JAN Trust is a multi-award winning charity empowering and providing leadership for women in order to create positive and active citizens of society

Active citizenship,

Burkini ban busted!

Nearly two weeks ago, mayors in about 30 French coastal resorts decided to impose a ban on the burkini (A burkini is a type of swimming costume that some Muslim women wear, which covers the arms, legs and hair). The ban prohibited women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea. If the ban was violated, a fine would have to be paid. Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet argued that in light of the recent attack on Nice it was ‘necessary, appropriate and proportionate’ to implement the ban in order to prevent public disorder. A French NGO, Human Rights League, and the Collective against Islamophobia in France challenged the ban arguing that the mayors had no right telling women what they can and cannot wear on beaches. They were successful and last week the burkini ban was overturned by France’s top court which ruled that the ban ‘violates basic freedoms.’ However, the mayors are refusing to lift the ban. The ban was also condemned by the UN who described it as “a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms” and a “stupid reaction” to recent extremist attacks.

Within the French cabinet, most supported the ban but there was some disagreement over it. The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that, “For me the burkini is a symbol of the enslavement of women.” Both the Education Minister and the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, spoke out against the ban. The former said that the debate was fuelling racist rhetoric whilst the latter wrote on her website that “To pretend that swimming veiled or bathing on a beach dressed is in itself threatening to public order and the values of the Republic is to forget that those (secular) values are meant to allow each person to safeguard their identity.”

The burkini ban reached its climax last week when a photo was published of a Muslim woman on a beach in France surrounded by armed Police officers who made her take off her burkini. This sparked widespread furore which led to a protest against the ban outside of the French embassy in London in the form of a beach party. Despite being organised last-minute the protest received a lot of attention. Women in the city came together to show their solidarity with French Muslim women. The Mayor of London even spoke out against the ban telling the Evening Standard newspaper that “I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that”.

Mayor Villeneuve-Loubet’s claim that there is a security threat from women who show their religious affiliation is untrue. It is utterly absurd to link a piece of clothing with terrorism and in fact it is irresponsible to do so. The burkini ban is anecdotal of France’s rampant Islamophobia particularly against visibly Muslim women and follows the country’s ban on wearing the veil. There has been a wave of conservatism sweeping Europe and the rest of the world. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives are calling for a partial ban on the niqab, whilst in Austria right-wing politicians have called for a ban on the burqa. In Switzerland there are calls for a popular vote on a ban on the burqa. Civil liberties are being curtailed on the pretext of national security which is very worrying.

State-sponsored Islamophobia is weakening community cohesion and has the potential to sow the seeds for conflict and hatred. The argument that the burkini is oppressive is offensive and ignores the fact that many women choose to wear the swimsuit because it allows them to go to a public beach or pool and swim and feel comfortable whilst doing so. It encourages social integration and can help overcome certain communities from being socially excluded. In the UK, many leisure centres hold women’s only swimming sessions where women of no faith and women of faith can swim. For many women from faith communities this enables them to undertake a healthy activity.

JAN Trust has done a lot of work on fostering community cohesion. Our experience of working on community engagement and community cohesion, as a charitable organisation, includes the delivery of training, projects and services aimed at socially and economically empowering women. For example, through our City and Guilds Fashion course and our IT for Beginners course we are not only skilling women but helping them to acquire the knowledge and tools to enter today’s challenging workforce. At the same time we are also promoting the enhancement of women as active members of society. Through our training, projects and services we are enabling independence and resilience by building the skills, resources and capacities of the BAMER community. Many of our women have gone on to become employed, self-employed or started volunteering.

We have also delivered a number of workshops across the country encouraging civic awareness amongst grassroots communities. In 2008, JAN trust organised Haringey’s first community cohesion conference called ‘One Community Many Voices’ (2008). The conference gave members of the public, in particular BAMER women, the opportunity to question the leader of the Council, their local Member of Parliament, the relevant portfolio holder for Communities and the local Police force.

If you’re interested in our work to promote community cohesion, please get in contact with us.

International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

The term Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is the procedure in which partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or sex organs are permanently cut. FGM practices are often deep-rooted in a community’s culture and identity, traditional values, and social norms. Within communities that have practiced FGM over multiple generations, the significance of the practice often continues within the elder population as traditionally FGM is thought to be empowering, a celebration, cleansing of a woman and a prerequisite for marriage.

