30 years of JAN Trust – What’s Changed?

This year we celebrate our 30th Anniversary and thought this would be a perfect opportunity on how our work has developed over the past 30 years.

The vision that resulted in the birth of JAN Trust almost 30 years ago is one still widely shared by the charity today; to encourage, educate and empower women, building their self-confidence and allowing them to become independent and active citizens and take control of their own lives.

JAN Trusts ethos has always been to enable marginalised individuals to reintegrate with society, and improve life options for themselves, their families and the wider community. All of this was achieved through the provision of education and expert advice on the multiple barriers and issues these women were facing.

Our work tackling marginalisation and integration includes educational sessions, including the provision of ESOL, IT and Fashion & Design classes, as well a continually holding workshops to support the varying needs of our beneficiaries such as, but not limited to, employability skills, financial literacy and welfare benefits advice and support.

However over the years the JAN Trust has evolved to meet the growing demands of the community, expanding the work it does to ensure that no one is left behind, and that we cater to all the needs of our beneficiaries.

As a result not only have we expanded our work at a local level, but over the past decade we have developed programs that are delivered nationally. This involves delivering projects such as Against FGM, Against Forced Marriages , Web Guardians™  and our SAFE workshops.

Adapting our approach means that we have developed a holistic approach to tackle issues faced by our beneficiaries and this where the success of work lies. We aim to leave no stone uncovered, by fighting all drivers and providing support services to tackle and prevent and support the victims of harmful practices.

We are the only service in Haringey, and one of the few in the UK, that works in this way, providing a wide range of educational classes and support all from our centre, enabling our beneficiaries to build a rapport with the staff and other women enabling them to get all the support they need under one roof and to empower themselves and their families.

JAN Trust remains faithful to its grassroots, addressing local and national needs on an interpersonal level, bringing women and communities together and celebrating our success with those whom we exist to help.

Don’t forget to continue to follow our journey  and keep up to date with all our work!

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Posted in Education, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, JAN Trust, London, Sajda Mughal, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Should marriage age be raised to 18 to prevent forced marriages?

As it stands, the minimum age to enter into a marriage in England and Wales is sixteen years old with the consent of a parent or guardian. Campaigners are now calling for a change to this law, with UNICEF stating that marriage before the age of 18 is a fundamental violation of human rights.

MPs are currently discussing this issue, which has been championed by Conservative MP Pauline Latham. She has introduced the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill 2017-19 Private Member’s Bill on this issue. She states:

“Marriage is a major life decision for which children are not emotionally and physically ready. Setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 provides an objective, rather than subjective, standard of maturity, which safeguards a child from being married when they are not physically, mentally or emotionally ready.”

She has also argued that instead of being a safeguard, the consent caveat ‘opens the door’ for forced marriages as parents can exert pressure on young people to marry to appease their families.

Although forced marriage has been illegal in this country since 2014, we agree that there needs to be stronger safeguards in place for children regarding this issue; especially if parents contest that the marriage was not forced. Some parents may state they ‘consent’ to a marriage of a child that they have actually coerced and sent overseas themselves. Raising the minimum age of consent for marriage to eighteen would add an extra layer of protection on top of the already existing law and would be a positive step forward to safeguard vulnerable young girls who are at risk of forced marriage.

Although changing the legal age of marriage will add some more protections, it is unfortunate that this will not solve an issue as pervasive as violence against women and girls. Forced marriage and abuse have no age limit and large numbers of women over the age of eighteen have been victims. This is a subject we have spoken out about and witnessed first-hand for many years at our centre, where women come to seek advice and guidance on such issues. This proposed bill will not stop or completely prevent the practise of forced marriage and serves as a small part of a multi-pronged approach; however, closing this legal loophole will provide more protection for vulnerable children.

Find out more about the work we do to prevent forced marriages here!

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Crime, Diversity, Education, Ethnic Minorities, forced marriage, Forced Marriages, girls, Lobbying, London, marriage, police, Politics, Prime Minister, Sexual Violence, Society, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Spreading intolerance and hatred?’ How criticism of The Martyrs has missed the mark

The recent release of short film The Martyrs depicting three real-life Islamophobic incidents in the U.K by film maker Rizwan Wadan has prompted Tell Mama to call for the film’s immediate withdrawal. 

