Gender Differences in Radicalisation

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In 2014 when ISIS declared its caliphate thousands of women around the world migrated to join debunking the myth that woman did not participate in violent extremism. In fact figures show that with the proclamation of the Caliphate, the number of female departees from EU member states increased significantly for example in Germany the percentage rose from 15% to 36% in the first year after the proclamation. ISIS, like many other terrorist organisations was founded on an extreme and violent ideology with an established role for women as mothers and wives. Findings from studies and reports suggest that there are gendered differences in radicalisation. For example, the radicalisation of women appears to be less visible than men. This difference in visibility resonates with traditional, cultural gender norms and expectations. Women’s access to the public sphere is restricted hence different recruitment strategies are used to target women. Furthermore, women are more likely to be seen travelling with their families or in all female groups thus appearing unthreatening. It is important to highlight here that many sources identify that gender expectations and stereotypes are why women are less likely to be flagged up when travelling due to the myth that women do not participate in violent extremism.

However due to this misconception it may be assumed that women are not vulnerable to radicalisation because terrorist organisations are not interested in recruiting women. This is simply not true. While it is evident that in many terrorist organisations men are the primary players in leadership, combat and operational roles and tend to be more outspoken about their extremist views. For example, more men are visible in far right rallies and Neo-Nazi propaganda is dominated by images of men wearing ideological symbols and shouting violent extremist slogans. This does not mean that women do not participate in extremist activity at all but instead the truth is women take on a different roles; the supporting role. Therefore the way in which women participate is different to men; women are less likely to participate in fighting or suicide bombings. This is not seen as the role of women however in cases terrorist organisations are using women as suicide bombers because they are less likely to be suspected and women are starting to participate in fighting. Despite a few anomalies most women within terrorist organisations or groups tend to take on the role of supporting the men in conflict in the form of providing food, medical help, recruiting and spreading the ideology as well as rearing the next generation of fighters. Women assist their male counterparts in committing vicious acts this is particularly the case with ISIS as many Yazidi women stated ISIS wives would abuse them and prepare them for their husbands to torture and rape. Women have long been considered passive actors when being recruited for causes – however, women have shown to be active actors who have willingly submitted themselves to the idea of the caliphate and who have actively encouraged and recruited others to join through the internet. Although the way in which the radicalisation of women and men takes place differs, as well as there being gendered push and pull factors such as the allure of marriage and playing a more active and fulfilling role than they would do in their current lives.

ISIS propaganda portrayed an image of complete paradise stressing the concept of equality, freedom, social welfare and justice. This drew many people to thinking they would have a better life in ISIS governed territory because in their homelands they faced discrimination, Islamophobia, poverty and a lack of justice. However it is important to note that many ISIS ‘brides’ were in fact  teenage girls and there are a number of contributing forces that result in the radicalisation of women and girls. In her book ‘Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS’ Azadeh Moaveni explores the different factors that have contributed to the radicalisation of young girls. She states that many of these young girls that had been radicalised were looking for a safe space, a sense of belonging and autonomy. Between the pressures to succeed, conservative family structures and the ‘freewheeling London environment’ young girls were exploited by ISIS. Once this happened many women migrated and began their path of violent extremism.

Analysing radicalisation from a gender perspective emphasises that women need to be part of the discussion and policy making process to effectively tackle the rise of online radicalisation and create effective counter terrorism initiatives. At JAN Trust we are aware that women need to be part of the discussion to effectively tackle online radicalisation and terrorism. This is why our CEO Sajda Mughal created the pioneering Web Guardians™ programme well over 10 years ago to help mothers and women prevent and tackling online extremism, building community resilience to this harm.

Posted in Ethnic Minorities, International, International Affairs, ISIS, Islam, JAN Trust, Jihadi Brides, Muslim, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust’s 2019 Journey – Highs, Lows and Surprises

At the end of the Year, it feels only appropriate to reflect on and consider the year JAN Trust has had. As is ever the case 2019 has been an incredible and busy year for us at JAN Trust! We have had some incredible highs, including celebrating our 30th anniversary, winning the education and training charity of the year at the charity awards and delivering or vital Web Guardians™ programme! Despite this, 2019 hasn’t been without it lows.  As a small grassroots charity, it is important to celebrate successes but also not to ignore the struggles that have been faced along the way. In this blog we have mapped out some of our highs and lows of 2019 so you can follow our story, the issues we have been dealing with and how far we’ve come! We are positive and looking forward to what 2020 will bring including supporting more women and delivering more exciting projects!

