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CSO Spotlight: Islamic Ladies Social and Cultural Association (ILSCA)

Islamic Ladies Social and Cultural Association (ILSCA)

Contact: Sr. Shaleeza Khan-Ali (President)
Phone: (868) 755-6185

 Foundation member and former President the Late Dr. Joan Homaida Kazim, former Treasurer the Late Haseena Ali and Foundation member Mrs. Haffeeza Mohammed at an ILSCA function in 2008
 Foundation member and former President the Late Dr. Joan Homaida Kazim, former Treasurer the Late Haseena Ali and Foundation member Mrs. Haffeeza Mohammed at an ILSCA function in 2008

        In June 1970 some visionary women spanning the many Muslim organizations of Trinidad and Tobago came together to establish a united women’s organization. Their major goal was to contribute to the sustainable development of our nation in the field of social welfare, Islamic and secular education and cultural activities. Out of this initiative the Islamic Ladies Social and Cultural Association (ILSCA) was formed in 1971 with its objectives being, inter alia:
●      promoting the understanding and practice of Islam, locally and elsewhere.
●      rendering humanitarian and charitable services as an Islamic duty
●      Social and cultural activities
        These initial foundation members led by Dr. Joan Homaida Kazim and ably supported by Mrs. Zalayhar Hassanali (former First Lady of Trinidad and Tobago), Mrs. Hazrah Hamid, Mrs. Khelafan Mustapha, Mrs. Yvonne Shah, Mrs. Hanifa Rahman, Mrs. Nellie Khan, Mrs. B. Imam Baksh, Mrs. Haffeeza Mohammed, Mrs. Ayesha Dookie, Ms. Maida Ali and Mrs. Hafeeza Ali, to name a few, developed a foundation which has seen over 50 years of growth as an NGO.
        They were subsequently joined by more women of substance who played their part, as executive members and committee members, continuing ILSCA’s development, meeting and surpassing its initial objectives. Some of these continue to play a role in ILSCA, such as Mrs. Zaiboon Khan, Mrs. Sharena Nabbie, Mrs. Acklima Ali, Mrs. Nafisa Ali, Hosein sisters, Ali sisters and Mrs. Rasheeda Mohammed to name a few.

Vice-president Zaiboon Khan, President Shaleeza Khan-Ali and Acklima Ali present scarves to Dr. Danielle Hadeed of the Cancer Society at the Society’s monthly meeting in April 2015.

Our Mission statement: ILSCA is a leading Muslim women’s organization that promotes Islam and the overall upliftment and development of women and family life. We improve the well-being of communities by:
● Providing social work and poverty alleviation services to those most in need
● Promoting Islamic education, and culture, and Da’Wah
● Networking and advocacy to influence policy decisions at all levels
To fulfill our mission, some of our projects/activities include:
Social Welfare – Poverty Alleviation
Our Social Welfare Programme started from inception in 1971. The objective of this Programme has always been to assist destitute and needy families throughout the country, either through the sponsorship programme or with one-time assistance.
Through our Sponsorship Programme we assist families financially every two months, in addition to counseling them in areas such as family life, parenting, health/environment, education and finance, as is necessary. Currently the country is divided into fourteen geographical areas and we service these sponsored clients through our caregivers who are members of our Association, who give of themselves voluntarily.
We consider our programme to be quite successful since we are continuously able to take some of the sponsored clients off the programme as they become self-sufficient and add others who are in need.
School Book and Uniform Program
On an ongoing basis ILSCA assists our sponsored families with the annual costly responsibility of providing the much-needed tools for school. Additionally, during the COVID-19 pandemic, having a device and connectivity to the internet was a necessity. In order to ensure that the children of our sponsored families had the opportunity to realize their potential during that trying time, we had provided at least one device for each of our sponsored families with children.
Islamic Education
Throughout the years ILSCA has sought to fulfill this objective via a variety of innovative as well as conventional ways:
● Starting in the 70’s we provided basic religious teachings through our weekly Maktab classes.
● In the 80’s we had adult classes in the areas of Islamic history, Arabic as a language and distribution of Islamic literature
● Essay writing competitions, quizzes and poetry reading.
● In 2018 ILSCA collaborated with other organizations to conduct a 2-day Seminar on the Islamic Laws of Inheritance
ILSCA held a range of Health Education Programmes covering topics on Breast Cancer, drug abuse, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, Heart Diseases and Aids and the Quranic Injunctions. Courses have also been offered on ‘Care of the Elderly’.
In 2020 upon recognizing the negative impact of the Covid pandemic on teens, we conducted a seminar entitled “Life Can Be Tough, But Mental Health Matters”. This extremely vital session was conducted over Zoom by Clinical Psychologist Dr. Katija Khan. It was well attended and moreover, highly appreciated by teens and parents.
Cultural Activities
Throughout the years, ILSCA brought, to the general public, an appreciation of Islam as a religion and as a cultural experience. Through exhibitions, expositions and a concert we showcased the influence Islam had on the different cultures around the world and on Arts, Science, Medicine, Food and Architecture. For example:
• “The Origin and Spread of Islam” exhibition highlighted the spread of Islam.
• “The Bachon ki Dunya” (Children of the World) concert set in the Alhambra Palace was held in Queens Hall and Naparima Bowl. It featured the works of scientists, poets and philosophy, art and science.
• “Ramadan – a Month of Blessing” exhibition held at NALIS and the Atrium at the Airport exposed the nation to the concept and benefits of fasting during Ramadan.