In a recent article in the Guardian, an organisation the records anti-Muslim attacks, Tell Mama, has condemned the film as ‘sensationalist’ and have made the following comments:

“This film should be withdrawn immediately. Following the Christchurch attacks, there is a lot of fear among Muslims. The Martyrs just promotes this. Many Muslims will see it and be too afraid to go out. The film is unnecessarily sensationalist. It involves excellent film-making skills, but what use is this if all you are doing is spreading more intolerance and hatred?”

“You have three very hard-hitting stories within a short film. The vast majority of cases we deal with do not involve such viciousness. At the same time, many non-Muslims stand in solidarity with us and come to the aid of Muslims. Why is this not reflected? This film does not breed confidence, it does not promote any dialogue or unity, and it can actually encourage violence if watched by the wrong person.”

As a BAME NGO working on issues such as Islamophobia, we believe that Tell Mama have unfortunately missed the mark; especially to suggest that The Martyrs is promoting fear and intolerance. The reality is that people from ethnic minority communities, especially Muslims, are already scared. They are scared based on real-life things that are actually happening, which may have happened to them, their friends or fellow Muslims around the world. Many visibly Muslim women who we have spoken to have informed us of their fear, that they have been called ‘terrorists’ or ‘letterboxes’ or physically assaulted in the street. As an organisation we have also been the target of Islamophobic hate, including vile racism and threats of arson. The goal here isn’t to spread more intolerance and hatred, it is to call attention to it, create a dialogue about the reality of the situation we find ourselves in, so we are able to alleviate it as a society. Tell Mama themselves have just reported that there has been a nearly 600% rise in Islamophobic incidents since the Christchurch terrorist attack, which is important reporting. However, could this not be conceptualised as sowing the seeds of fear as well if we apply the same line of thought? The truth of the matter is that this short film does not promote hatred, there are individuals out there already promoting hatred which the film-maker is drawing attention to with the view to combat said hatred. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest that this film promotes violence against Muslim people as opposed to drawing attention to how horrifying and disgusting it is.

Although it is true that there are non-Muslims that stand with Muslims and intervene, there are also many times when people do not. Women have spoken to us at JAN Trust of being the victims of hate crime in public spaces where no one has intervened. The cases that were showcased in The Martyrs film were based on real events. Depicting non-Muslim assailants committing an act of violence doesn’t mean that there are no instances at all where non-Muslims help and/or intervene. In fact, to watch the film and essentially say ‘but what about non-Muslims who help?’ is quite frustrating and derailing when trying to talk about issues the Muslim community face. It seems that the point of the film was missed here and we need to re-centre Muslim people and the racism and/or Islamophobia many have been subject to. There are many great non-Muslim allies; they know who they are and how they can help. They also understand the importance of not de-railing or centring themselves in these conversations, and not silencing Muslim voices. It’s disappointing to hear Tell Mama promoting this kind of narrative when Muslim people are trying to depict real examples of Islamophobia -strangely-the very incidents Tell Mama itself documents.

To criticise the film for not promoting unity is strange. When activists speak about an issue passionately or are angry at an injustice perpetrated by an individual or organisation, it would be bizarre to suggest to them that they are being divisive and should promote unity instead. If we use the example of police brutality in the USA for instance, would we expect Black people to not criticise the police force that mistreated them because that criticism may promote further division? In order to have a more unified and just society it is necessary to speak about the injustices you face in order to raise awareness and ultimately bring about change.

For Tell Mama to suggest that the Martyrs could encourage violence when watched by the wrong person is an interesting point. Watching the news coverage or of the Christchurch terrorist attack could encourage violence when watched by the wrong person. Watching what happened during the 7/7 London Bombings could encourage violence when watched by the wrong person. Watching a violent movie could encourage violence when watched by the wrong person. Where do we draw the line on what we should ban/withdraw or not when informing people (obviously excluding terrorist propaganda)? It’s important for people to see the reality of what is happening to many Muslim people in the UK and to have a responsible, factual dialogue surrounding Islamophobia to try and stop these incidents from happening. We cannot bury our heads in the sand or sit on the fence under the guise of promoting unity when there is clearly a problem. In addition, it’s important to remember that this is a film, created by a Muslim film-maker, where scenes are re-created by actors – not abuse or trauma disseminated by far-right extremists where they are depicted as good or heroic.

Another interesting topic The Martyrs touches on is how the media, notably but not exclusively radio shows, give platforms to hateful opinions and rhetoric which can influence others to carry out acts of violence. The mainstream media must be held accountable for this, which is something our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE and JAN Trust have spoken out about for quite some time, especially in relation to far-right extremism.

