Sabeena Ahmed with Nurse Mary Candy Lou
Thanks for dropping by!
I'm Sabeena, not to be confused with Ribena.
I'm a proud Mancunian, fairtrade campaigner, educator and social entrepreneur.
I'm also the owner of The Little Fair Trade Shop.
I love fairtrade chocolate and try to live a Fair Trade Ethical Living lifestyle.
I share my love of fairtrade with my long suffering husband Faisal and siblings Irem and Farooq.
For the past 30 years I have lived with Endometriosis and PCOS. There have been many challenging times, surgeries and healing. I've never stopped dreaming or pursing my ambitions.
I am optimistic that this blog will encourage other ladies from the South East Asian community to talk openly about their experiences of Endometriosis and PCOS.
This is a brief summary of my Endometriosis and PCOS journey.
Most female social entrepreneurs I know are multi talented, ambitious and innovative.
I feel blessed to be a member of an exclusive club of makers and doers. All action, brain storming, ethical learning, strategy and conversations.
I love that part of my life!
However, there is a part of my life that most people don't know about.
The days where I can't get out of bed, struggle to get household chores done and don't have the energy to answer emails, WhatsApp messages or call family.
This is my reality most days of the week but you would never know looking at me.
Here I am with my sister Irem - Dubai, February 2020
I'd like to change the narrative about many issues and this is one of them. Like many hidden illnesses Endometriosis and PCOS are conditions not many people understand.
Most Endo and PCOS survivors like myself are strong, fiercely independent and dislike fuss.
I seldom burden others with my issues and rarely ask for help due to my high pain thresholds. I have lived my life with the motto 'grin and bear it' ingrained in my mental psyche.
As a social entrepreneur it has been challenging and difficult to talk about Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome with stakeholders, family and friends who sadly dismiss this condition as laziness, melodramatic and weak.
Needless to say I have learnt to accept my condition and will continue to educate and support others who are experiencing difficult times.
I am not looking for sympathy but explaining who I am and how my condition affects me on a daily basis.
Simple tasks like taking a shower and getting dressed are exhausting.
Household chores like cooking, cleaning and ironing, the activities that I used to take take for granted are difficult to complete.
A brief history of my Endo and PCOS journey.
I can't remember when the painful stomach aches began. My mother took me to see a general practitioner who dismissed my pains as normal.
I was 10 or 11 when I had my first period.
Shhh! We don't talk about menstruation in the Muslim community, its taboo and a subject that is considered inappropriate. Growing up I don't remember ever having a conversation about the reproductive system with my mother.
For approximately 14 years I thought it was normal to feel like a gremlin during periods.
The cycle was the same every month.
It started with sharp migraines, followed by a bloated stomach (endo belly), gas, hot stabbing painful cramps, water retention, back and leg pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, pins and needles and numbness in my feet and legs and very heavy periods.
My family avoided me, I would argue with everyone. I was so irritable, the pain was unbearable.
I ate all carbohydrates, chocolate, bread, chips and foods that relieved the cramps. Sugar was my comfort and cure.
It didn't help that I had Beta Thalasaemia minor, If I could sleep I would.
I endured horrible painful cystic acne. I felt ugly and unattractive, I still wake up with breakouts, but I've learnt to accept that this is my normal.
During my teens and early twenties, I wanted to hide my hideous face.
My self esteem and confidence were at an all time low. I tried to conceal the acne with concealer but this had the opposite effect and any attempts I made to hide my acne failed abysmally, my face looked cakey and dry. I still don't wear any make up and only manage to apply basic eyeliner and lipstick.
Hiding your face is physically impossible in Asian circles especially when there is an endless list of functions and celebrations to attend.
I knew people especially Aunti ji's would judge and look at me in shock and horror.
They would say, what's happened to your face?
They always know how to make you feel UGH!
At 29 I collapsed at University and was referred to a fabulous gynaecologist who diagnosed my PCOS and Endometriosis.
Later that year I had my first laparoscopy and had polyps and cysts removed.
I felt like a new woman, I had boundless energy and ran around London teaching, preparing resources and looking after my in-laws.
It was refreshing to have all this new energy.
In 2008, I had my second surgery, but this time my recovery took 6 months.
During my recovery I established a passion for helping others, fairtrade social and trade justice and The Little Fair Trade Shop was born.