30 Years of JAN Trust

It has been 30 years since JAN Trust was founded and we’ve been celebrating all the achievements we have made since 1989. Over the last three decades, JAN Trust has been able to build a trusting relationship with vulnerable and marginalised women in the local community, making a real impact to their lives. Our focus has been on educating and engaging with local people to help combat the problems that may affect them. We have over the last 30 years become a trusted part of the community and this has enabled us to achieve so much!

JAN Trust founder Rafaat Mughal Awarded Local Legends Award at the National Lottery Awards 2019

It is incredibly fitting in the year JAN Trusts celebrates its 30th anniversary that Rafaat has been awarded the National Lottery Local Legends Award – a true testament to all she has done for the local community over the last 30 years. Through JAN Trust, Rafaat has successfully changed the lives of thousands of women and families in Haringey and across London, providing continuous support. We are delighted that all of her hard work, determination and dedication has been recognised as she continues to inspire us all at JAN Trust!

Charity Awards

Sandra Kelly, Finance Director, Canals & River Trust

In June we were incredibly proud to receive one of the most prestigious awards in the charity sector – the Education and training Charity of the Year 2019! This award recognises our pioneering Another Way Forward project. This initiative was supported by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and Google.org to empower young women against extremism. JAN Trust aimed to combat the root causes that lead to young women and girls being radicalised, including racism, hate crime and marginalisation, and to develop them into ambassadors against extremism. This is one of the first projects of its kind that encourages young people themselves to lead the narrative – an important factor in its success.

Web Guardians™ Delivery

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In the final quarter of 2019 the JAN Trust team have been incredibly busy delivering our Web Guardians™ programme across the UK, including two wonderful certificate ceremonies to celebrate all the achievement of the Web Guardians™ champions in Islington and Camden.

Despite all of these highs, JAN Trust yet again shortly finds its self without funding for our vital Web Guardians™ programme. The programme has been at the forefront of countering online radicalisation for over a decade working with mothers and women, providing them with the skills, education and confidence to prevent online extremism and more recently gang recruitment in their families and community. This award-winning programme holds it reputation as a unique community initiative, focusing on the importance of women in countering-extremism. Whilst the programme remains unfunded there is an increasing risk to public safety, radicalisers do not wait. If the government is serious about tackling radicalisation in communities across the UK it will have to begin to properly fund preventive work such as the vital Web Guardians™ programme by JAN Trust, a leading grass roots organisation.

Posted in Education, Far right, Inclusion, Islam, JAN Trust, Politics, Radicalisaton, Society, Uncategorized, Web Guardians | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Death Threats and Discrimination: The life of a Muslim Politician

Islamophobia is increasingly rife in the UK and many other parts of the world. For those Muslims in the public eye, threats and hate can be a constant concern.

At JAN Trust, unfortunately we hear stories of Islamophobia all the time. Many of our service users are Muslim, and they have experienced everything from having their hijab pulled off on the bus home to being shouted at in their own neighbourhoods. We know that many Muslims are victims of hate crime, but what about Muslims in politics?

The UK government currently has 15 Muslim MPs. It is brilliant to see more ethnic and religious diversity in parliament to truly represent the makeup of our population. However, across the political spectrum, several Muslim MPs and politicians have reported Islamophobic abuse.

Over recent years, MPs have begun to speak up about the harassment they experience, especially online. Sajid Javid has been the target of Islamophobic social media content between Conservative Party members discussing how they could prevent him from becoming Prime Minister. Comments included remarks such as ‘Britain is not ready for a Muslim PM’, the idea that he would only ‘protect his own’ as a Muslim, and that Britain’s ‘Islamic problem’ convinced people to cancel their party membership.

Earlier this year, Naz Shah MP recounted some of the threats she has received: ‘String her up’; ‘I hope you see your children dead in your arms’; ‘You don’t deserve life.’ She implored parliament to address the issue of Islamophobic hate crime.

Shockingly, verbal abuse is not the only hate crime experienced by Muslims and Muslim politicians in the UK. In 2018, four Muslim MPs received letters inciting violence against Muslims and encouraging a so-called ‘Punish a Muslim Day’. The packages enclosed ‘low-level’ noxious sticky substances. They turned out not to cause physical harm, but two party employees were hospitalised as a precaution; the fear caused by these actions is deeply unsettling. In response to Islamophobic threats, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has resorted to 24-hour police protection. As terror attacks against Muslims have become more common, many Muslims are worried about their safety. Naz Shah represented this fear powerfully in parliament: ‘I do question, as many Muslims across this country do, which Muslim’s life will be next. Will it be mine?’