This is a well-made and hard-hitting film from Rizwan Wadan. The film shows the experience of victims and gives them a voice which they may not have had in the mainstream media. Rizwan himself has spoken about how difficult it was to get the project up and running, which just goes to show how often Muslim voices are side-lined.

As a BAME NGO, we campaign on issues such as hate crime, Islamophobia and discrimination and have worked on projects of our own such as our Another Way Forward initiative to start a dialogue surrounding hatred in the UK. We join the many organisations, members of the Muslim community  and other individuals who fully support Rizwan Wadan’s The Martyrs and the importance of raising awareness of the realities faced by those attacked.

Watch The Martyrs here!

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JAN Trust – Where it all began

This year JAN Trust is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and we would like to tell you all the story of how the charity was founded!

JAN Trust was formed, 30 years ago in 1989, as a result of an overwhelming demand from the local community, where JAN Trust continues to be based.

Marginalised and socially excluded women were approaching JAN Trust’s founder Rafaat Mughal OBE at her home seeking help and assistance. These women, living in Haringey, were facing extreme deprivation and a dire need for access to basic skills and opportunities, including English language, education, jobs and an understanding of British services and systems.

This was having an increasingly negative impact on their children who had little access to formal education. JAN Trusts’ journey very much began in the sitting room of our founder Rafaat Mughal OBE, however given the demand, Rafaat identified a need to formalise a support service for these local communities, and this is where JAN Trust first began!

Rafaat’s vision was to encourage, educate and empower women, building their self-confidence and allowing them to become independent and active citizens and take control of their own lives. The services provide by JAN Trust would enable marginalised women to reintegrate with society, and improve life options for themselves, their families and the wider community.

All of this was to be achieved through the provision of education and expert advice on the multiple barriers and issues these women were facing.

This April we are celebrating our 30th anniversary – find out how you can help to to continue to empower marginalised women here!

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Citizenship, Crime, discrimination, Diversity, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, forced marriage, Forced Marriages, girls, Hate Crime, Inclusion, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, knife crime, Lobbying, London, marriage, Muslim, Muslim women, Racism, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Representation, Sajda Mughal, sewing and fashion, Sexual Violence, Society, Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Incels: Why extremism based on misogyny needs to be taken more seriously

Conversations about online radicalisation and violence must broaden to include discussions about the patriarchy and violence against women

 The recent mosque shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand has reignited a debate about the role internet platforms and subcultures play in promoting extremism and violence. Prior to his Islamophobic killing rampage, the shooter published a 74-page manifesto detailing his hateful ideology on the online forum 4chan. Additionally, he frequented an incel forum called Kiwi Farms, which has refused to turn over his user data to the New Zealand police to assist their investigation.

The UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent, monitors both far-right and Islamic extremism. However, one form of extremism that has failed to see similar counter-measures emerge, by both governments and social media companies, has been misogyny.

On the world wide web, there exists a “manosphere” or a host of online blogs and forums that reject narratives of gender inequality where women are seen as disenfranchised and instead argue that it is men who are the real victims, made even more so by the advent of modern feminism. The “manosphere” is often teeming with extreme misogynistic beliefs and at times promotes violence against women with very real consequences.

One group within the “manosphere” that has received extensive media coverage has been the incels. Incel is a term that stands for involuntary celibate, referring to those who desire a romantic or sexual relationship but are unable to attain one. Incels began to receive greater scrutiny in 2014 when 22-year old Elliot Rodger embarked on a killing spree in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara to punish women for rejecting him as well as men who did not experience the same frustrations that he did. He wrote a manifesto to vent his frustrations and since then, has inspired a host of other incels. For example, Alek Minassian, who drove a van into pedestrians in Toronto, Canada in 2018, self-identified as an incel on Facebook prior to the attack and cited Elliot Rodger as an inspiration. Rodger’s actions continue to be lauded on incel forums, such as particular subreddit threads on Reddit, where individuals can be found referring to their desire to “go ER” when discussing interactions with women that upset them.

Interestingly, the incel community was not always like this. Its origins lie in Alana’s Involuntary Celibate Project, a project initiated by a young Canadian student Alana (who prefers to go only by her first name). It originally began as an online forum and safe space to discuss sexual inactivity and loneliness, as well as the mental illness, lack of confidence and social anxiety that can feed into them. What began as a bid for greater inclusivity, representation and community appeared to become co-opted over time by a demographic of young, white men who utilised these forums as an outlet for their often violent misogyny. Alana has expressed regret at this development, likening it to being like a “scientist who figured out nuclear fission and then discovers its being used as a weapon for war.” Individuals start off discussing their life experiences with others, offering sympathy and venting their frustrations on incel forums, but end up consumed by a sense of victimhood that quickly takes on violent tones. It’s not uncommon to find rape or death threats against women littered throughout incel forums. Indeed, Keegan Hankes, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, notes that incel forums tend to invoke more violence than even white supremacist sites, and that message boards can play a significant role in the radicalisation of incels.

