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

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Mental Health Among South Asians

Poor mental health is normally regarded as something that affects individuals. But sometimes it can help to take a step back and look at what may be troubling the minds of particular groups in our society. There’s growing evidence that a combination of social pressures are creating overwhelming challenges for some people in the South Asian community.

It’s important to help people with mental health problems in any community. But in the case of South Asians, offering timely and effective assistance can prevent catastrophe, as young Asian men with mental health issues are increasingly being targeted by extremists and radicalised. The pain and confusion that often comes with their illness is being redirected into violent rage.

On The Importance of Women

Women comprise about half of the world’s population. This half of the world is hugely important in community development, and in the local and global economy. Yet, society is not doing what needs to be done to empower women and unlock their full potential. At JAN Trust we do our best to empower, educate and encourage women, but we need your help to do more!

Globally, women play a huge role in community development. Throughout history, women’s central role as mothers, homemakers, labourers, and thinkers has ensured the development of nations around the world. Education is crucial to the progress of any community, and mothers are the ones who most oftenurge their children to attend and stay in school. In addition, educating women often leads to their children being more likely to achieve a higher level of education as well. Women who are educated areless likely to marry and have children early, and tend to bear fewer children.Global Volunteerspoint out that when there is a change in society “women take the lead in helping the family adjust to new realities and challenges.” This can be crucial in terms of avoiding stagnation or regression in a community when it is faced with a new political organisation of society.

Of course economy is also one of the most important factors in terms of community development. There is much research to show that empowering women will help lift both them and their communities out of poverty. As of 2010, women and girls comprised more than 70 percent of the world’s 1.4 billion poor peopleaccording to CARE International. When women and girls are trapped in poverty, so are their families and communities. Nearly 80% of the agricultural labour force in Africa is female– they are a huge economic resource. If these women were empowered and given the agricultural resources they lack, global hunger could be drastically reduced. In addition to this, a woman’s earning power increases by 10-30 percent for each year of education she receives. This shows once again that providing education for women results in a larger economic input into families and communities, strengthening community development.

Striving for gender equality and female empowerment is hugely important to be able to profit from the economic force that is women. Researchhas shown that companies with more women in senior management positions perform better and receive higher profits. It has also been proven that women make better investors than men. Yet many women around the world are still excluded from paid work and are not able to make full use of their skills. To boost economic growth, women must be empowered to partake in the global workforce and society must be structured in a way that will allow them to participate.

At JAN Trust, our work is premised on the vital role that women play in their communities. This is why we work with women every day, to educate, empower and encourage them. One of our recent projects to try and boost the economic independence of the vulnerable women we work with, is the “We Design Haringey”campaign. We are currently trying to raise money to provide Fashion & Design workshops to women in Haringey, as well as establishing a pop-up shop where they will be able to sell their products. Not only would this project help the women develop crucial skills, it would also help empower them economically. This in turn would contribute to the economic development of our local community of Haringey – the sixth most deprived borough in London.

In addition to this campaign, we run regular services and programmes at our centre and around London to empower marginalised women. One example is our highly praised Web Guardians™ programme, which aims to educate mothers on online extremism. After completing the programme they are armed with tools that will help them protect their children from being radicalised online. At our centre, we also offer a variety of classes including English language skills, and general life skills that empower women and give them a safe space to learn and develop.

To donate to “We Design Haringey” click here, and click hereto learn more about our award-winning Web Guardians™ programme. For more information about our work click here.

The Difficulty of Eradicating Forced Marriages

New figures released by the NSPCC reveal that there has been a12% increasein counselling sessions about forced marriage in the previous year. Summer is often a high-risk period for potential victims of forced marriage, as many are lured away on “holidays” only to be married off abroad against their will. However, a shocking 11% of forced marriages in 2016 took place wholly in Britain, with no overseas element.

Forced marriage is a serious issue and one that is difficult to tackle. Many victims are too scared to report the forced marriage because it would mean isolation and estrangement from their family. In the same way, it is difficult for young victims to stand up to their parents in situations like these especially after forced marriage was made a criminal offence in Britain in 2014, one can imagine that children are hesitant to report their parents or close family because of the punishment they might face.

It is important to note that forced marriage often happen to children – 26% of victims in 2016 were under 18. These victims are especially vulnerable when coerced into marriage by their parents or close relatives, as they might not have anyone to turn to for help or support. By reporting their family members, they might fear that they will not have anywhere to live or feel that they are betraying their family.  This makes forced marriages hidden crimes, as victims do not often speak up before, during or after they happen. This makes them even harder to prevent, and difficult to obtain proper statistics.

Forced marriages are difficult to deal with for individuals, as they deprive a person of their freedom. Sometimes, this can also include the victim being taken away from their home country, being raped and girls being forced to bear children. In rural areas of Syria, forced and underage marriages are flourishing, as parents see them as a way to protect their children in a time of crisis. However, some of the marriages end in more than just deprivation of freedom. It has been found that some girls who are married off in Syria have become so unhappy because of their marriages that they have committed suicide. This clearly shows the psychological problems can result from a forced marriage, especially if the victim is young.

As mentioned, forced marriage is a difficult issue to handle, as it is so sensitive. One woman, New York-based Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala, is trying to approach the issue in a creative way. She is herself a potential victim of forced marriage, as she has grown up with parents and family members attempting to marry her off. Her solutions to avoid the marriages have been many, most recently she convinced her parents to let her study and work in the US for a few years. However, now that her visa is expiring, they are expecting her to come back and get married. But Balagamwala has no wish to do so, she describes herself as a “hopeless romantic” and has yet to meet “Mr. Right”. Like most people, she wants to keep her freedom of choice. In order to fund another visa application and highlight the issue of forced and arranged marriage, she has now designed a board game called “Arranged!” Perhaps it is creative solutions like this one – “Darkness masked in lightness” as Balagamwala says – that will help bring the issue to the attention of people who can make a difference.

At JAN Trust, we hold workshops for participants from affected communities, voluntary and statutory sectors including schools, police and healthcare professionals. These sessions are aimed at preventing forced marriages by making people aware of the issue and the signs they can look out for. By raising awareness and educating, we hope to help combat forced marriage and help potential victims keep their freedom. You can support our work and learn more by visiting www.jantrust.organd www.againstforcedmarriages.org.

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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