March 2020 I was admitted to hospital after a few weeks of excruciating pain in my left ovary.
After a CT scan I was told I had a cyst and required urgent surgery.
My cyst was removed 17th March 2020.
My consultant informed me that the cyst had ruptured and had welded itself to my colon and left ovary. He removed the white ruptured cyst cleaned me up, but could not see any signs of Endometriosis or PCOS due to the inflammation.
I was in two minds about attaching photographs of my ruptured cyst and decided against it.
To control my hormonal acne I was referred to a dermatologist in London who prescribed Doxycycline and Quinoderm 10 and 5.
I started a 2 year course in 2004 and saw a significant improvement by 2006.
I began using the Environ skin care range but discovered Decleors after relocating to Saudi Arabia, I used religiously from 2004 until 2019.
Sadly, Decleors was purchased by L'oreal and I decided I didn't want to support a brand that tested on animals.
I am weary of cosmetics that contain parabens such as, methylparaben, propylparaben, butlyparaben, triclosan, triclocarbon, and diethylphthalate (DEP), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and (SLES) sodium laureth sulphate that are linked to breast cancer.
I have also learnt it is better to avoid products that list fragrance or parfum.
Since my mothers passing April 2016 I feel its my duty to educate others about the dangers of applying toxic chemicals on delicate skin and its been therapeutic conducting research about the alternative organic, vegan, socially conscious brands that are available on the high street.
For those who are more adventurous do it yourself recipes are widely available online.
During 2016 I had a couple of lovely online conversations with Abi Weeds Managing Director and Emma Hopewell of Odylique - Essential Care (Organics) Ltd.
I was particularly interested to support Odylique as it is a leading brand of cosmetics and natural skin care based in the United Kingdom.
The company prides itself on promoting their organic, vegan, fairtrade, cruelty free ethos and specialise in treating problematic sensitive, reactive and allergy prone skin.
Abi explained how the company was established by her mother Mrs Margaret Weeds over 30 years.
All Odylique products are Soil Association Organic certified and the brand has won numerous awards for their pioneering products, best of all they are cruelty free so you can wear them with pride knowing that they have been tested on other individuals with sensitive prone skin like mine and yours. Their products are suitable for children.
As a long term suffer of adult acne, 30 years to be precise, I was excited and anxious to use their products.
Odylique Product Review, Videos and Photo shoot
Products tested include the following:
Product: Odylique Spot-On Serum, 100% Natural Origin, 95% Organic Bio, Soil Association Organic Certified.
Verdict: I've been using this serum for the last 6 weeks. The serum is effective and has helped to reduce my inflammation on new acne and has reduced my acne scars.
It has a refreshing smell of lemons and cools and gently soothes red inflamed areas. Although, it did not prevent spots. Acne and spots healed quickly.
Product: Creamy Coconut Cleanser, 100% Natural Origin, 87% Organic Bio, Soil Association Organic Certified.
Verdict: I've been using this cleanser sparingly.The cleanser made my skin glow. I was worried about using it on my very delicate sensitive eyes, I shouldn't have, it worked a treat.
I've always been cautious about using cleansers on my skin as previous brands have always produced excess sebum which block my pores creating black heads which often become inflamed painful acne.
My Creative Director Helen Barlow Scott said it tightened her pores.
The only slight drawback is the amount needed to cover your face, neck and eyes.
Product: Odylique Superfruit Concentrate, 100% Natural Origin, 100% Organic Bio, Soil Association Organic Certified.
Odylique Superfruit Concentrate
Verdict: I've been using the concentrate sparingly. All you need are a few drops to hydrate your skin.
My skin has felt fresh, nourished, soft and has been glowing in the morning.
I would highly recommend all three products to those who suffer from adult acne, sensitive and reactive skin.
Abi and Emma sent me a box of cosmetics to try and I have recorded and posted photographs of my 2016 photoshoot.
You will be pleased to learn that all their products were suitable for my adult acne, sensitive, allergy prone skin.
For those interested Odylique were the number one cosmetic company featured in Ethical Consumer March/April 2017 magazine.
During 2016 I recorded a video blog about Odylique.
More Odylique videos
Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 Summary featuring the
Odylique photoshoot at 3.38.
Six Items Challenge 2017 Week 2 featuring the
Odylique make up at 4.11.