What role does misogyny play in creating this sense of victimhood of incels exactly? Misogyny forces the incel to view women as the cause and target of his frustration, rather than the patriarchal system that contributes to his fraught sense of masculinity and isolation. One important aspect of incel ideology is that they view “early carnal knowledge as necessary to proper maturation” and view a lack of it as responsible for their loneliness in the present. Incels, therefore, are lashing out against girls and women who have (in their eyes) picked other men over them in their teenagehood and denied them this development, which they believe is sabotaging them in the present. They are grieving a loss of access to women, especially women untainted by previous partners, because they believe they have been overlooked in favour of a more attractive man, or a ‘Chad.’ These mindsets encourage feelings of hopelessness while also nurturing an intense hatred towards women that is often retaliatory in nature. The incel movement is a movement about male sexuality that centres the conversation on women’s sexuality – viewing women and girls as sexual objects for their gratification, shaming them for who they sleep with and who they do not, and punishing them for their sexual choices.

That is what makes incel forums such a fascinating part of the internet, one which we cannot entirely disentangle from other extremist forums and the rise of neo-fascism. Incels, as mentioned, do not see their feelings of isolation and loneliness as a result of patriarchy, of toxic masculinity that has fed them harmful narratives about male sexuality. Instead, they begin to see themselves as victims at the hands of women. This is a phenomenon known as “aggrieved entitlement,” whereby a typically-privileged group, in this context men within patriarchal society, is partially denied their expected privileges. This has important parallels with the sense of victimhood that white supremacists propagate among themselves to justify their desire to purify society and expel difference. Although there incels from ethnic minority backgrounds, the majority are white men and the link between this world view and far-right, white supremacist rhetoric is well-documented. For example, Elliott Rodgers wrote about the inferiority of black men and his frustration when white women chose black men over him. Many incels perceive of this as a ‘cuckholding’ and a denial of access for something that is rightfully theirs, namely, white women.It is therefore important to see the parallels between incels and other forms of hateful speech.

Regardless of the ideology or subculture an individual is indoctrinated into, these online communities are more interlinked than previously imagined. Hankes notes that many individuals in the groups the Southern Poverty Law Center typically tracks, such as white nationalists and neo-Nazis, were actually recruited and groomed through male supremacist groups, such as incel forums. It appears to work the other way as well – journalist David Futrelle attributes increasingly violent rhetoric on incel forums to the growth of the alt-right. “These online communities didn’t use to be so violently misogynistic and obsessed with violence as they are now,” he notes. Hate of one sort appears to breed hate in other areas as well, complicating our fight against online radicalisation and extremism.

In addition to circulating through similar processes, the rise of white supremacy in the political landscape has paved the way for more open expressions of hatred and the political normalisation of violence, emboldening incels and other “manosphere” users to raise their voices. Influential figures from the “manosphere” have even managed to infiltrate the public sphere and propagate their beliefs. For example, Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of one of the most popular “manosphere” media outlets, Breitbart, was formerly appointed Chief Strategist for US President Donald Trump.

We often discuss how perceived oppression motivates disenfranchised white communities to engage in white supremacist or neo-fascist politics, but it’s time we looked into how other forms of perceived victimhood are nurtured – forms that may fuel equally dangerous, violent rhetoric.

Given the complex nature of the problem, where do we begin with addressing the influence of these violent, misogynistic ideologies?

Social media giants such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have received a lot of criticism recently for their inability and unwillingness to crack down more firmly on hate speech. For example, YouTube has received criticism following the Christchurch attacks after YouTube user Pewdiepie was cited as an inspiration for the mosque shootings. Furthermore, it has been noted that YouTube’s recommendation algorithms can lead one to radical content very easily, even if one isn’t necessarily seeking it, speeding up the process by which radicalisation occurs instead of slowing it down.

