Black History Month 2021 interview with Gina Amoh, Chief Executive of Inquilab Housing Association

Gina Amoh, 04 October 2021

For Black History Month 2021 the NHF is using our platform to shine the spotlight on leading Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) in social housing who have excelled in their fields and helped shape our sector today. In this interview, we catch up with Gina Amoh, Chief Executive of Inquilab Housing Association.

Tell us a bit about your journey and career as a Black woman in housing

I started my career in social housing working as a Housing Officer before I progressed up the ladder through various managerial positions reaching Director level and eventually went on to become a Chief Executive at Inquilab. Throughout my career, I’ve worked for small and medium sized housing associations and also had a job at an IT training company.

In terms of my educational background, I’ve gained an MBA and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing (FCIH). Since the start of my career, I’ve had the experience of being a Board member across various housing associations. I’ve also been a Board member of the Mayor’s Homes for Londoners Board and MBA Advisory Board member at Brunel University.  

What are the biggest achievements in your career in housing?

Working with communities and seeing people (especially young people and single parents) reach their full potential when supported- through various initiatives and programmes including apprenticeships and internships.

Another proud achievement is setting up Leadership 2025 which is a charity working across the sector, together with key stakeholders, to make the housing sector leadership more diverse.

What impact does Inquilab Housing Association have on the local community and residents?

The name, “Inquilab”, is Urdu for “revolution” and indicates its focus on the ethnic minority community in its broadest definition, serving all sectors of the BAME community. Inquilab has a strong history in its ethnic minority roots and community base in West London. We aim to provide resident-shaped services, incorporating best practice in co-creation and services which recognises the needs of residents from diverse backgrounds.

The commitment to the community is symbolised by the participation of residents in our work. We offer internships, apprenticeships, and voluntary programmes which have helped young people start their careers in housing, and senior positions. We’ve supported BAME members of the community to become Board members with many learning new skills and go on to progress further. We also offer financial and social inclusion programmes that have helped tenant sustainment and improved overall health and wellbeing.

We believe as an organisation by continuing to prioritise the needs and aspirations of our customers, coupled with professional standards of governance and management and a relentless focus on performance we’ll thrive and stay relevant to our communities and partners.

Why is diversity important in social housing?

As housing associations, we must come together to mark Black History Month because these are significant issues that different institutions and sectors still need to be addressed. We want to make Black History Month a moment to celebrate and recognise Black history in the UK, and a moment to start building for bigger long-lasting action on racial inequality.

As a sector, we must be committed to providing opportunities for colleagues to learn about, and tackle, racial inequality and social injustice. We should use our collective might to deliver change for the better – for our residents, our colleagues, and our communities.

There are difficult, but necessary, conversations to be had about the role race plays within society and within our organisations. We don’t have all the answers, but we should not be afraid to ask the questions to make our sector more diverse and inclusive.

Do you have any inspirational BME figures in housing?

An inspirational figure who comes to mind is Lord Herman Ouseley a campaigner for equality, who led the fight against racism in sport as head of pioneering anti-discrimination charity Kick It Out.

With over 40 years of success in not only highlighting racial inequality but challenging it too, which has seen him go from a figure within the framework of British Politics, to a champion of the Black-British community.

He was the first Black Race Equality Adviser in Local government in London Borough of Lambeth in 1978. The first Black Policy Advisor for Ethnic Minorities with the Greater London Council in 1981. The first Black Chief Executive in a local authority in England with the former Inner London Education Authority in 1988 and then as CEO of the London Borough of Lambeth in 1990 and the first Black Executive Chairman of the former Commission for Racial Equality.

Lord Ouseley’s impressive career spans 30 years in local government covering different authorities, as well as experience in disciplines such as town planning, social care, community development, facilities, and people management. He’s been at the forefront of challenging institutional racism in organisations and is an advocate on behalf of individuals from disadvantaged and deprived backgrounds.

Why is Black History Month important to celebrate?

Black History Month provides an opportunity for us to collectively recognise and appreciate the achievements of Black people in all parts of the world. We can all learn and reflect on Black heritage and culture including our role within British communities across the UK.

Often these are not acknowledged or even known about, and the negative stereotypes are the norm. People should be educated to know about black history just as all know about white history as this is taught widely.

Black History Month also gives us the chance to provide context to present-day issues, such as the impact that colonialism and slavery have had on the lives of Black people. More recently we’ve seen the devastating impact of Coronavirus on Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities and the important and often unrecognised role these marginalised groups play in the NHS.

I’m really proud to be a part of, and to support, the black and wider BME communities both personally and professionally; and I look forward to reading and sharing the many stories of those people who have had a profound impact on enabling a more enlightened, innovative, and better society.