Muslim members of congress in the USA have also spoken about similar abuse. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has talked about threats to her family and herself as one of the first Muslim women in Congress- like Sadiq Khan in London, she has had to have security staff to keep her safe because of the number of threats she’s had. Omar tweeted a photo of one of the threatening messages sent to her, with very disturbing and frightening content including a death threat.

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Omar has also discussed the issue of being seen as the representative of all Muslims, having to answer for things that other members of Congress are not asked. She and fellow congresswoman Rashida Tlaib are regularly asked to condemn terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, and issues like FGM, simply because they are Muslim. The implication that they are responsible for these issues, or that if they do not condemn them they must support them, is offensive. For other politicians, it is assumed that they oppose such atrocities, while these congresswomen as Muslims are expected to constantly prove their views.

The responsibility of those in power

Muslims in politics are not just concerned about members of the public and mainstream media inciting and spreading Islamophobic views and hate crime. The effect of other politicians’ comments and views on Islamophobia can have a huge effect on public opinion and therefore the safety of Muslims.

In his recent speech in Parliament regarding hate crime in the UK, Tan Dhesi MP drew attention to the reported rise in hate crime against Muslims following Johnson’s Islamophobic description of women wearing niqabs as looked like ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letter boxes’. In the week following Johnson’s article there was a reported increase in anti-Muslim hate crime by 375%; that’s 38 incidents in one week, more than five incidents a day. Most of the incidents in that week were directed at women wearing the niqab. JAN Trust service users reported verbal abuse relating to Johnson’s comments, some being called ‘letter boxes’ in the streets where they live; evidence of the knock-on effect of his words.

This is a crucial point: when high-profile figures make comments like Johnson’s, ethnic minorities and especially women face the consequences. When Donald Trump tweeted suggesting a group of congresswomen of colour should ‘go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came’. Trump’s comments led to crowds at a rally chanting ‘send her back’, aimed at Ilhan Omar who was born in Somalia and came to the US as a refugee aged 10. This hateful behaviour demonstrates how even a few tweets from people in power can manifest in impassioned public racism.

At JAN Trust we work to combat all forms of hate crime and support marginalised women to stand up to abuse. We appreciate all that Muslim politicians do to raise awareness of these issues and the encouraging changes they are pushing for to help protect Muslims in the UK.

Posted in Campaign, Campaigning, discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, Hate Crime, Inclusion, Islam, JAN Trust, Muslim, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust founder Rafaat Mughal Wins Local Legends Award at the National Lottery Awards 2019

Huge congratulations to JAN Trust Founder Rafaat Mughal OBE for being awarded the Local Legends Award for London!

It is incredibly fitting in the year JAN Trusts celebrates its 30thanniversary that the founder of the charity has been awarded the National Lottery Local Legends Award – a true testament to all she has done for the local community over the last 30 years.

In 1989, Rafaat founded JAN Trust having recognised the lack of services available locally to support marginalised women, and many services available, failed to effectively meet the needs of in particular of BAME and Muslim women. As a result local women had been approaching Rafaat for help because they felt they had nowhere else to turn, and since 1989, JAN Trust has been providing a safe space with specialised services to ensure the needs of marginalised communities in London are met. 

Through the JAN Trust, Rafaat has successfully changed the lives of thousands of women and families in Haringey and across London, providing continuous support for a range of challenges they may face. This success has only been possible as a result of her hard work and dedication, regardless of difficulties that have presented themselves over the last 30 years; the achievements she has made are truly inspiring. 

 

We thank you Rafaat. Your hard work, determination and dedication inspires us all at JAN Trust!

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Women in the far right: A network of toxic femininity

The world is accustomed to overlooking the power of women. However women are a powerful force in any movement – for instance, the Women’s March in January 2017 was an incredible display of what women can do together, fighting for equality and positive change. However there are other movements which women are strengthening behind the scenes that may not serve society for the good. This is particularly true in the case of white supremacist women in the United States throughout the Twentieth century until now. However, the twentieth century is considered the decade in which women’s role peaked in White Supremacist movements especially within the Klu Klux Klan. In the 1920s the Klu Klux Klan had a branch for women reportedly with half a million members, it was much more successful than its male counterpart in organising parades and produced the most vicious and destructive results. This was because they were better at public relations. These women were able to hide their xenophobic agenda behind a façade of social welfare.

