? [laughs] Just kind of happened.
Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve needed that resilience and strength?
Zee: I think you turn that question on your head and say is there a time that I’ve not needed it. Err, I’ve needed it, at every point of my life. Whether it be, as a child growing up, going through puberty, uni, marriage…being a Mum. Not, you know, bringing my daughter up. Yeah, I-I don’t actually remember a time when I’ve not needed it.
Emma: Can you think of times when you’ve not been strong?
Zee: I think…[sighs] as I was growing up. I was a carer, my Mum relied, I had to do everything for her. So, I had to do all the physical, I had no choice because I had this human being. I might have been 6-7 years old but I still had that responsibility. I mean somehow, as kids you just, you just adapt don’t you? Resilient, that’s all I knew. So, up until I was 21 I had my Mum who just relied on me, all the time. So, I-I had no choice to be resilient and soon as I got married. Literally within the year, I had Lashana. So, there I had another human being who just completely was reliant on me because I was a single Mum for a lot of that time. So, throughout my life, up until…say…the last couple of years when my daughter’s kind of grown up a little bit and she’s becoming a lot. Cus I, I wanted to give her everything that I didn’t have. I wanted to make sure that she, she never, err, she never suffered in any way, shape or form the way I did when I was younger. So, there was no scope, room, o-or, there was no space for me to be anything but strong. But I would say, as she, kind of turned to the point where she started to become an adult. It almost felt like because she wasn’t relying on me so much, and there wasn’t these human beings that wou- because my parents were there but Dad was taking, was taking over a lot of the care for Mum so. It was weird when I hit 40. It was like, a bit of a train crash. It was a bit like, oh my gosh. You know, now I look back and I think, yeah I had a moment. I had a few moments where it just all, erm, things at work were not working out. I had a bit of a moment.
Emma: Where do you think you draw your strength from?
Zee: My faith. My faith has really kept me going. It’s what helps me rationalise my life. In terms of the way it’s kind of, panned out. So, a lot it’s my faith, my daughter, my parents, the woman who I help, who rely on me as well.
Emma: Have you ever been given any advice or support, which helped you draw more strength?
Zee: Yeah I have actually. I’ve been, the earliest I remember was when I was, when I was a kid was, my teacher…from primary school, Mr Hayton [laughs]. And as he used to really help me kind of get to grips with the situation I was in because obviously it wasn’t “the norm”. So, I think, during my childhood it was really good teachers that helped me. My Gran. Throughout my life, my Gran’s been there. She’s been my backbone. She’s helped me through everything. So, she’s been pivotal in drawing strength from. My friends. Yeah my friends have been there as well. Kind of, more as a kind of, just to…help me just to kind of get through the day to day stuff. The day to day stuff.
Emma: Has it been interesting with doing Zfit in terms of, culturally…I’m gonna say religion but not in your sense, in the whole like actually in terms of what people see?
Zee: Yeah, it’s been, been such a journey because you know it started off as a Zumba class and then I started getting more and more qualifications and we started adding more, more kind of classes onto the timetable. As my understanding and knowledge grew, I knew I started to understand that you cannot keep doing the same activity and using the same muscle groups in the same way because you’re gonna get people injured and, it’s not safe. Which is why I tried to choose, it took me-it takes me a long time to choose a programme, and then bring it into Zfit because I do a lot of research around that…to make sure that we are utilising different muscle groups and they all complement each other, so that the women that come to my classes, meet their goals in the most safest and most effective manner. But what that did was, when I started to go out to different areas, was…people started following me around. So, all of a sudden you’ve got people from one end of town, coming into another end of town that they wouldn’t normally come into, meeting with a whole bunch of ladies that they wouldn’t normally see on an everyday, in their everyday lives. And because Zee’s always late, they have to mingle with each other. I don’t do it deliberately honestly but I could say that! Say it’s all part of the plan, honestly [laughs]. I know I have an issue with lateness [chuckles] but they have to mingle with each other. All of a sudden they started to know..you know they like, th-thy there might be, there might be someone who obviously, there is a lot of stigma in Islamophobia and all this kind of stuff that’s going on. I’m not saying that, it’s not about Islamophobia. There’s a real…people have an interpretation of what Muslims are. And Muslims have probably a fear, on the side. So, all of a sudden you’re, you’re getting all the mingling going on and all of a sudden I started to see that friendships were forming, and all of a sudden…it kinda dawned on me that, in this environment between the hours of 5.30 and 6.30, when we had this class, there was no religion. There was no black culture, or cultural distinction, physical ability, age, colour. We were just women that we were facing the same daily struggles, that all connecting and helping each other, for that one hour through life and it was so beautiful if that’s the right word to use. It just was, and it was just like magic. So, um that’s when I started to do the events. I know people would think that these events were just all a bit of a laugh and fun, but they were…they were a chance for women to come, kind of get together away from the from the classes where you know, and get to socialise with each other, get to dress up a little bit, feel good, feel nice and you know all the hard work they’ve been doing. All the, you know, they’d work towards it, wearing the outfits and we’d have awards and they’d feel good. But essentially it was integration. It was all these women integrating and, and understanding actually you know what? We’re not all that different. You know, we’re all facing the same challenges. We’re all up against the same kind of insecurities! We all have the same insecurities, whether it be whatever colour we are, whatever religion we are. And we’re all facing the same battles, we all moan about the kids, you know and we moan about the husbands and, we’re not all that different. Regardless of what we believe, and what colour we and what size or shape we are. Makes no difference and that’s what Zfit is. That’s what it became.