Although FGM is deemed to be a rite of passage and coming of age for young girls and women in certain communities, this practice does not carry any health benefits, in fact often quite the reverse. I can cause sexual health complications, mental illness, infertility and even death. The National Society for Prevention and Cruelty to Children’s (NSPCC) short video shares FGM survivor’s personal accounts, the lifelong negative impacts from the cutting, and ideas going forward to promote the importance of grassroots initiatives, education and awareness rising to combat FGM practices for good.

From a social aspect, FGM is practiced due to gender inequality – it represents society’s control over women. It is estimated that over 200 million girls and women in the world today have gone through FGM, the majority in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern countries (source?). Woman Stats Project have developed a world map showing the prevalence of FGM at the global level. UNICEF’s FGM prevalence map shows the ‘percentage of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years who have undergone FGM by country’ in Africa and part of the Middle East. Across Africa, there is a high incidence of girls and women undergoing FGM, Somalia carries the highest prevalence rate of 98 percent, Followed by Guinea with 96 percent, and Djibouti with 93 percent (UNICEF, 2013). However, it is not just a problem in African and Asian nations, n England and Wales it is estimated that 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM.

The World Health Organisation has released a report ‘Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation’, defines  the practice of FGM as a violation of the basic human rights of gender equality, and the right to life, freedom from torture and cruelty and non-discrimination based on sex.

In order to address FGM in the long term, both top down and bottom up approaches need to take place, combining grassroots and community-led initiatives to create behavioural change and ownership, with education programmes from governments and human rights groups education to empower and break social norms within these communities.

Despite these shocking statistics, in recent years there has been a vastly increased effort at the international level to stop FGM, in particular following the UN General Assembly Resolution Against FGM in 2012. Within the new Sustainable Development Goals launched in 2015,  Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The SDG 5.3 aims to “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”. The UN Secretary General has stated that, “sustainable development demands full human rights for all women and girls. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development promises an end to this practice”.

The United Nations declared the 6th February an International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, with this year’s theme being “Building a solid and interactive bridge between Africa and the world to accelerate ending FGM by 2030.” With FGM predominately occurring in African countries, this strategy aims to change behaviour which has been ingrained over generations by educating women so that they feel empowered enough to end the practice.

At JAN Trust we provide workshops, raising awareness and support victims of FGM. Our campaign consists of workshops in schools, colleges, statutory agencies and community groups. In schools, the priority is to help both students and teachers detect cases of FGM, and know how to support victims. We provide training for practitioners including health professionals, social workers and the police in order to raise awareness about the practice, the law surrounding FGM as well as options and help available for victims.

In the last 4 years, we have delivered over 200 school sessions. We have worked with over 20,000 young people and practitioners across the UK and have worked in over 25 boroughs. Visit our website www.jantrust.org or Against FGM website to learn more about the work we do to campaign Against FGM.

JAN Trust opinion on Brexit

It’s been five days since the result of the EU Referendum that took place last week, yet the effects are still being felt. The country is in disarray. The results were close with 51.9% voting to leave the EU and 48.1% voting to remain, showing that the country is heavily polarised. Following the results, on Friday morning, the Prime Minister announced that he would be resigning stating in his resignation speech that “The country requires fresh leadership …” This was followed by the intensification of in-party fighting within the Labour Party. Meanwhile, on Facebook, articles were popping up about the rise in the number of hate crimes being reported and video footage of racist incidents since Brexit.

Over the weekend, we at JAN Trust felt it necessary to tell our users that should they or someone they know experience hate crimes or hate incidents to call the Police in an emergency or report it using the online form on our website http://www.saynotohatecrime.org. It would appear that the result of the referendum has legitimised such overt expressions of hatred. As someone wrote on Facebook, referring to this increased racism “… let’s face it, things were already like this before Brexit, but we have had our heads in the sand about it far too often.” JAN Trust is only too aware of this, having worked to tackle deep-rooted racism, both overt and covert, directed at women from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) backgrounds since it was established in 1989. We have done a lot of work to challenge discrimination but also to build community cohesion.

It is important to note that not all those who voted to leave the EU hold racist and xenophobic views but immigration was a key concern for a number of those who voted to leave. The Leave campaign played on peoples fear of immigration arguing that whilst it was a member of the EU, Britain would be unable to control its own borders and in turn who came into the country. However, there were other reasons too which led the majority to vote to leave the EU and these must be carefully analysed and responded to in the right way.