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However, with the election of President Donald Trump in the US and the evolution of social media and technology, white supremacist women have become a marketing tool for white supremacy. Many white supremacist women are advertising their lifestyles as tradwifes on social media platforms. Tradwife is short for the term traditional wife, it is used in alt-right circles to refer to women that embody traditionally feminine and wifely qualities such as submissiveness, chastity, willingness to run/manage the household and rear children. One popular name in the tradwifescene is Ayla Stewart a Utah women in her thirties who goes by the twitter handle of ‘wifewithapuprose’. Stewart has over 11,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 200 videos with viewing figures over 1,000. Stewart’s homemade videos were centred on her political transformation from feminist, gay rights activist and pagan to alt-right tradwife. This later changed and her videos focussed on spreading the alt-right ideology.

In 2017 Stewart issued a white baby challenge, essentially encouraging white women to reproduce because according to Ayla the number of white babies born in the West has fallen. Over the past few years a significant number of YouTube and social media accounts have popped up ‘showcasing soft spoken young white women who extol the virtues of staying at home, submitting to male leadership and bearing lots of children’, praising the role of becoming a ‘traditional’ wife. It is important to state that this is not to say that women should not be traditional mothers but instead that white supremacist women are using the traditional mother role to engineer white supremacy within society, this takes on the form of rearing children with racist, sexist and fascist views. Most importantly these women are supporting their husbands and male family members at the forefront of violent white supremacy.

These women offer online advice and videos on topics ranging from ‘how to please your husband’ to racist reflections on ‘ghetto music’ and calls to ‘reassert their vision of the white race’. These far-right extremists do not want women and women’s equal rights; tradwifes use their traditional wife roles to strengthen the white supremacist ideology by marketing the ideology, recruiting and networking. This is similar to the roles that the wives of ISIS fighters take on – recruiting and influencing others through social media. Ayla Stewart has even created a video blaming feminism for ‘the Muslim invasion of Europe’ by accusing feminists of being ‘too emotional and not thinking logically’. She has gone as far as questioning a woman’s right to vote in elections and arguing that feminists hate men and that they believe that women are superior to men. As shocking as this may seem this is not a new phenomenon. In fact many white married women throughout American history have voted Republican and they have played a major role in turning the political landscape to the right. For purposes of clarity it is crucial to note that voting Republican does not necessarily mean that an individual is a far-right supporter but instead shows how white married women are able to impact the political landscape, just like Black American women and young people were able to swing local elections in the US. The simple point is that throughout history there has been a pattern of white married women voting inline with conservative ideas. Especially in the 1970s conservative white women would rally against feminism. From Ayla Stewart’s videos we can see this anti-feminist rhetoric still being used to rally white religious conservatives together. Thus uniting white supremacists under her comments section and more importantly giving them a platform to be confident in what they’re doing. The link between religious conservatism and far right women is an interesting, complex and under researched relationship. Of course not all religious conservatives adhere to far-right ideas but the ones that do fear the rise of secularism, liberalism and Islam. This is because many feel the rise of immigration is leading to the eradication of Christian values and this for them must be restored inevitably leading to racist agendas.

These women reinforce a violent and racist ideology, they transmit news using their domestic roles, sending invites and cooking for Klan gatherings, gathering within their private space to discuss their extreme views. Yet ironically when interviewed many of these women claim they are not racists and only want back what is apparently theirs. Many women within the movement are drawn to the promises of a movement ‘that imbues their femininity with enormous power’ they are told that by simply being white, female, attractive and fertile they will be ‘valuable beyond measure to a renegade but righteous cause’. Essentially, they get the opportunity to feel needed and important; they feel that the power to create change is rooted in who they are in the physical sense. For example, in a podcast Nicole Jorgenson a tradwife was praised for marrying a man of the same Norwegian heritage as her and having children of the same blood. Jorgenson was praised for her actions because it reinforced the white supremacist movement and her traditional wife role fit into the misogynistic ideas of the men in the movement. This has been continuing for decades and will only keep continuing if we ignore that women are active agents and so can be complicit and actively promote white supremacist ideology.

Posted in Extremism, Far right, girls, International Affairs, JAN Trust, Online abuse, Online hate, radicalisation, Radicalisaton, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Netherlands partial ban on the burqa/niqab – the first step to an Islamophobic government?

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1st August 2019 saw the first partial ban on the burqa and niqab come into effect in the Netherlands. This was placed upon all women who wear the niqab or burqa, which includes prohibiting women from wearing clothing that covers their entire face. This law is applied within public places such as on public transport, within health and educational institutions and inside government buildings. Although the women are allowed to wear the burqa and niqab on public streets, if stopped by police and demanded to remove then they will be required to take it off. Refusal to do so may result in a fine up to 410 Euros.