With misogynistic hate speech in particular, such as that propagated on incel forums, the problem is even worse. Major platforms have been stepping up their efforts to fight hate speech in response to criticism, but misogyny on major platforms continues to “get a pass” in ways that other hateful forms of speech do not. Hankes notes that this happens because “a lot of misogyny tends to fall under this umbrella of being politically incorrect, so for some reason, it gets less enforcement.” Ludovica Di Giorgi, an expert in online radicalism, notes that as of yet, there is no “comprehensive policy in place for addressing other forms of online extremism, such as radical misogyny.”

The body count of the incel movement might not be as high as Islamic or far-right extremism as of yet, but misogyny has enacted violence upon the bodies of women throughout the world and the incel mindset, in many cases, is deeply interlinked with far-right extremism. We have a responsibility to stop these alarming narratives before they become normalised. As mentioned, “manosphere” platforms like incel forums are important recruitment grounds for other forms of extremism and perhaps a more critical look into these corners of the internet can help us better understand the alt-right movement and its extremism as well.

As a women’s charity that has undertaken important counter-extremism work, this issue is important to us. We have embarked on the Another Way Forward Project, in which we educated teenage girls on both Islamic and far-right extremism, and equipped them with the confidence and skills to fight against extremism and hate speech in their schools and online networks. This deradicalisation work needs to continue and become more complex. Among incel forums, some experts have noted a trend of “normies” (the incel term for average people) infiltrating these hateful spaces in order to convince damaged users to “seek out the professional help they so sorely need to sort through their deep resentments and build up a healthy self-esteem.”

Clearly the entire onus cannot entirely be on others to deradicalise those seized by hate, and social media networks need to step up their efforts to take away the platform for radicalisation and the spread of these ideologies. Yet JAN Trust believes that these promising trends offer us a little glimmer of hope by showing us one of the ways in which we can begin to start addressing this issue – by taking all forms of extremism and hate speech seriously, and by understanding the violence of misogyny.

Posted in discrimination, Education, Extremism, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: A DAY FOR ALL WOMEN

International women's day (1)

We at JAN Trust have been celebrating International Women’s Day for thirty years this year. Every year we look forward to it not only as a chance to celebrate women and their achievements, but as an opportunity to reflect on society, feminism and the work that we do here. Each International Women’s Day comes with a new and interesting lens to look at women’s positions in the world and ask ourselves; how are we helping in this area?

This year’s theme is #Balanceforbetter and we have really thought about what ‘balance’ means to us, as a charity and as women. Women have taken control of the headlines in recent years, making themselves heard in regards to sexual harassment and abuse, with the ongoing power of the #MeToo movement. The movement has spread throughout  many sectors, from politics to Hollywood, and even to countries where women’s rights are still woefully ignored. Sexual violence against women has been highlighted and challenged in other areas, such as with the first UK conviction for FGM. Just recently the government announced plans to change the syllabus so that all children in the UK will have to learn about FGM, hopefully protecting many girls of school age who are vulnerable to it. In Ireland, more has been done to allow women freedom of choice over their bodies and their reproductive rights with the legalisation of abortion. Women across the world are moving forward, and doing more to protect our bodies and our safety.

However, when we reflect on ‘balance’, we can still see that there is a long way to go, not just within society in general, but within the feminist movement itself. Too often BAME and Muslim women are marginalised, cast aside as ‘others’, told to pick their allegiances. For example, are you a woman first or are you Muslim or Black? The reality is that BAME and Muslim women are all identities at once, and the feminist movement, as much as the men in their communities and society in general, need to recognise this. BAME women are still much further behind when it comes to equality or safety than other women. They face significantly more barriers to being heard, supported and protected from sexual violence, and are more likely to face other forms of violence such as forced marriage and FGM. They are marginalised not just for their gender identity, but for their racial and religious identity too. LGBTQ+ and poorer women in our society are likewise victims of discrimination on all sides.

The struggles BAME women face are clear for all to see, evident within the recent headlines. In sports, Castor Semenya, after years of being shamed and investigated like a criminal, is being marginalised again because she does not conform to society’s whitewashed notions of femininity. In trying to redefine womanhood, we are at a risk of following the same narrow margins that the rest of society is defined by: wealth and whiteness. In the #MeToo movement itself, the needs of the vulnerable, marginalised women Tarana Burke created the movement to protect, have been left at the weigh side as the fight against sexual harassment and abuse of women rose to international esteem. Here in the UK, the treatment of Shamima Begum, a school girl radicalised by the Isis propaganda machine, reflects the misogyny and Islamophobia at the heart of our society. The majority of terrorists that have returned from Iraq and Syria have been men and most have not faced the same kind of public outrage over them returning to the UK. As a woman Shamima faces the excessive demonization afforded to all women who commit serious crime. Our expectations for women are so high in comparison to men that they are often treated much more severely; if not legally then socially. As a Muslim she faces the Islamophobia that is rife in society, and not treated as the victim of radicalisation that she is. Our CEO has also faced the combined forces of this discrimination in how she and our charity has been treated for defending Shamima’s right to return to the UK to face prosecution. It is undeniable that BAME women face prejudice on more levels than just their gender.

