Happy International Woman’s Day to women (and men) across the world! Many events are happening today, including a general strike in the US against the current administration and their attitude towards women and a parallel Day Without Women strike in the UK to highlight women’s contribution to the economy. A highlight of the day is set to be Malala Yousafzai’s UN speech which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women across the world, socially, economically, culturally and politically. The day also calls for gender equality. International Women’s Day is important in symbolising the power of women across the world. This day is a day to commemorate the hard work that women all over the work commit to in order to achieve their dream. Last Year the campaign was a pledge to end gender disparity. This year, the International Women’s Day theme is to Be Bold for Change,- encouraging women to be empowered in the fight for gender equality. .
Currently, despite the UN’s theme of achieving 50/50 gender equality by 2030, it is estimated that this will not happen for 170 years. However, the fight for gender equality has been slowly making progress.
Last week, the UK Parliament voted to pass a bill which aims to end domestic violence. And since International Women’s Day last year, gender equality around the world has progressed. The US Senate has more women than ever before. Maternal mortality has fallen by 45% since 1990. In terms of representation, more movies now have female protagonists. Rwanda’s parliament has the highest number of women representatives in the world. In terms of educational attainment, girls are outperforming boys.
Of course, despite these changes there is still much to be improved and awareness still needs to be raised around the issues facing women and girls. Still, one in three women experience gender-based violence and annually 62 million girls are denied access to education.
At JAN Trust, we have helped to empower over 110,000 women by giving them skills to improve their employment prospects including IT, English and fashion. Our Web Guardians© programme works to provide women and mothers to tackle extremism and online radicalisation, protecting their young ones. Furthermore, our Against Female Genital Mutilation and Against Forced Marriages campaigns work to raise awareness of the human rights abuses women suffer around the world on a daily basis. During this month of celebrating women’s achievements, if you would like to support the work that JAN Trust does, text JANT00 £10 to 70070.
Our Director, Sajda Mughal OBE, has said:
“Every year I welcome International Women’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and also the potential of women. As the leader of a multi-award winning women’s charity, JAN Trust, I recognise the key role that women play in society, a role that is often overlooked. I work to create gender parity in all areas by providing women with the skills so that they can integrate, feel confident in their abilities and fulfil their full potential. For JAN Trust, being Bold For Change means unlocking the potential that women all over the world have. As leaders, we have a responsibility to take decisive action to help include and advance women. Everyone – women, men and non-binary people – can pledge to take a step to help achieve gender parity in whatever way they can. At JAN Trust this includes helping women to believe that they can push themselves to achieve their very best and take control of their lives. In 2017 let us all #BeBoldForChange and fight for gender parity between men and women.”
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.
The Integration Report, released on Thursday by the Integration All Party Parliamentary Group, was based on previous findings of the controversial Casey Review which highlighted worrying levels of segregation in British society.
Alongside its findings, the report includes twelve recommendations on how to improve integration in British society. The first recommendation emphasises integration though education at the community level – supporting the emancipation of women, providing them with better employment opportunities and creating space for socialising opportunities –and is based on precisely what JAN Trust has long recognised and has been working towards since 1989, with little government funding. The recommendations were in fact based on a visit Dame Louise Casey took to our centre in 2015; the conclusions she has come to were influenced by talking to us and meeting our beneficiaries and hearing about their experiences and needs.
The need for greater provision of ESOL lessons as a means of promoting integration and inclusion is particularly highlighted. That speaking the language of a country is a key part of being able to properly integrate, find employment and feel part of the society in which you are in is not a shocking concept, of course.
What is shocking, though, is that the UK budget for ESOL classes has been consistently cut in recent years. The government pledge in January last year to provide £22million for ESOL classes came just months after funding had actually been cut by £45 million. Overall ESOL funding has been slashed by almost 50% since 2009.
At JAN Trust our provision of ESOL classes to vulnerable and marginalised women is based on our understanding that many women face a combination of barriers, including lack of English, which can create a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, isolation and poor awareness of the options open to them, all of which not only prevent them from being able to integrate and contribute to society but also leave them open to harmful cultural practises such as FGM or domestic violence. We have worked tirelessly with women at the community level to challenge this vicious cycle and promote integration since our inception.
Over the past three decades, we have helped thousands of women to not only improve their English, but to regain their confidence and improve their job prospects, through skills classes. Women such as Sarla, originally from India, who said: “Before, I had no confidence to speak and write English but now I write and I’m using the computer as well. My daughter has bought me a small computer now.” Or Jurgita, originally from Lithuania, who took one of our tailoring courses and now says: “I would like to do something more with these new skills I have gained – maybe open my own business or get a job.”
Our classes not only enable women on a personal level to further their careers and gain skills. They also support social inclusion in a supportive atmosphere and sense of empowerment that can even help women to prevent domestic violence, forced marriage, FGM and radicalisation, all of which are among the government’s top priorities.
Our Web Guardians© course, pioneered in 2010, provides a further help for mothers, with education in using the internet, understanding online dangers, including radicalisation, and gives them the ability to protect their children. It is the only course of its kind in the UK.
Just some of the feedback we have received from our Web Guardian© programme is:
“I found this course excellent and it should be given to all mothers.”
“There’s no other programme like this.”
“You have really made me aware of the internet and its dangers.”
While long overdue, we hope the findings and recommendations from this report show that the government is finally ready to take steps that allow everyone to integrate and contribute to our society, and we hope that as a vital resource in this process, JAN Trust will be will be one of the recipients of the funding to enable us to continue our increasingly important work in local communities. We have decades of expertise in this area and, ultimately, make a real difference to the society that we all live in.
If you are interested in finding out more about the services we offer, visit http://jantrust.org/projects