The government describes its Dutch-law as “religion-neutral,” but this ban is specifically targeted at Muslim women. An estimate of 100 – 400 women are said to wear the niqab/burqa in the European country of 17 million people. So what is the necessity of this law? Targeted at such a small minority, it brings into question exactly what problem are the Dutch government attempting to solve? With the weak argument from Cabinet ministers of the burqa not fitting in with their “open society,” the Dutch parliament was actually the first European country to put forward the ban for the burqa. This idea was first proposed in 2005 by the Freedom Party far-right politician Geert Wilders who claimed this development as a “major victory.” It took almost 15 years for the law to pass, resulting in the Netherlands now being another European country to have placed the ban on religious clothing, the first two being France and Belgium. France was the first country to ban the full-face Islamic veil on 11th April 2011 where, under the ban, no women, French or foreign, is able to leave their own home with their face covered behind a veil without the risk of facing a fine. The controversial ban of “burkinis,” was then later imposed by French Riviera in 2016, where Prime Minister Manuel Valls called these swimsuits “the affirmation of political Islam in the public space.”

To a Muslim woman, the religious garment she wears is not simply just an item of clothing to cover her face, but a symbol of empowerment. Women wear this to hide and preserve their beauty, where some see it as a part of their own identity. By enforcing this ban, this not only strips a woman of her religious freedom, but also from freedom of movement. This affects both elderly women in their everyday lives, as well as the young in their education and participating in school sports and activities.

This partial ban is, in actuality, a complete ban. There are only a limited amount of public spaces still available to women to wear face-covering clothing, which is the streets and the private sector. But these, too, are limited. As mentioned above, if a female covering her face is requested to remove her niqab, she must oblige or fear receiving an extensive fine. And, naturally, within the private sector they can have their own procedures which could possibly (and most likely) legislate against women dressed specifically in a burqa/niqab. Bans like these will also affect women as they heighten the risk of Islamophobic hate crimes. This ban compromises the safety of these women as it opens the door for people to take the law into their own hands. With this law in place, this is seen as an opportunity for the public to act as “vigilantes.” This form of terror preinstalls a fear into these women and prohibits them from stepping out of their own homes. Activist Flavia Dzodan, has commented on the Dutch newspaper ADnl on its horrific suggestions on what to if they spot a face-covering women in the streets: “They suggest asking the person to leave, call the police or, alternatively, exercise the right to a citizen’s arrest.” Geert Wilders, who first proposed this ban, was of course in favour of this, with senator Marjolein Faber-Van de Klashorst referring to this as a “historical day as this is the first step to de-Islamise the Netherlands. This is the first and next step to close all the mosques.”

JAN Trust supports the rights of Muslim women and their own decision to wear the niqab and burqa. If they have the free will to do so, they should have the right to exercise it and express their religion in the way they choose. Read more of our blogs where we address similar issues in women having to fight for their rights.

Posted in Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, Crime, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Hate Crime, hijab, Inclusion, International, Islam, islamophobia, JAN Trust, Muslim, Muslim dress, Muslim women, Politics, Racism, Society, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Period Poverty: It’s Not Over Yet

Thousands of children across the UK miss school, avoid social situations, or are unable to leave the house at all when they can’t afford period products. Meanwhile, with homelessness on the rise, those below the poverty line are being denied the dignity of proper sanitary products.

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As anyone who has had a period will know, period products are not a luxury but a necessity. It should be a fundamental right to have the appropriate sanitary products; they can make the difference between being housebound and being able to go to school.

Research on 500 girls aged 10-18 found 26% were avoiding social situations because of period poverty- they did not want to see their friends or go to friends’ houses when on their period. Furthermore, the importance of having access to free period products can make a huge difference on children’s experience of school. The same study found that 48% of girls who were able to get free period products while at school said they were able to do activities such as sports, which otherwise would not have been possible for them.

In the words of the three women who started the movement ‘On the Ball’, a campaign to get football clubs to provide free period products in their bathrooms, you would not be expected to bring your own soap or toilet paper around with you; why should women have to carry their own period products, which are equally as important?

Another issue around periods is stigma. As Councillor Helen Goodwin, Bristol’s cabinet member for women, children, and families, states ‘it is important to educate young people too to help end the stigma around periods and menstrual health.’ Children are embarrassed to ask for help, and often resort to using toilet paper or even newspaper when they cannot afford period products. It is not enough just to make products available, people need to feel comfortable enough to ask for the help they need without feeling like periods are something to be ashamed of. This embarrassment surrounding women’s and transgender/non-binary bodies is a product of the sexist society we live in; work needs to be done to overcome this idea that periods are unclean, a sentiment that can be found across many different cultures.