Panelists and some participants at our seminar on the “Age of Marriage in Islam” in 2012

In 2012, ILSCA hosted a Seminar on the “Age of Marriage in Islam”. The objective of the seminar was to provide a response, from the Muslim community to the proposed Standardization of the marriage age in T&T by the Government. The five (5) major Muslim Organizations in T&T, namely ASJA, Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Institute, Darul Uloom, TIA and TML were invited to participate in this seminar; we also had representation from the UIO, IRS and IDM. We examined what currently holds in our Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act and looked at whether any changes should be recommended to the Act. The intention was to culminate with a Position Paper which would be signed off by all Organizations participating and sent to the Government. In order for the facts pertaining to this, to be properly studied and discussed in a rational and objective manner by the Muslim community we had presentations in the following 4 areas:
● The Shariah Law regarding the Age of Marriage
● Medical Implications of Early Marriage
● Psycho-Social Implications of Early Marriage
● Legal Issues regarding the Age of Marriage and the Age of Consent
What benefits did it deliver?
After the Seminar a committee was formed to write the Position Paper this committee comprised of members from the various organizations. The Position Paper was sent to the Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development in 2013. This was the start of ILSCA enabling the Muslim Community to put forward Position Papers and publish full page articles on social issues affecting the national community, such as:
● 2012 & 2017 Marriage Act
● 2014 Parenting
● 2019 Decriminalization of Marijuana
● 2021 Crime and Gender Based Violence
● 2023 The Atrocities and Humanitarian Crisis in Palestine

In 2018 ILSCA recognized the need for the development of all the members of our sponsored families. A workshop was designed with concurrent sessions which would benefit these families in the following 4 groupings:
 – Parents
 – Young children 6 – 10 years
 – Young adults 11-16 years
 – Tertiary Level 17 – 21 years
Sessions were facilitated by well trained and qualified members of ILSCA as well as trained and qualified well-wishers.
In the 6 – 10 years age group:
Ayanna Omawale conducted an interactive, lively and fun session offering guidance through all aspects of “Hygiene & Keeping My Body Safe”.
Zainab Abdullah with the use of colourful and easy to follow visual aids gave a significant, age-appropriate presentation, clearly defining her topic “Friendship, Peer Pressure, Conflict Resolution & Bullying” Nimah Muwakil happily supported by Naseema Ali and other enthusiastic helpers conducted the “Art Activity” with this group giving the talented 6 – 8 years and 9 – 10 years children different art projects. They were able to proudly display their creative works of art with their families afterwards.
In the 11 – 16 years age group:
Zainab Abdullah again with her topic took it up a notch to the level of these participants.
On the topic of “Puberty and Hygiene” Dr. Adam Khan coached the boys in a discreet, interactive and informative session.
Dr. Ayana Ramrekha coached the girls beginning with each individual introducing herself in a friendly, interactive and safe and sound session.
Anievia Baksh-Khan’s topic “Study Tips, Time Management & Responsible Use of Social Media” was thoughtfully interactive where the kids formed smaller groups to create and present their own timetable charts displaying the best use of time for various activities including time allotted to studying.
The Tertiary level young adults’ group:
Shameen Ali, conducted “Social Interactions – Peers, Parents & Personal Relationships.”
Naseema Ali skillfully conducted “Financial Management” from her knowledge in this field. Her mother, Haseena Ali, honed by years of experience adding on as needed, as the participants were guided by the two in the best way to fulfill these fundamental needs.
Natasha Garib, supported by Angeli Elliot, coached on “Getting Ready for the World of Work”, including CV writing and interview skills. These young potential leaders were skillfully taken through each step of this process.
Haseena Ali with the assistance of Naseema Ali coached the parents in “Financial Management.”
Denise Mohammed then coached on “Parenting Skills”. She introduced scenarios on communication skills and goals to individual problem solving.
Hatim Mohammed’s session on “Conflict Resolution” was interesting and interactive. His session was informative and engaging. Throughout the day, useful handouts and information on relevant services were provided by presenters, while refreshments were offered at intervals.
General Sessions for all Present
Mr. Siewdath Dupraj conducted an exceptionally useful and educational session on “Growing Our Own Food”. To complete an already well-rounded approach to this outreach programme, Dr. Darleen Franco conducted her session on “General Medical – healthy lifestyle, proper diet & exercising.” This was followed by Dr. Felisa Ramdass on “Dental Care”.
What change did it cause, create, or enable?
● It helped equip families to gain better skills for this life that we have all been gifted with. It was phenomenal, as each imperative pillar of support in dealing with life was indeed effectively addressed.
● Some parents remarked that this was the first time they were exposed to information on financial management, parenting skills and how to address problems through mediation.
● The general session” Growing our own Food” showed parents and children alike how simple it was to achieve this. They received tomato, patchoi and seme seedlings and seeds and subsequently showcased their produce weeks later.