An article by Matthew Goodwin, Associate Fellow, Europe Programme at Chatham House, in Politico magazine, titled ‘Inequality not personalities drove Britain to Brexit’ explores the factors that led to Brexit by taking a look at voting patterns which according to Goodwin show a country deeply divided along three lines: social class, generation, and geography. Immediately after the results were announced, the generational divide was highlighted with older voters choosing leave and younger voters choosing overwhelmingly to remain. However, since then discussion has moved on to inequality in Britain and millions who were deeply affected by austerity who mostly voted to leave, with Goodwin writing that “Brexit owed less to personal charisma than to a deep sense of angst, alienation and resentment amongst the financially disadvantaged” who have been hit hard by austerity. He gives the example of Boston in the East Midlands where 76% of those who voted wanted Britain to leave the EU. Boston is known for its high economic deprivation.

Again, JAN Trust is very familiar with the underlying causes and effects of poverty, deprivation and inequality. Since our creation, our work has focused on tackling these issues within the BAMER community at grassroots level.

In the same article, Goodwin also acknowledges the support for Brexit from those living in more leafy, affluent Conservative areas but there was also support from left-wingers who voted to leave the EU project in a stand against its imposition of neoliberal austerity.

What is clear to us at JAN Trust is that it is now more important than ever for all these issues to be taken seriously by politicians. They must break down the barriers which have led to this deep polarisation of British society and develop policies which aim to create a fairer and more inclusive democracy.

Kelvin Mackenzie and Islamophobia

Fatima Manji

Nearly two weeks ago, on Bastille Day, the city of Nice was attacked; 84 people were killed and 303 people injured. The killer was a divorced, father of three named Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel. Born in Tunisia, he later immigrated to France, settling in Nice, in 2005, where he worked as a delivery-truck driver.

Four days after the attack, a news article was published by The Sun, written by one of its former editors Kelvin Mackenzie who wrote that he “could hardly believe (his) eyes” when he saw “a young lady wearing a hijab” presenting the news following the Nice attack. Mackenzie believes it was inappropriate of Channel 4 to have a Muslim woman reporting the news when “there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim.”  This woman is Fatima Manji, a news reporter who joined Channel 4 in 2012, and has covered several news stories during her time with the channel such as the Natwest banking problem.

Since the release of the article, there have been over 1700 complaints sent to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) as well as a formal complaint made by Fatima Manji herself and one from the CEO of the Independent Television News (ITN) who produce content for Channel 4 and other channels. The article has sparked a national outrage and once again questions what the authorities are doing to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in the UK.

As of September of last year, there has been a 70% increase in Islamophobia in the UK, with 60% of this hate being targeted towards Muslim women. In the last year, particularly since the attack in Paris, there has been a 300% increase in attacks on Muslims, mainly women. Prominent figures in the community are speaking out against this rise such as ex-Conservative Party Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, who highlighted this figure in a letter she sent to The Sun’s editor to complain about the article. These are shocking statistics, yet news stories like the one written by Kelvin Mackenzie continue to be published.

Since writing the article, The Sun has published another article written by Kelvin where he seemed unapologetic and mocked people for complaining:

“Instead of accusing me of Islamophobia (yawn! yawn!) Channel 4 might like to try finding a Muslim presenter to front a documentary about Islam’s attitudes towards the gay community, or perhaps on how women are treated as second-class citizens in Muslim countries.”

Kelvin Mackenzie and others who hold the same views as him are clearly out of touch with what’s happening in this country right now. Muslim women are being spat on, beaten and bullied for wearing the hijab. Fatima Manji has also written an article expressing the same concerns as JAN Trust about the rise in Islamophobia and hate crimes targeted at Muslims. Since the Paris attack last year and Brexit last month, hate crime against Muslims has soared and articles like Mackenzie’s only serve to add fuel to the fire.

At JAN Trust, we work with women and young people affected by Islamophobia and hate crime. We aim to raise awareness about how these impact Muslims living and working in the UK. We are at the forefront when it comes to tackling complex and sensitive issues such as Islamophobia and extremism. Using our knowledge and expertise, we have designed and delivered workshops addressing these issues to the communities which we advocate on behalf of, as well as to professionals working on these issues. We have worked with over 10,000 young people and practitioners across London and the UK. You can visit our website Say No To Hate Crime to learn more about the work we do at community level on hate crime and how to report hate crimes.

Meet Sarla!

Sarla“Before I had no confidence to write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m trying to use the computer as well.”

This month JAN Trust would like to introduce you to Sarla. Read her profile below:

Name: Sarla

Country of origin: India

Ethnicity: Indian

Sarla arrived in the UK in 1975 with her father-in-law from Gujrat, India. Her in-laws were already settled in the UK in London. She came to join her husband who was born in Kenya and had gone to university in India.  When she came to the UK she knew a little bit of English but was not confident in speaking.

