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Shoomi Chowdhury

Meet Shoomi

Shoomi Chowdhury

Director of Programmes

The story of your name 

Shoomi is Bengali in origin and in keeping with tradition, my parents did what many Bangladeshi families do; rhyme the names of their children. I’ve never known what my name means but it was meant to follow my older sister’s name, Shooma, which means ‘good mother’. I’ve always told people that my name means ‘good person’. Another cool fact (cool to me anyway), is that many Bengali people have one name at home, known as “dak naam” and another used formally outside the home. Shoomi is actually my “dak naam”. My formal name is Rohima, Arabic in origin, it is the name my mother gifted me and means ‘compassionate one’. I try and live up to it everyday. 

Your role & what it means on a day-to-day basis

As Director of Programmes, I look after the development of our programmes like Enabling Environments. At Sour Lemons, collaboration, innovation and disruption is at the heart of what we do. I get to work with this radically generous and fiercely intelligent squad of people to bring our principles of travel to life. Day-to-day, I manage our flagship partnerships with prominent London theatres who are dedicated to transforming their organisations and contributing to changing the arts and cultural sector in being actively anti-racist. Our methodology is iterative and it is my role to learn and adapt our programmes for maximum impact. I work with a group of badass, powerful facilitators who deliver our methodology and play a crucial role in improving how we work and transform the organisations we work with.  

Which of the principles of travel you align with most and why 

Radical Generosity and a Mandate to Disrupt. I have a record of disruption, agitation and getting things done, all whilst centring the lived experience of people and communities impacted by oppressive structures. At the heart of my work is the wellbeing of people, collective liberation and sharing joy. I have been challenging systems of power from school, where I was excluded three times, through to activism in my community and internal advocacy at work. I’ve always sought to be a part of the solution and as an educator, being radically generous in taking people on journeys of learning and unlearning and shifting attitudes and mindsets is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Being able to bring all of this to life at Sour Lemons is quite literally nourishment for my soul. 

The way that you ground yourself 

My faith grounds me. I’m Muslim and I offer prayers five times a day. Each lasts only five minutes or so, but those moments, reflecting, humbling myself to God’s Graciousness and Might, reminds me to continue living my life by my values. Any morning that is grounded in prayer, reciting the Holy Qur’an and going for a walk whilst I catch up with my besties or my family, especially my two year old niece, Noura, is always guaranteed to be a good day. InshaaAllah!

Something you are proud of 

I am proud to be the daughter of Hamida and Nurul Islam Chowdhury. My parents are the epitome of love, care and sacrifice whilst raising us with an abundant mindset and radically generous spirit. They are my friends, guides and champions. They make me feel boundless in what I can accomplish and buying them a home and embarking on Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) with them are amongst my proudest accomplishments. 

Outside of Sour Lemons

I have a massive and closely knit family and a great squad of friends AKA my chosen family. I love spreading joy, doing community work and occasionally like to jump out of planes. I am a Trustee at three local Muslim charities in Suffolk and Essex, a Steering Group Member at the Female Leadership Academy for Suffolk Football Association and a mentor for Muslim female leaders at the Muslim Council of Britain.

I joined Sour Lemons after seven years at Amnesty International UK where I transformed the Adult and Activist Education Programmes leaving behind an education model grounded in anti oppression, intersectionality and a rights respecting methodology.

In 2018, I was named as one of Suffolk’s 100 Most Inspirational Women. The most inspirational woman I know is my mum!

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