Period poverty and homelessness

For homeless people in the UK and around the world, periods can be a time of great distress. Many people on the streets have to decide whether to eat or whether to buy sanitary products, and food banks are always calling for donations of tampons and pads. Not having access to these products can not only be very uncomfortable and unhygienic, but can take away people’s dignity and make them feel unable to face society. They may also be embarrassed to seek medical help due to the stigma surrounding periods.

The problem is summed up well in a Guardian article about homeless people attending A&E. A nurse writes about ‘a young woman who shows up to A&E with a plastic bag half-full of stolen menstrual hygiene products, asking me to admit her for a few days because the prospect of another period on the streets is too abysmal.’ In a BBC documentary, a woman explains how she spent an entire period using only tissues and socks because she could not afford period products. She said she often resorts to just wearing old clothes and not leaving the house when menstruating.

Period poverty also disproportionately affects asylum seekers due to the small amount of money they live on. Asylum seekers get £37.75 per week to survive and the average price of a box of tampons in the UK is £2.30. The average lifetime cost of periods is £4800. This price is for something that happens naturally without choice to half the population at some point in their lives.

What’s being done?

In March, Philip Hammond announced that there would be free period products in all secondary schools. This is a fantastic step and will make a big difference to lots of young people, but frustratingly this will not be implemented until spring 2020. Charities such as the Red Box Project have been working with schools for a few years to ask them to provide a well-stocked supply of products for students to take.

Meanwhile, the UK government has started a period poverty taskforce which met for the first time in July 2019. In their words, ‘sanitary products are not a luxury and our research has proven that being unable to afford these items can have a detrimental effect. We’ll be looking to provide practical solutions to ensure no girls or women in the UK miss work or school because of lack of access to period products.’

The taskforce also wants to improve education. Most people educated in the UK will agree that their education on the menstrual cycle and women’s bodies in general was fleeting and un-detailed, meaning many British people often don’t actually know what causes their periods, and more importantly which symptoms may require medical attention. Maisie Hill’s book Period Power is full of information about the menstrual cycle, hormones, and women’s health. She notes how there is a lack of information available and that some GPs still aren’t able to recognise and diagnose common problems. Many people who have severe period pains do not go to a doctor for help, and sometimes even those who do are not taken seriously. Endometriosis for example, a condition that affects 1 in 10 women and can cause crippling pain, is severely under diagnosed meaning many people miss school or work due to illness around the time of their period and do not have an explanation for their pain. Period Power exemplifies the issue of period poverty. Not only is there a financial obstacle, but there are systematic obstacles preventing people from managing their menstrual health being able to recognise when something is not right.

Overall, it is clear there is much to be done. Steps are being made it the right direction, especially in recent years, but the gender inequality is clear. Women’s health research and awareness is miles behind that of men, and until every person in the world who experiences periods can have access to period products and education, it is crucial to keep campaigning.

At JAN Trust we work with marginalised women who are affected by these problems. We recognise the power of education to improve women’s lives. To find out more about our work, visit jantrust.org.

Posted in Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, girls, JAN Trust, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Islamophobia in schools: Children are Experiencing Hate Crime Too

Muslim parents often feel they may be putting their children at risk of hate crime simply by sending them to school. This worrying trend affects children regularly and must be tackled.

The issue of bullying in schools is widely understood by teachers, pupils and parents. Sadly, bullying related to race or faith is becoming more prevalent and may not be being tackled efficiently- especially Islamophobic bullying. Following terrorist attacks by so-called Muslims, spikes in hate crime are not just experienced by adults, but are being seen in schools as well.

A young woman named Malak was interviewed by the BBC about her experience of Islamophobic bullying at school at the age of 5. Malak’s father recently warned her not to leave the house following the recent shooting at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. She said that as a young hijabi woman, every time there was a terrorist attack, regardless of who was responsible, she felt under threat from Islamophobic hate as a result: ‘sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter if Muslims are the victims or the perpetrators of an attack – we can still feel like easy targets.’

Now aged 23, Malak grew up in East London, an area where many Muslims and Asians live. She told the interviewer that everything changed after 9/11, when she was just 5 years old. Other children would call her names such as ‘Bin Laden’ or ‘terrorist’, and would even physically attack her. Malak said she was hospitalised due to these attacks more than once.

18 years later, children are still experiencing Islamophobic bullying at school. Last year, young Muslims in Wales reported they were being called ‘terrorists’ at school. One 15-year-old said they thought this was due to ignorance about Islam. Newcastle Bahr Academy had the same suspicions after their school was attacked twice in 2019. The school was painted with Islamophobic graffiti, Korans were left torn up, and the building was severely damaged by several teenagers. In a statement afterwards, the school wanted to invite the vandals to meet them personally, putting their violence down to a lack of understanding of what Islam really looks like.

