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Muslim Woman Makes History as First CEO of International Charity

Ridwana Wallace-Laher has made history becoming the first Muslim woman to be appointed the new Chief Executive Officer of an international Muslim charity.

Ridwana, a former teacher at the Yorkshire (Bradford) Co-op Academy Grange, will head Penny Appeal charity.

“I’m really pleased, these are exciting times and I feel like a trendsetter,” the former Co-op Academy Grange teacher told The Telegraph & Argus.

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“Bradford sometimes has negative connotations, and people here think they can’t get the top jobs, but this shows that your local girl from the city – a Muslim hijabi – can still achieve.

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“I’m a representation of the communities I’ve grown up in. Through hard work and dedication, us women can get those top roles.”

Set up in 2009, Penny Appeal has been providing poverty relief across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa by offering water solutions, organizing mass feedings, supporting orphan care and providing emergency food and medical aid.

Since then, they have transformed lives and empowered communities around the world, helping to break the poverty cycle and build brighter futures.

New Achievement

Although other, smaller Muslim charities have had female CEOs in the past, Penny Appeal claims to be the first working at the level it does to have appointed a woman in this position.

“It has been an honor to have been part of the core unit that has led the positive change Penny Appeal has made in the faith-led charity sector globally,” she said.

“My commitment to greater governance, collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement, combined with my background as a senior teaching professional, make me confident that I can drive Penny Appeal’s success even further in the future.”

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Mohammed Jahangir, Chairman of Trustees at Penny Appeal, said, “I am delighted to welcome Ridwana as new CEO of Penny Appeal. She stood out against all other candidates through a tough selection process, and we are proud to have her here.

“She is the first Muslim woman to hold the CEO position at a major international charity, and may she be the first of many.”

Ridwana is not the first Muslim woman to lead a Muslim group in the UK.

Zara Mohammed made history in 2021 as the first woman to become secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Later in August of the same year, she was named in British Vogue’s list of the 25 most influential women of 2021 for “laying foundations for a more equal future.”