Distribution of clothes for those affected by flooding in Bamboo Village in 2022

ILSCA continues to:
 • promote the religion of Islam in Trinidad and Tobago, regionally and internationally
 • Cultivate, preserve and upkeep the institution of family life
 • To collaborate with other Organizations (Islamic, non-Islamic and civil society), to improve the well-being of society, promoting goodwill and harmony in T&T
        Our focus remains to improve the well-being of communities through the provision of social and humanitarian services, to those most in need. As part of our advocacy and community support throughout the years, following are some of our more recent activities:
        In 2015, we collaborated with the Cancer Society and Pretty Powerful groups to donate Head Scarves, to be used by cancer survivors. We knew that scarves would assist those managing the side effects of hair loss during treatment.
        In 2016 in commemoration of International Women’s Day, the Network of NGO’s implemented an initiative to distribute Care Packages to victims of Domestic Violence. ILSCA participated by donating packages towards this cause.
       In 2017 with the devastating impact of the hurricane in Dominica and other islands, ILSCA, our members and well-wishers contributed towards the purchase of Crix, Canned Items, Soap and Sanitary Products. These items were sent to Dominica with the assistance of the Muslims of TT NGO.
ILSCA, our members and well-wishers also contributed towards the purchase of galvanised sheets which were also sent to Dominica with the assistance of Br. Ashmead Ali of the Ashnad Foundation. Also, in 2017 ILSCA initiated action geared toward bringing a measure of relief to families affected by the flooding in central and south Trinidad. We coordinated contributions from a number of organizations and other individuals. On the weekend of the flooding, 1,300 meals as well as mattresses were distributed with the assistance of Br. Ashmead Ali of the Ashnad Foundation.
        In 2021 due to the volcano eruption, we responded to the St Vincent and the Grenadines relief effort by contributing 1,680 cases of water. We received enormous financial support from our members and well-wishers towards this effort. This was delivered to the people of St. Vincent through the Muslims of T&T NGO. Also, in 2021 in response to the overwhelming number of cases of Violence and Crime Against Women, ILSCA met with members to brainstorm ideas that would reflect the Muslim women’s response to what had been happening in our country with respect to the increase of violent crimes against women. Coming out of this discussion, a full-page article was printed in the Express and the Guardian Newspapers on Sunday 14th February 2021. The Article called for the coming together of civil society to bring about the necessary changes to our beloved country. This Article was the genesis for an NGO “Call to Action” which has started work by focusing on 4 of the areas of our society which were highlighted in the Article:
● Parenting and Family Life
● Education
● Culture
● Judiciary and Law Enforcement
        The objective is to bring about the necessary changes in the society for a better Trinidad & Tobago, whether institutional or societal.
        In November 2022, to bring some measure of relief to families affected by the flooding in Bamboo Village, ILSCA provided 325 meals which were distributed through the Bamboo Jamaah in boats supplied by the residents. In December, ILSCA made available a large amount of clothing, footwear and household items, at the Bamboo Masjid Hall. The clothing which remained after this venture was packaged and sent to the Woodland area to those also affected by flooding.
        As it has done in the past, ILSCA continues to partner with various NGO’s and Governmental agencies for the benefit of the national community and thereby engendering community spirit.
What should people know about your organisation?
Our Vision: We envisage communities empowered and transformed by our programmes and services that conform to the principles of Islam.

       With all the resources necessary, we would like to set up a home for those women in need of a safe home or a temporary shelter, by providing short-term shelter and the opportunity for coaching toward sustainable and gainful employment or entrepreneurship undertakings. We would like to provide mentors to teach and train these women in various fields of cottage industries in order to enable them to perform various tasks and skilled trades, with the intention of marketing for sustainable income. In this way, curtailing dependency and by extension bringing value to the wider nation. We would set up training & computer rooms, industrial kitchens, woodworking tools or clay ovens, sewing rooms and such depending on the trade.
       In addition to this, we would like to facilitate appropriate emotional, psychological and Islamic counseling services when needed.

Annually we recognize the children of our sponsored families who have been successful at various examinations – SEA, CSEC, CAPE and Tertiary level. However, during the Covid 19 pandemic that was not possible. In December 2023 we recognized 47 students who achieved these milestones during the period 2020 – 2023. We also took the opportunity to also recognize the children of our members who were successful at these exams.

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