This lack of understanding of Islam crops up in Islamophobic incidents at schools seemingly every time a high-profile terror attack takes place. In 2015 following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, there was a significant increase in hate crime incidents at schools. One child was slapped and called a ‘terrorist’ at school- the boy later told his parents he did not want to go back to school. His mother was distressed and felt she might even be putting him in danger just by sending him to school.

More worryingly still, the problem of Islamophobia in schools seems to be getting worse. According to the Guardian, in 2018 a record number of children were excluded for racist bullying. While this shows that Islamophobia from teachers is being taken seriously enough to warrant exclusion, the fact that so many children are experiencing this abuse is unacceptable.

So why are children increasingly exhibiting Islamophobic behaviour in school? David Lammy MP suggested it reflects the way the UK government treats migrants and the toxic rhetoric around immigration and refugees. Incidents such as a 15-year-old Syrian refugee being verbally and physically harassed at school in Huddersfield also suggest that the way immigrants are portrayed in mainstream media is going so far as to affect children and their behaviour in educational settings. The child helpline organisation Childline have said children as young as 9 have been calling Childline about race/faith-based bullying. When such young children are experiencing this abuse, there is little doubt they have picked up on Islamophobic sentiments from people around them; their parents, the media, and other adults in their lives.

We, at JAN Trust also know fully well that the levels of Islamophobic bullying has increased with the number of cases being reported to us increasing year on year.

This Islamophobic behaviour in young children proves adults and the media should be taking a greater responsibility to protect not only our own children, but to consider the safety of children from all backgrounds. It is shocking that young people are experiencing this abuse, and can lead to trauma or other mental health problems later in life, as well as interfering with the child’s education. School has to be a safe space for children; any threat of race or religion-based discrimination or abuse has no place in our society, and especially not in our schools.

JAN Trust works with young people in the local community to educate them about hate crime, extremism and the different types of extremist groups. We have found that many young people are not aware of the threat of hate crime directed towards certain people, and that they are always keen and grateful to learn how to report and recognise hate crime and discrimination. To find out more about our work, head over to jantrust.org.

Posted in Education, Hate Crime, London, Muslim, Racism, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Knife crime solutions in the UK – what should the government do?

Will statutory responsibility placed on schools and the NHS improve rates of knife crime in the UK? JAN Trust welcomes attention regarding this issue but with the education and healthcare systems already under strain, it is unclear if more pressure on these services will have a positive outcome when dealing with knife crime.

The government wanting fresh solutions to tackle knife crime is both understandable and needed. In light of recent statistics revealing that knife crime has risen by 8% in the last year, and the news that 100 Londoners have died due to fatal stabbings between the 1st January and the 14th May 2019, it is unsurprising that new ideas are being proposed. These numbers highlight that knife crime is not being dealt with adequately and is getting worse. Such figures look even poorer combined with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner admitting in June 2019, that the crime solving rate was “woefully low” this year. If solving crimes, including knife offences, is going too slowly and already established methods such as stop and search are widely criticised, what new ideas can make a difference?

In April 2019, the government announced it wanted to introduce a statutory responsibility on education and healthcare staff to report knife crime if they spotted the signs. Signs could be worrying behaviour at school or suspicious injuries. This was planned to be part of a multi-agency public health duty to tackle knife crime from every angle. Staff would be held legally responsible for not acting on warning signals regarding someone at risk. However, this proposal did not go without criticism and rightly so.

The major issue lay with staff being personally responsible if they failed to report a potential knife crime case. This was seen as an overwhelming responsibility for staff to bear, especially when they already work in fields under pressure with reduced funding. For example, Chris Keates, the general secretary of National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said such an individual burden on teachers would mean their job was harder than ever before and would drive people out of the profession. This individual liability has now been removed as it was strongly opposed and the responsibility will now rest with healthcare trusts and schools as a whole. However, the issue remains that the government may be pushing for another knife crime solution that will fail to have a positive impact.

Despite amendments, many factors will remain as a barrier to reducing knife crime effectively regarding new legal responsibilities. Unless a significant amount of funding is committed to the project, it is unlikely to do any better than trying to fight crime on the streets whilst police officers on the ground are being reduced. As John Apter, the national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, has commented; “you can’t legislate yourself out of this” and resources are needed for any plan to work. Moreover, considering the Met Police have admitted that overwhelming amounts of data have contributed to less crime being solved, one questions whether a potential flood of referrals from panicked schools and hospitals will do anything to reduce knife crime if the police are slowed down even more. Additionally, considering staff in both sectors already work long hours under stressful conditions, how would they be prepared for this extra responsibility? It would cost time and money to train staff across the country and it is unknown how long it would take before they would be ready to report knife crime appropriately through schools and hospitals.