Our founder, Rafaat Mughal OBE, recognised these imbalances thirty years ago and sought to do what she could to improve them. She created an organisation which focuses on the real needs of local BAME women, and gives them access to education, through adult education classes. Today, we still realise that BAME women and their families are at more risk of sexual violence and radicalisation. We believe in empowering women and young people to protect themselves through awareness campaigns and by offering them support and guidance when no one else does. This is the only way to correct the imbalances in our community, in our society, and in the world as a whole. In seeking balance for women and men, we must not forget to seek balance amongst women as well.

On our 30th anniversary, and to celebrate International Women’s Day this Friday, please support a grassroots BAME women’s charity to make a real difference!

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Citizenship, Crime, Daesh, discrimination, Diversity, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Extremism, forced marriage, girls, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, ISIS, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, Jihadi Brides, marriage, Muslim women, Politics, Racism, Sexual Violence, Society, Terrorism, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We need to focus on low-paid work if we are to succeed in closing the pay gap

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Striking cleaners from the union United Voices of the World stage a picket protest outside the Ministry of Justice Headquarters in London in August 2018.

Initiatives to close the gender pay gap have so far focused heavily on highly-paid employment, such as getting more women CEOs and women into boardrooms. This approach has been deemed as ineffective, as it addresses a relatively small number of women who are also highly educated, white, and often already economically privileged, consequently neglecting intersecting issues including race, citizenship, and class that also contribute to pay inequality. It also leaves behind women with fewer skills and low levels of English, particularly those working in low-paid domestic work as cleaners, caterers and carers or who are unemployed.

Despite the lack of government attention, women have been organising as workers and activists for a long time. Recently, the Justice for Cleaners movement was started at SOAS by a group of cleaners and has now spread across several UK university institutions. Cleaners, who are majority migrant women, are indirectly employed by institutions through outsourcing companies who do not respect workers or their rights. This has encouraged cleaning staff to demand that universities employ them directly and provide better pay and employment rights, including sick pay, living wage, and equality with other university staff.  Universities, including SOAS and the London School of Economics, have responded to years of protesting and demonstrations to bring cleaning staff back in-house and pay them the living wage. This has inspired a larger movement of cleaning and facilities workers campaigning for their rights, including a large protest in August 2018 of Ministry of Justice and Kensington and Chelsea Council cleaners.

There are also small yet positive steps being taken by the government, which recently announced that it will focus on supporting women in low-paid jobs and assisting 1.8 million women who are currently economically inactive, which is eight times higher than the amount of men out of work. £600,000 is being promised to be set aside to help women who have experienced homelessness, domestic abuse, and poor mental health, and £100,000 to provide women with English language skills. Although this investment is insufficient, it is a promising start to changing attitudes towards reducing the pay gap for not just those at the top but for all irrespective of gender, race, or class.  

However, it is important to remember that women who are unemployed or in low-paid work will not see any radical change from these new initiatives alone. The situation of these women arises from the widespread issue of outsourcing domestic work in order to reduce costs and corporate responsibility and, more widely, the structural inequalities embedded in all areas of public policy. For example, hostile immigration policies act as barriers to migrants accessing paid employment opportunities and brand individuals as illegal and therefore unable to work. Also, government cuts to domestic violence support and mental health services further marginalise vulnerable women and make them more likely to remain unemployed.

At JAN Trust we stand with all workers who are campaigning for their rights and to close the pay gap and believe that the government needs to assess all areas of its policy to ensure that all workers receive equal rights and respect. Many of the wonderful women who we support are from migrant backgrounds and work as cleaners and carers. We offer English classes and courses in order for our beneficiaries to gain practical skills that are useful for employment. To find out more about our classes and services visit www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Advocacy, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Domestic violence and abuse against women

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241 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2017 in England and Wales. This means that around 2 women are killed every week, although studies maintain that there are probably many more women killed by their partners than the data shows. Even though these numbers are shocking, these crimes constitute the most evident form of domestic violence against women, as this issue has a much bigger scope than it appears at first sight. Being name-called or shamed by your partner, not being allowed to access your own money, being forced to have sexual relations or feeling fearful when you are around him, are also different forms of domestic violence and, as such, should be treated with equal seriousness.  

