A MUM-of-five from Burnley has been hailed an inspiration to women after gaining a degree while looking after her sick husband.

Najma Shah graduated with a First Class Honours degree from the University of Central Lancashire despite caring and supporting for her husband, Abbas, 47 who was diagnosed with bowel cancer shortly before the start of her final year.

Mrs Shah said: “The degree at UCLan appealed to me because it allows women to fit in their studies around their family.

“There were times when I really wanted to give it up as I was really struggling to be able to fit everything in.

“But with the love and support of my children and husband I managed to persevere.

“For me the hard thing was time management, I would often study into the early hours of the morning so I can be around my family when it mattered.

“My husband is doing really well now and after another operation we are hoping he will make a full recovery.”

The 46-year-old, who studied a BA (Hons) degree in Community Leadership, has also been working with the local community to run a variety of interfaith events for children to promote cohesion and integration.

She gave up full-time education when she was 18 but decided to return after completing a foundation degree.

Mrs Shah said: “I’d come to a point where my kids had grown up and I wanted a challenge.

“During the course I quickly realised that Asian women don’t get out in to the community enough or take advantage of what's on offer.

“I hope to be able to get a job within the community now so I can help change this.”

Dr Ali Melling MBE, head of the Centre for Volunteering & Community Leadership at UCLan, said: “Najma is an inspiration to women.

“She demonstrates that women can achieve academic success, as well as making an overall contribution to community, their family, whilst enriching their personal and continuing development.”