Photographs courtesy of Mrs Saima Tahqiq for the
Odylique photo shoot March 2017
Odylique gold make up for my sensitive eyes
Over the years I have changed my diet to include more of the delicious recipes my late mother used to cook.
One of the recipes I'd like to share is how to make Masoor red split lentils and Moong yellow lentils daal.
This recipe was first requested by my Creative Director Helen Barlow Scott of the One Line Design Studio, Leeds, UK.
My weight ballooned to 72kg between 2002 and 2006.
I took drastic measures December 2006 after my beloved father passed away.
I married the treadmill for two years and lost 20kg.
I maintained my weight for many years until 2017.
During 2017 I was diagnosed with a rotator cuff on my right shoulder and had surgery November 2017. My recovery was slow.
During 2018 I required the same surgery for my left shoulder.
My recovery has been painfully frustrating. I have gained a lot of weight and am too scared to see how much I exactly weigh but I'm sure I'm approaching 72kg again.
This year 2020 I hope to start exercising again at a pace I am comfortable and do not lose my breath.
As requested by my Creative Director Helen Barlow Scott
This daal recipe was lovingly cooked my my late mother
Mrs Meshar Mumtaz Bano
Red Split Lentils (Masoor Daal) Fairtrade or Organic if possible,
Yellow Lentils (Moong Daal) Fairtrade or Organic if possible,
Garlic, Crushed Red Chilies, Green Chilies, Red Chili Powder,
Tumeric Powder, Salt, One Small Onion, Coriander and Water
Masoor and Moong Daal with carrot pickle
Zeera Rice and Yoghurt
Serve hot with plain, Zeera Rice, Roti/Chapatti (Flatbread), yoghurt and pickle.
Special Herbal Tea for menstruation
This special herbal tea was recommended by an aunt who lives in South London.
Aunty Tahira was a friend of my late mothers and advised me to drink this tea to help me through the first three days of my menstruation cycle.
I have religiously drank this tea for the past 16 years.
Its helped to relieve painful cramps, back ache, leg pain and expiate the mennorhagia heavy periods and clots.
Its been a miracle tea and I hope it helps other women too.
Fennel Seeds 10-15g
Cinnamon a small stick (3cm)
Gur (Jagary) add to taste
Butter 10g or less
Water boiling hot from the kettle
1. Add the fennel seeds, cinnanon stick, jagary and butter to a small sauce pan.
2. Add a cup or mug of water.
3. Boil the ingredients 5-8 minutes until the butter and jagary are completely dissolved.
4. Strain the tea into your preferred cup/mug.
5. Drink the tea hot but don't burn your mouth.
6. Make the tea every day for the first 3 days of your cycle.
Fennel Seeds Cinnamon and Butter
The boiled ingredients
Your favourite cup and saucer or mug
Use a tea strainer to separate the ingredients
Sabeena's special herbal tea!
If you know someone who has been diagnosed with Endometriosis or PCOS the following actions may help them during their difficult times.
1. A kind empathetic listener ear can be reassuring and comforting. Just be there and listen without judgement.
2. Read about the symptoms. Please click on the Endometriosis UK and PCOS UK websites links I've attached at the end of this blog.
3. Help with household chores if you can. Offering to cook, clean, shop can be a God send for many. Many Endo and PCOS survivors have food intolerance and cannot digest or absorb certain food groups, always ask your friend what they can and cannot eat.
4. Cook their favourite dish and surprise them by taking it over, it will do wonders for that someone you care about particularly if they are having a tough day.
5. Attend and support your loved one during their appointments, scans, surgeries and pregnancy. Most patients like myself struggle with walking long distances, and may need to organise transportation, i.e. taxis and wheelchairs.
6.Take them out for a pamper session, dinner or spa day.
7. Be patient, your loved one may change plans at a drop of hat, this does not mean they are being difficult. Endometriosis and PCOS can cause fatigue, anxiety and depression which stops them from participating in every day activities.
8. Take an interest in their hobbies or favourite past time.
9. Keep in touch, call and send them a message to say you care.
10. Invite them to a private friends Facebook or WhatsApp group.
11. Surprise them by ordering fairtrade flowers or fairtrade gifts.
12. Social prescribing may be an alternative, conduct research to find groups in your local area.
13. Give them space, sometimes all they need is rest and relaxation and a good sleep can help them to heal and recover. As I've said many times self-care is not selfish.
