A badass pioneer and comrade, Begum serves as a reminder to us that there are millions of voices, lives, advocates, activists, change-makers, beautiful human beings who have dedicated their time on this earth to make it a better space for those experiencing with them, and those to follow in the future.  


Nasa Begum

b. 1963 - 2011


Nasa Begum was an activist, writer, campaigner, trailblazer, lifelong user, and all round badass. Her dual experience of being both a service user and a professional within the same field was something she often referred to; being in such situations as being ‘perhaps the only senior policy adviser to the Department of Health who was a service user herself.’ 

During her short life, Begum campaigned tirelessly for disability rights (including the right to independent living for others and herself)., and her work has had a massive impact on the way that the health service interacts with and learns from users. She was in fact a big believer in organisations being user-led. Her book, ‘Towards Managing User-led Services (1994)’, provided a framework for a more personalised and culturally appropriate service sector.



The triple oppression of being a black disabled woman should not be overlooked …all the issues affecting disabled women apply to disabled black women. However, the way in which we experience and interpret these issues is likely to differ as the dimensions of race interact to shape our lives.

- Nasa Begum



Even now, in 2021, disability justice like so many social justice movements, can fail to consider the intersectionality experienced by those within the disability community, notably, black and brown folks. Back when Begum was active, this reality was even more present.


Main Achievements

  • She established ‘Powerhouse’, a resource for women with learning disabilities experiencing domestic violence. 
  • Led The Department of Health’s ‘Transforming Social Care’.
  • Published a number of pieces including, ‘Doing It for Themselves: Participation and Black and Minority Ethnic Service Users (2006)’, Presented at the Lord Pitt Memorial Lecture, and ‘I’m Not Asking to Live Like the Queen (2005, published by SCIE)
  • Northampton Welfare Rights Centre - Senior policy and research positions in disability rights
  • Social Care Institute for Excellence - principal adviser who helped to set up a participation strategy which aimed to put service users and those caring for them at the centre of service delivery 
  • In  her role at the Department of Health, amongst other things she helped develop user-led organisations for disabled people in every health authority

Are you like them?

If you answer yes to most the following, we are pretty sure you are!

  • Are you unable to accept the limitations that society places on marginalised groups?
  • Are you multifaceted in your approach to liberation?
  • Are you an adventurous spirit, always looking for your next adrenaline rush?

Why we'd love to coach them

Her ability to advocate for disabled people in a plethora of ways would have been wonderful to nurture and support. 

Outside of her work, Begum’s friend Trish Hafford-Letchfield speaks of her adventurous spirit - bungee jumping in Australia and paragliding in New Zealand. She had a joy for life, enjoying the arts, and being the life and soul of a party. She sounds like somebody who the Rivers team would’ve loved to have partied with, fight alongside, offer support to and seek counsel from.


if they were to be coached by the rivers team

How do you ensure that the work you are doing is sustainable?

potential barriers to coaching them

Continued structural barriers that are in place to ensure that black disabled people do not thrive. These include such things as a lack of funding.

questions rivers would ask them

How did you find peace with being both a professional and a service user within the same field?

What more did you want to achieve?

When did you decide on your path?

What do you think of the progress that has been made since your passing?