Domestic violence is defined by the government as “any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”. It can then include psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional violence, but it is not limited to these types of abuse. Honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also included in the broad spectrum of domestic violence. It is also important to note that although domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality, women are much more likely to suffer, as has been proved by data showing that, in 2013-2015, four times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner.   

Domestic violence is a very serious issue that is much more pervasive in our society than data shows. According to the authorities, domestic abuse is chronically underreported to support organisations, which means statistics show only a small fragment of what is actually going on around us. However, government funding for this issues has been systematically reduced in the past few years, especially since 2010, when the coalition government was elected and started its programme of austerity. These austerity measures have deeper effects on women who are already in vulnerable positions, such as BAMER women, whose greater need of support makes them the hardest hit when funding is reduced from domestic violence services.

Even though in the year to March 2017, 1.9 million people in England and Wales (1.2 million women and 713,000 men) suffered from domestic abuse, the government has kept reducing its budget for services to support victims of domestic violence. In fact, local authorities across England have cut spending on refuges for those suffering domestic violence by nearly a quarter since 2010, from £31.2m in 2010-2011 to £23.9m in 2016-2017. This has meant that many refuges have been forced to close or reduce capacity, leaving many victims of domestic violence unprotected and without the possibility to leave their abusive relationships.

Women deserve to feel safe and protected by society, which is why a stronger institutional response is needed to face such a devastating social problem. In doing so, special attention should be paid to those in more vulnerable positions, such as women from BAMER communities. Some of these women face difficulties speaking English, which makes it harder for them to seek help or know about their rights. Moreover, those women who are dependent on their partners for their right to stay in the UK face an even more problematic situation, as that status can be used against them to prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship. It appears evident then that the special needs of BAMER women should be taken into account when addressing domestic violence.

Here at JAN Trust, we stand against domestic violence and provide support to women by creating a safe and confidential environment where they can seek advice and guidance on the issue. With our English classes and different workshops, we also seek to provide a space where women can increase their confidence and become empowered members of society. If you would like to seek advice, or are interested in any of our services, please visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in JAN Trust, Sexual Violence, Society, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where are the safe spaces for women in our society?

The Warwick University ‘rape chat’ scandal reveals a society where sexual violence and hate speech festers in the shadows, and safe spaces for women are non-existent.

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Universities are often held to be cultural centres of knowledge and self-expression, where people are free to learn, and the best and brightest come together to create a better future for us all. But the recent Warwick University scandal, where two male students had their original 10 year bans reduced to just 12 months for threatening to rape fellow students, has shown that not even these spaces are safe for women. Following significant online backlash the university confirmed these students would not be returning next September. Although this decision is a relief, the saga reveals the truth about modern society: there are few safe spaces for women.
This incident is just one of many where violence against women is being given a space to thrive in private, whilst women are increasingly under threat. This is not the first time that a university group has been uncovered for perpetuating sexual violence against women. A similar incident occurred at The University of Edinburgh in 2014 when the minutes from a meeting of an all-male society that contained rape threats to fellow students were leaked. The problem is so prevalent it has led the National Student Union to publishing guidelines on what university student unions can do to tackle hate speech on campus. This culture is not restricted to the university campus.

Private messaging and online platforms are allowing violence and harassment to operate in the shadows, whilst women do not even feel safe going outside. One of the victims of the Warwick University incident spoke of how this affected her mental health and feelings of safety on campus. She stopped going to classes or working her shifts on campus. Female students are increasingly afraid, and frustrated, of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that thrives in society. Often these hateful and frightening incidences are passed off as a joke. In this case, victims were forced to justify their fear and anger. Women are not even given a safe space to be upset or angry. They are told to laugh it off and ignore it. As one victim of the Warwick incident cited, university procedures did nothing to make spaces safer for the female students. Women are too often ignored and failed by the institutions and authorities set up to protect them. Even when the talk becomes physical violence, such as the case of ‘Incel’ violence in Toronto or ‘The Wolf Pack’ scandal in Spain, the rise of private hate speech and the issue of women’s safety is woefully ignored.

