Meet the Leeds community hero who helps domestic violence victims

Leeds community hero Tahira Khan didn't allow a death threat to stop her putting a victim of domestic violence first.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:45 am

The Leeds City Council community worker was helping a woman fleeing domestic violence when the husband arrived in the office reception.

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"She came to the centre asking for help and I helped her," said Tahira, of Alwoodley.

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Tahira Khan outside the Dewsbury Road Community Hub in Leeds.. Photo: Gary Longbottom

"While she was with me in the office her husband came into the building and started threatening me, demanding to see her.

"He said 'I'm going to kill you if you are not going to let my wife speak to me.' I said 'OK just give me a minute.'"

Tahira contacted a women's refuge and kept the man talking.

There was only one way in and out of the building so Tahira pushed the woman through an open window into the car park when the women's refuge team arrived.

Tahira Khan with her Lifetime Achievement Award certificate Photo: Gary Longbottom

They took the woman to safety before police arrived and arrested the man.

The incident is just one example of Tahira's dedication to helping others during her 38-year career with Leeds City Council.

Now Tahira, who works as a senior community development officer, has been honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award from Leeds City Council.

Tahira was aged 16 when she travelled from Pakistan to the UK in 1976.

Tahira Khan inside the Dewsbury Road Community Hub in Leeds.. Photo: Gary Longbottom

She completed a one-year access course at Bradford and Ilkley College before studying Youth and Community Studies at Bradford University.

She graduated in 1982 and the following year started working for Leeds City Council as the authority’s first library assistant for ethnic minorities, contacting publishers to source a more diverse range of books for library users.

After working in the library for more than a year she then spent six years as a social welfare officer for the council's social services department.

Tahira Khan at herv desk in the Dewsbury Road Community Hub in Leeds.. Photo: Gary Longbottom

In 1989 she became an adult education worker with the council's adult education department, helping students with careers advice, welfare issues and immigration status.

When that department was restructured in 1992, Tahira moved to the welfare department and became a senior community development officer.

She now works at Leeds City Council's Dewsbury Road Community Hub in Beeston and at St Matthew's Community Centre in Holbeck.

Tahira advises people on welfare and immigration and helps families suffering domestic violence problems.

She arranges safe accommodation for domestic violence victims and seeks legal advice and police protection for victims.

Before the pandemic Tahira arranged social events and trips to the seaside for underprivileged families.

"It is my passion to help people when they are in crisis or need," said Tahira. "I have a very soft nature and don't like to say no to anybody."

"I help my clients with welfare rights, housing, immigration, families and children issues and women fleeing violence.

"I encourage my clients from ethnic minorities communities to learn English language and IT skills.

"l am very grateful to my managers and colleagues. They are always very supportive and inspire me to do my job effectively.

"I am very proud to work with Leeds city council and they always give me support.

"It is my passion to help people when they are in crisis and need my help."

Tahira's manager Diane Coombes, said: "Tahira will go out of her way to help the community with their enquiries.

"Tahira holds surgeries to assist with forms and queries and group meetings to provide training in areas along with mental health support groups.

"During the pandemic Tahira set up a WhatsApp Group so her clients could still contact her and share forms with her so she could check them.

"Tahira gets great joy from helping the community and says while ever she can work, she will do. She is an inspiration to us all.

"I have to encourage Tahira to take her leave each year as she wants to be available for the community all the time.

"Before the pandemic Tahira would organise an outing each summer so the children of the community who wouldn't be able to get anywhere would have the opportunity to have some fun for the day.

"This was an inclusive event for anyone in the area and helped the communities mix."

Referring to the incident when Tahira was threatened while helping the woman fleeing domestic violence, Diane said: "This shows the level of care she has for the community and how she puts the needs of the community before herself.

"Since 1983 Tahira has strived to improve the lives of the clients she works with and I feel she strongly deserves the lifetime achievement award."

Tahira will be presented with the award and a trophy on a date yet to be fixed.

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