Sarla had been in the UK a long time before she heard of JAN Trust. She learnt of JAN Trust from a friend who she met through her work. One day her friend was in a rush to get somewhere and Sarla asked her where she was going. “I have to go to school now. I’m going to JAN Trust. Aunty, why don’t you come with me?” And this is how Sarla ended up at JAN Trust by word of mouth.

When asked what she likes the most about JAN Trust, Sarla responded with a smile “I like everything. People are friendly.”

Sarla feels coming to JAN Trust has definitely helped her. “Before I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write WhatsApp [messages] and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.”

To find out more about our ESOL classes and other classes we run, take a look at our website: www.jantrust.org or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433.
 

Muslim mothers v Extremism

Here at JAN Trust, we had a very busy start to 2016 travelling across the UK to deliver our innovative and highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme.

We began working on the issue of online radicalisation and extremism after being approached by mothers who had concerns about their children. We found little research had been done on online radicalisation and extremism and so in 2006 we began conducting our own research into this area. This culminated in a report titled ‘Internet Extremism: Working Towards a Community Solution’ published in 2012 and the creation Web Guardians© a programme targeted at Muslim mothers. The programme educates and equips women and mothers with the ability and essential skills to tackle online radicalisation. Our programme has received praise not only from former Prime Minister David Cameron and both current and former members of government but most importantly from the women and mothers with and for whom the programme was developed. Web Guardians© is successful because of our technical expertise and cultural knowledge.

This week we would like to introduce you to one of our programme participants, Fatma a 39-year-old mother of two, who is originally from Somalia. When asked why she was participating in the programme, Fatma replied, ‘I have two children, a boy and a girl … Since I have two children who constantly use the Internet and ask me questions [about] whether things are appropriate, I want to know how to answer them.” Although Fatma’s husband is an IT technician, she wanted to learn herself and not from him.

We were delighted to receive an e-mail from Fatma during the course which read:

“I would like to thank you and everyone at Jan Trust for the amazing work you do to educate our communities about the benefits and dangers of new age technologies.”

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the Web Guardians© course and plan to implement what I learned into my daily work and family life.”

At the end of the programme, Fatma spoke about her motivation to participate in the programme and what she would be taking away from it. She felt very strongly about other mothers having the opportunity to attend the programme saying that “I want other mothers to be made aware by you, not just about how to protect themselves and their children, but also how to reach out to others in their community.”

A fortnight ago, JAN Trust caught up with Fatma to see how she was getting on. She said,

“I am always talking about the programme with my friends. I’ve told them about what I learnt and now they can protect their children.”

To find out more about Web Guardians©, take a look at our website: http://webguardians.org/ or give us a call on: 0208 889 9433. If you’re an organisation that is interested in partnering with us, please fill in our partnership form.

Muslim Women We Need to Know in 2017

Lina Khalifeh – SheFighter

The first female self-defence studio, called SheFighter, was set up in the in Jordan back in 2012 but has gained a lot of attention in the last year. The group helps to empower women to protect themselves and has proven to be a huge success. Khalifeh has a background in Taekwondo but began the studio after her friend was attacked by her father and brother.

Why she is an inspiration is that helping women to defend themselves is not just a physical act of self-defence  against violence such as honour-based crimes but also a way to give women a sense of empowerment

The studio does not just teach self-defence but is also a safe space where women can speak freely about their experiences. Khalifeh has received threats for this. President Obama described her as a ‘leader of social change’. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experience physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. Her organisation has trained around 12,000 women. Even Emma Watson took a class at a studio to raise awareness about the initiative. You can learn more about her organisation here.

Ilhan Omar – Representative

Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American legislator in the United States when she was elected to the House of Representatives in Minnesota in the 2016 election. She is also the Director of Policy at the Women Organizing Women Network. Omar was born in Somalia, and left with her family at the age of nine during the Somali civil war, only to spend four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. Once they emigrated to the US, she integrated quickly, learning English in only three months.

Her election garnered worldwide coverage. She stated that her “Victory was for all women who are struggling”. It is all the more inspiring to see an immigrant elected considering the current backdrop of anti-immigrant feeling within the US. In response to the President’s divisive comments on immigrants she has been outspoken, stating that immigrants are what “make America great.”

She makes these comments in defiance, as she herself has experienced Islamophobic attacks whilst in America; the most shocking being in 2014 when she was attacked at a public meeting, leaving her with a concussion and bruises. Most recently she was called ‘ISIS’ and ‘filthy’ whilst in a taxi.

Many are excited to see how she will use her political platform in 2017.