14. If they are well enough a short weekend break away, a change of scenery or holiday may do wonders to for their mental health and well being.
Over the years I have tried and tested many products to provide me with the comfort, ease and pain relief.
Beauty Therapy - cosmetic and skin care (fairtrade, vegan, organic and cruelty free). Primrose oil, Vitamin D 1000iu dose and folic acid tablets.
Comfortable clothes and shoes, fairtrade leggings, and T-shirts.
Bamboo Pillow - my bamboo pillow has helped me to stablise my shoulders and neck.
Mattress - I purchased a memory foam medium firm mattress.
Items that have helped me over the years during my tough days.
Fruit - blueberries, pears, bananas, oranges, apples and dates have boosted my immune system.
Teas - green tea, mint tea and my special menstruation tea.
Fairtrade Dark Chocolate - Divine, Montezuma, Green and Blacks Fairtrade.
My Endo and PCOS care products during difficult times
My Endo and PCOS care products
Continuing with Plastic Free July 2019 I finally invested in Bloom & Nora reusable sanitary ware. They are super comfy and I hope to write a review soon.
Bloom and Nora reusable sanitary towels
Bloom and Nora reusable 3 pack sanitary towels
Bloom and Nora reusable sanitary towels
I'm proud to say I am a social entrepreneur. born and educated in Manchester, UK.
I'm a qualified PGCE ESOL Practitioner, adore fairtrade chocolate and support breast cancer research,
I promote the sustainable development goals, a fair trade ethical lifestyle and am an advocate of the circular economy.
I've never stopped my condition from pursing my passion fairtrade, social and trade justice.
Yes! There have been days that I've been very poorly and trading has been difficult. My only pain relief over the years has been Paracetamol and Panadol.
I am blessed to have had the support of a caring husband who never stopped me from pursuing my dreams and ambitions.
Sadly, carrying heavy boxes for exhibitions and markets finally took their toll on my shoulders 2016 and I urgently required rotator cuff surgeries for both my shoulders.
My recovery has been slow and frustrating, nevertheless, I have continued to support the World Fair Trade Organization and The Fairtrade Foundation with their campaigns.
The business has become a secondary concern while I heal and recover.
It has been a frustrating time, I love participating at exhibitions and markets speaking to customers face to face.
There are so many objectives and goals I cannot achieve. I have to remain optimistic but realistic and heal until I am healthy.
I have to use the skills set, expertise and knowledge I have acquired over the past 11 years to diversify in other areas and industries.
I am the eternal optimist and hope to write about all the fairtrade producers I've visited since 2008.
I would love to see more support, advice and financial assistance given to social entrepreneurs who are diagnosed will chronic illness and hidden disabilities.
Below is a summary of my most successful fairtrade activities and campaigns in the United Arab Emirates 2009 - 2020.
at the Swiss Business Council Christmas Market,
Abu Dhabi - December 2018
Here I am talking about Fair Trade
By sheer chance after a coffee with Ms Arwa Hassan Al Qassim of Dubai Culture I was politely asked if I would like to be a guest panel speaker at the SheTrades MENA Launch. I said YES!
Many thanks to Dr Ashraf Mahate Chief Economist at the Government of Dubai and Dubai Exports and Ms Al Qassim Dubai Culture for providing me with a platform to talk about my passion FAIR TRADE.
Watch the video of the official launch here
All copyright and ownership of this video is owned by Dubai Exports and the Dubai Government
The Little Fair Trade Shop which was established during Ramadan 2008.
I knew that this was my calling and vocation.
The Little Fair Trade Shop mission and core values:
Our mission is to promote self-reliance, empower artisans and their local communities and give them the dignity and respect they so rightly deserve.
We support Fair Trade producers through the sale of our Fair Trade products.
We stand for social trade and justice. In the UAE we are pioneers and aim to ignite the same passion in others.
Our supply chain is transparent. It starts with the producer and ends with us. Every step of the way a good thing is being done.
We chose Fair Trade because we want our customers to feel happy knowing they have purchased a beautiful product which has been produced by an extraordinarily talented person and in turn supported a sustainable business, a community and the environment.