Whilst new ideas to tackle knife crime are a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to address the problem. As the CEO of JAN Trust, Sajda Mughal, has emphasised; support and resources to community services and youth projects is essential to fighting knife crime. It is not enough to expect large institutions like school networks and hospital trusts to spot every problem. Unless youth workers and community leaders can engage with the local community to understand what is happening and why, the problem will continue to grow as catch-all solutions attempt to fix knife crime across vastly different areas and communities in the UK. This is why JAN Trust created Against Knife Crime, which is run with BAME women and mothers to raise awareness of the dangers young people in Haringey and surrounding boroughs in London face in relation to knife crime. By engaging with local women and giving sensitive advice to impacted families, JAN Trust has made huge progress educating mothers and their wider communities on the violence and its outcomes. Such programmes across the UK could have a significant impact on the rate of knife crime and make clear what plans need to be put in place for long term success and safety.

To find out more about our fight against knife crime click here.

Posted in JAN Trust, knife crime, London, Society, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The war on women: The rise of ‘Smart Abuse’

Since the emergence and evolution of smart home technology many women are finding themselves fighting an invisible war in their own homes. What exactly is Smart abuse? Well, smart abuse is defined as technology facilitated harassment, for example, the Telegraph reported that smart doorbells and TVs were increasingly used ‘as a form of control by abusive partners’. Through these web-connected devices abusive partners can spy on their victims and ‘activate devices remotely in order to cause fear and confusion’ – this could be through altering the temperature or locking doors. In fact there have been stories reported by Refinery and The New York Times of women being locked in their own homes by ex-husbands. This disturbing trend has left women feeling insecure in their own private space.

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This alarming development blurs the lines of public and private space for women, creating no space at all for women to feel comfortable and safe in. In many cases cyber space has also become a daunting place for women with many reporting being locked out of their social media accounts by controlling partners. How do we solve the problem of Tech abuse? Firstly it is crucial to note that Tech abuse is not the only form of abuse women face and is an aspect of the multiple ways that violence against women manifests. Violence against women is a big problem in society that needs to be tackled. However, for now to effectively solve or prevent the issue of tech abuse, this generally necessitates replacing your smart devices, changing your internet and social media passcodes, WIFI passwords after a relationship has ended and reading device guidelines. University College London has partnered with Privacy International to provide a resource list for victims and survivors of tech abuse. This resource list provides links and information to help women prevent any future abuses of their smart home technology and also advocates better digital security by suggesting workshops, online videos and articles which women can look into to better educate themselves about gender imbalance in the digital world and the abuse that they could face.

It is reported that ex-partners usually have access to smart home technology much more easily especially in the case of heterosexual relationships because men are more likely to fix these technologies in the home and take control in this particular arena. Thus, many women are unaware of how these devices function. However, we can see how important it is to be aware of the implications of smart technology in the home. Unfortunately it is harder to detect tech abuse due to many women reporting that they feared they were going ‘crazy’ and did not believe their devices could be compromised. This further adds to the abuse women face as this type of harassment leads to women questioning their sanity which can lead to extreme stress and fear. It is also the case that many women feel too intimidated to seek help or find it difficult to prove that their smart devices are being used to torment them. Furthermore, it is noted by researchers that tech abuse can also take the form of perpetrators convincing abused victims that they are ‘stupid’ and need the other person in order to operate devices leaving the abused person feeling useless and reliant on their partner. This tactic is also described as ‘user-shaming’ and reveals the different pathways in which technology can be used to belittle, control and shame others. This is also another form of coercive control; this is when a person you are personally connected with repeatedly behaves in a way that makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared. Coercive control results in isolating you from your friends and family, therefore making you reliant on them only.

Tech abuse also highlights that there is a gender imbalance in technology access and usage. For instance Eurostat has reported that women tend to use the internet for social interactions and relationship maintenance whereas men tend to use it for more targeted activities such as obtaining financial information or reading the news. The reasons for such differences are rooted in differing social-cultural backgrounds, including the home environment, cultural capacity and academic orientation. Therefore the best way to tackle the problem of tech abuse is by educating women and tackling the existing gender imbalance in technology access and usage.

JAN Trust is turning 30 this year! At JAN Trust we help vulnerable women develop digital literacy skills and warn them of the dangers of the online world, especially through our Web Guardians™ programme Click here to find out how you can celebrate our anniversary with us and help us to fight against discrimination and gender based violence.

Posted in JAN Trust, Online abuse, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,