Mehreen Baig – Actress

Mehreen Baig was one of the women who joined the BBC’s controversial documentary Muslims Like Us, where ten British Muslims with contrasting views live in a house together. Her views expressed on the programme became very popular, for example she stated that: “When people think of Muslim women, there’s a stereotype of us being repressed and submissive. Someone like me doesn’t come to mind – a normal girl, with a career who watches X Factor and fasts at Ramadan. We are the majority, and unfortunately our voice is unheard. My presence in the show challenges that stereotype. I’m independent and educated, yet my life is very much moulded by my religious values. I’m proof that there can be, and is, a balance between both.” Mehreen’s website is a forum which provides a safe space where Muslim Asian women can share their views on what being Muslim means to them.

Warsan Shire – Poet

Warsan Shire’s visibility has exploded since being featured on artist Beyoncé’s latest album. She is a Somali-British poet, who won the Young Poet Laureate for London at only twenty-five years old in 2014. She explores many topics in her poetry, from relationships to the place of the migrant within society: the ‘surrealism of everyday immigrant life – one day you are in your country, having fun, drinking mango juice, and the next day you are in the Underground in London and your children are speaking to you in a language you don’t understand’. When her relatives visit, she records their stories so she can accurately portray them within her poetry. She published one collection of poems in 2011, so there is much anticipation for the next collection.

Nura Afia – Brand ambassador for CoverGirl

In November, Nura Afia, a Lebanese-American, was chosen to become the brand ambassador for American company CoverGirl. This is a monumental achievement as she is one of the first ever brand ambassadors to wear a hijab. She has a strong social media following. In an interview she stated “A lot of people were intimidated and scared when Trump was elected and the response I saw to the campaign was very positive… everyone is happy that we’re getting represented in a positive way instead of just bad all the time”.

The JAN Trust gains inspiration from these women on the public stage who empower themselves through the arts and through politics.

The rise of the trolls!

Trolls

 “One person said I should get cancer, I had somebody threatening to find me and tie me up”.

Last week, best-selling feminist author, Jessica Valenti, decided to take a break from social media following death and rape threats directed at her 5 year-old daughter. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in online hate and abuse directed towards women. A fortnight ago, JAN Trust participated in a conference held in London organised by Reclaim the Internet, to address the issue of online abuse. Reclaim the Internet is a campaign which brings together media platforms, tech companies, campaign groups, think tanks, employers, trades unions, politicians, the police, teachers, students, journalists, public figures, youth organisations and young people to take a stand against online abuse.

Our Director, Sajda Mughal, has been the target of online hate speech a number of times. Recently, she was subjected to a tirade of abuse on Twitter following a tweet she posted about the Fireman Sam Quran incident which sparked an Islamophobic row. This week, Nottingham Women’s Centre manager, Melanie Jeffs, who successfully campaigned for misogyny to be considered a hate-crime spoke out about the abuse she’s received since Nottinghamshire Police started recording misogyny as a hate crime. The most recent high profile case of online abuse was that of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones who received a torrent of racist abuse on Twitter. This led her to quit the social media platform but before doing so she spoke out against racist Twitter trolls and urged Twitter to do more to fight racist abuse saying we need to “stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones.”

A study has revealed that in the space of 3 weeks from the end of April, 6500 Twitter users received 10,000 misogynistic tweets in the UK. Internationally, the figures were 200,000 misogynistic tweets sent to 80,000 people – surprisingly, over 50% of offenders were women! A report was released by the United Nations in January 2015 which “suggests 73% of women worldwide have been exposed to or are the target of some form of cyber violence. In the 18 months since then, online abuse – particularly of women, and, in the wake of the murder of the British MP Jo Cox, female politicians – has come under greater scrutiny”.

Women aren’t the only ones being attacked online. There are countless news stories about children being afraid to go to school or college or committing suicide because of cyber-bullying. There are also stories about young people with health issues such as anorexia who face a barrage of abuse online.

Although some perpetrators have been prosecuted, civil society organisations have said that there isn’t enough being done to tackle online hate. Social media companies have been told by the government that they need to do more. Currently, Twitter’s website provides it users with instructions on how to stop abuse received via its platform. This can be done by either blocking the Twitter account, or reporting it. However, if Twitter deletes the account, the same person can create a new account. People won’t stop abusing others online until there are stricter community guidelines and they realise the consequences of violating these guidelines.

At JAN Trust, we are standing up against the hate; through our Web Guardians© programme, we educate women and mothers on how to they can protect themselves and their children when online.

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