For over 11 years I have been retailing gorgeous fair trade gifts in my home city of Dubai UAE and I am so excited to be able to bring those products to you through the power of the worldwide web.
The Little Fair Trade Shop E-Commerce store relaunched Spring 2016.
The silk and jute fair trade butterfly bag
It all started one day in Egypt. My husband Faisal and I had the good fortune to visit Fair Trade Egypt Cairo 2009 and it was there that I purchased my first Fair Trade product – a gorgeous butterfly pattern silk and jute bag.
Faisal and I were completely overwhelmed when we were told about the Tora Women’s Group who live in the garbage collectors area of Cairo and produce the bags as a means of empowerment and sustainable income.
Inspired by this simple act of humanity we decided to set up The Little Fair Trade Shop and dedicate our efforts to trade justice.
The Little Fair Trade Shop began its maiden retail voyage at the Dubai Flea Market, September 2008.
Sabeena Ahmed and The Little Fair Trade Shop celebrate
World Fair Trade Day 2nd May 2009, Dubai, UAE
Beautiful fair trade products
Sabeena Ahmed and The Little Fair Trade Shop celebrate
World Fair Trade Day 2nd May 2009, Dubai, UAE
Customers were overjoyed to see an authentic range of hand embroidered wall hangings and wooden handicrafts lovingly made by artisans at Fair Trade Egypt.
The Little Fair Trade Shop first started trading at the Convent Garden Market, Jumeira Beach Residences and completed two seasons 2009-2011.
The Little Fair Trade Shop at the Convent Garden Market Dubai, December 2010
Dr Samier admiring a St Marys embroidered wall hanging, December 2010
The Little Fair Trade Shop aspires to work and engage with consumers of all ages and backgrounds, expatriates, educators, parents and young Emirati's to create awareness for the fairtrade movement of the United Arab Emirates.
It is our aim is to organise social events and educate the youth about fairtrade, sustainability and ethical consumerism.
It also traded at the Ripe Organic and Craft market until from October 2011 to January 2013 and consciously traded at specialist events such as the Festival at Masdar, the Swiss Business Council Christmas Market, WOMAD Abu Dhabi, DUCTAC and the Arabian Travel Market.
The Little Fair Trade Shop at the Masdar Institute, near Abu Dhabi,
United Arab Emirates - January 2016
There is an absence of market activity and presence during 2013-2016 when my beloved mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and she returned to the Almighty April 2016.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman's ovaries work.
The 3 main features of PCOS are:
If you have at least 2 of these features, you may be diagnosed with PCOS.
Credit and Source NHS UK
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts to grow in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Endometriosis can affect women of any age.
It's a long-term condition that can have a significant impact on your life, but there are treatments that can help.
The symptoms of endometriosis can vary. Some women are badly affected, while others might not have any noticeable symptoms.
The main symptoms of endometriosis are:
You may also have heavy periods. You might use lots of pads or tampons, or you may bleed through your clothes.
For some women, endometriosis can have a big impact on their life and may sometimes lead to feelings of depression.
Credit and Source NHS UK
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Endometriosis and PCOS friends and survivors the best of health and success with their fertility treatments.
Once again I hope that this blog will encourage ladies in the South East Asian community, Pakistani and Indian Diaspora to speak out about their experiences of Endometriosis and PCOS.
Anyone is welcome to leave comments below anonymously, I'd love to hear from you.
This month I continued to heal from surgery.
Participated in my second Plastic Free July 2020.
Was accepted on the prestigious World Literacy Foundation Ambassador 2020 Program and
completed my Future Learn MOOC - The Power of Podcasting For Storytelling.
This is my second year participating in Plastic Free July and due to my three surgeries and Covid-19 I have found the challenge difficult.
The UAE ethical movement is still in its infancy and substitutes for products like reusable/circular feminine hygiene and natural beauty products for acne/sensitive skin are limited.
I hope to continue my plastic/zero waste journey and hope to gradually reduce my consumption of menstrual hygiene and cleaning products and learn how to make my own soap, body wash, bread, conditioner and compost my waste..
It will be a long work in progress, but I'm optimistic.
This is my summary about how I am consciously trying to live a fair trade ethical life.
This blog illustrates the small steps I have taken to live a life free of clutter, materialism and throw away society.
It has been a natural progression from fair trade campaigner, educator and social entrepreneur to ethical consumer.
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