The attitudes that grow in private have a damning effect on public behaviour. In the street, women are targets of harassment simply because they are women. Some women are targets of more than just sexual or gender violence, but also of violence because of other aspects of their identity. There is a clear correlation between threats of sexual violence and other types of hate speech in the Warwick case, as the group used racial slurs and hateful language alongside their sexual threats. Unchallenged hate of women only paves the way for hate speech aimed at other groups. BAME women are especially vulnerable, attacked not just for their gender identity but for their religious or racial identity too. The more we allow private attitudes to exist unquestioned, the less safe women are. Some women, do not even have a safe space at home. Where are women safe from violence and harassment if their university, the streets they walk on, and their homes are not even safe?

Here at JAN Trust we are dedicated to giving the most vulnerable women in society a safe space to learn and feel part of the community through our workshops and classes. Our projects and campaigns on FGM and forced marriage work to help make vulnerable women’s homes a safer space for them to live without violence. We are working hard to challenge hate speech and to make young people more aware of the problem with our school workshops. Through our Web Guardians™ programme we support women in taking responsibility for their and their family’s online safety themselves. Our efforts make spaces safer for local women, and we will continue to call on others to do more to make all levels of society safer for everyone.

Posted in Crime, discrimination, Education, girls, JAN Trust, Uncategorized, Violence, women | Tagged , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust Welcomes UK’S First Conviction Against Female Genital Mutilation

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However, more work needs to be done to address the roots of this terrible crime

In a historic trial, a woman became the first person in the UK to be convicted for female genital mutilation (FGM) after evidence was found to implicate her in her 3-year-old daughter’s mutilation. She now faces up to 14 years in prison for her role in a crime that has been outlawed in the UK since 1985, yet has seen the failure of previous prosecutions.

We at JAN Trust stand firmly against gender- and honour-based violence and are delighted by the news. FGM is a procedure that involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre in the UK, spoke up about the lifelong impact this traumatising practice has on survivors, “both physically and psychologically.”

Other activists have spoken out in support of the conviction including Hibo Wardere, who was only 6 years old when she was subjected to FGM by her mother. Wardere wrote a memoir about her traumatic experience and her subsequent activism, Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today, and spoke on BBC Woman’s Hour this week about her feelings regarding the conviction. “I never thought I’d see it in my day,” she admitted. “The UK has showed that children have rights, they are respected and they will be protected. It doesn’t matter what community you come from. You will be held accountable.”

Wardere’s initial misgivings about FGM prosecutions are certainly grounded, for it appears that there is a lack of prosecution of FGM cases in the UK. Figures seen by the Victoria Derbyshire programme show that 939 calls were made to emergency services to report FGM between 2014 and 2018, but the Crown Prosecution Service only received 36 referrals from the police since 2010.

There are a number of factors that could explain this discrepancy. A lot of young girls risk being ostracised if they speak up about their experiences and are often reluctant to turn their family members in to the police. Teachers and law enforcement officials are also wary of stepping in, acutely aware of the cultural dimension of the issue. They are often worried about being labelled “racist” for criticizing a culturally-rooted and widespread practice, despite its obvious harm. Another alarming trend that makes prosecution of these crimes even more difficult is that FGM is increasingly being performed on babies and infants, according to the Victoria Derbyshire Programme. This makes FGM almost impossible to detect, according to FGM expert and barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman, who remarks that victims are as a result “unable to report, the cut heals quicker and prosecution is much harder once evidence comes to light and the girl is older.”

The National FGM Centre said that preventing FGM required kick-starting “a huge cultural shift in groups where FGM is commonly practised.” By educating communities on the enduring harms of this practice, such as severe bleeding, infections, complications in childbirth and even increased risk of newborn deaths, as well as challenging the misconception that FGM can be used to reduce the libido of a woman and thus her chances of “dishonouring” her family by engaging in extramarital sexual encounters, this strategy would address the root of the problem rather than simply treating victims or holding perpetrators accountable after the fact.

At JAN Trust, our project Against FGM is guided by the same logic. We hope to create this cultural shift by providing workshops in schools, universities and communities to raise awareness about the harms of FGM, to help students and teachers recognise instances of FGM and to support victims. In the last 5 years, we have delivered over 400 school sessions to this end, which means we have worked with over 40,000 youth and practitioners across the UK. We are proud to be contributing to the momentum of the movement against FGM, and will continue our fight to educate and empower communities to halt this traumatizing practice.

For more information about our work to address FGM, please visit our website here: https://jantrust.org/project/against-fgm/.

Posted in Campaign, Campaigning, Crime, discrimination, Education, Ethnic Minorities, girls, Health Issues, International, International Affairs, JAN Trust, London, police, Society, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,