In Memoriam: Rafaat Mughal OBE

Founder, matriarch, trailblazer, advocate.

We are devastated to announce that Rafaat Mughal OBE, JAN Trust’s founder and a woman who educated, empowered, and encouraged women in her own right, passed away on Saturday 10th April 2021. 

During the course of her life, she was a matriarch, politician, teacher, and researcher, but we remember her most as an empowered woman who was dedicated to empowering other women to shattering some of the ceilings that left them excluded and vulnerable in society, and advocated for those who did not have a powerful voice. 

Over thirty years ago, when the definition of feminism was still evolving and the concept of intersectionality had not yet entered popular discourse, Rafaat Mughal OBE recognised that marginalised women and their families were facing a serious cycle of disadvantage from a lack of access to services, resources, and opportunities to gain more skills. Not content to simply continue to offer assistance from her own home, she founded JAN Trust, an organisation to formally empower minority women through educational opportunities and specialised advice.

As society and the needs of our beneficiaries have evolved, so too has JAN Trust. Under the leadership of Rafaat Mughal OBE, countless women’s lives have been changed for the better, the British system has been demystified for generations, and whole families have been reintegrated into a society that often disregards their concerns. It is thanks to her hard work and determination that we now also campaign for change and deliver projects on a national level, including Against FGMAgainst Forced MarriagesWeb Guardians™, and Another Way Forward™.

Rafaat Mughal OBE typified the tireless advocate for the downtrodden who does it out of the goodness of their hearts and not out of any need for praise or plaudits. Later in life, however, it was fulfilling for her work to be publicly recognised through numerous awards including:

  • New Year’s Day Parade Honours 2006: The Award for the London Borough of Haringey
  • The South Asian Community Project UK 2009: Special Community Award
  • The South Asian Community Project UK 2010: Lifetime Achievement Award
  • DSC Social Change Awards 2012: The Lifetime Achievement Award runner-up
  • Universal Peace Federation and the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace 2009: Ambassador for Peace
  • Excellence in Diversity Awards 2017: Lifetime Achiever Award shortlist
  • The National Lottery Awards 2019: Local Legends Award (London)

In 2014, Rafaat Mughal was officially recognised with an OBE for services to disadvantaged women and the community in Haringey in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, which she received from His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge. At the time, she commented that she “told Prince William that we have helped more than 50,000 women in the past 25 years by helping them learn English, understand the British system so they take part in society and not feel isolated.” 

As driven but as modest as ever, in an interview regarding her OBE, Rafaat Mughal OBE stated: “I do this work because it is in me and a part of who I am.” Her spirit may have left this earth, but she has most certainly left her mark and her legacy will live on. We at JAN Trust are more determined than ever to continue the path she laid out for us, and empower marginalised minority ethnic women and young people. If you would like to support us, please consider donating to fund our work.

Our thoughts are with all those who knew and loved Rafaat Mughal OBE at this time. May she rest in peace.

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Islamophobia: a gendered crisis

Muslim women are disproportionately targeted by Islamophobic sentiment and hate. We must dismantle the false stereotypes of the female Muslim identity in order to tackle this gendered crisis.

Muslim women face discrimination and prejudice at the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. Islamophobia is experienced and targeted at both men and women, however, it should be highlighted as a particularly gendered crisis. Muslim women are disproportionately targeted by Islamophobic sentiment and hate, while the majority of perpetrators of these online and offline incidents are men. Discrimination and harassment are further intensified for the Muslim women who wear the hijab, niqab, or burka in accordance with their religion. Due to these visual identifiers of Islam, some Muslim women become visual targets for Islamophobia.

Given the surge in online hate and anti-Muslim rhetoric during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has principally manifested online in the form of online conspiracy theories linking Muslims to the spread of the virus, it is feared that present hostility towards Muslims will heighten. This fear has serious wider implications for Muslim communities around the UK, who fear that they too could be targeted, while Muslim women who wear the hijab, burka, or niqab already feel incredibly uncomfortable in public. However, this hate crisis in the UK is not recent; Muslim communities have long been targeted, mocked, and abused.  Notably, anti-Muslim rhetoric has manifested in the aftermath of Brexit, ‘trigger incidents’ such as terrorist attacks in London and Manchester, as well as the growth of the far right. The indiscriminate statements made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, where he compared Muslim women who wear the niqab to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”, have ultimately legitimised this Islamophobic and anti-Muslim hatred. Muslims around the UK have experienced the adverse implications and reality of this hate. In JAN Trust’s Web Guardians™ programme, most of the women who spoke out about their experience of harassment did not report it to the police. This cannot and will not be normalised in society.  

The identities and lived experiences of Muslim women have often been perceived externally as homogenous, however this stereotype fails to depict the reality that Muslim women come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and hold diverse political views, perspectives and cultures. As highlighted by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED Talk, The Danger of a Single Story: “the single story creates stereotypes, the problem with the stereotypes is not that they are untrue but they make one story become the only story.” A common deception of Islam is that women are forced to wear the hijab, niqab, or burka, therefore promoting an anti-Muslim ideology in the name of women’s rights. However, as highlighted by an article from The Independent, Islam is not holding women back; it is the pervasive prejudice and discrimination in all facets of our lives. 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. It is important to dismantle the false stereotypes of the female Muslim identity. 

An article by The Independent draws an interesting parallel between Muslim women choosing to wear a face covering out of religious importance, who are ultimately scrutinised and targeted for this, and face coverings becoming mandatory in public spaces in the UK. The difference in narrative exposes the level of prejudice and injustice that see’s Muslim women being targeted for wearing the niqab. It is hoped that the hostility experienced, as a result of wearing religious face coverings, will diminish now that face coverings have been normalised in the UK, and will ultimately lead to increased empathy and understanding

JAN Trust supports the rights of Muslim women and their 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. Muslim women should not have to endure any form of anti-Muslim hate, and nothing justifies this discrimination or bigotry. To find out more about our work empowering women, please see our website.

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The Sewell report and the real state of racism: progress, but far from a green and pleasant land

There has been much press attention on the long-awaited Sewell report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. Whilst it may be an official report, we should take its suggestions that the UK is a multicultural green and pleasant land with a grain of salt.

By now, countless articles have been published on the Sewell report with many different takes, some much hotter than others. The report itself is nearly 300 pages long and a quick headline can easily lose the nuances and details of such an extensive document, so we have read the entire report to summarise and respond to some of the key points from the perspective of a BAME women’s charity staffed primarily by women of colour.

No doubt one of the most infamous findings from the report is the lack of structural or institutional racism in the UK, which is, instead, hailed as “a successful multicultural community – a beacon to the rest of Europe and the world” (p.8). Whilst the ethnic diversity of the Commission should be acknowledged, this should not be taken to equate to a lack of blind spots. Everyone is vulnerable to being blind to their own privilege. A simple Google search or mental trawl of memories of comments prominent politicians and figures in the UK have made about ethnic minorities, including individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds, will produce an endless number of instances of racial discrimination. 

The report notes that the term “institutional racism” is only accurate where there is “deep-seated racism”, not for “any microaggression, witting or unwitting” (p.8). Those of us who have been victims of microaggressions know just how profoundly damaging and overlooked such behaviours can be, the impacts of which are by no means of a micro size. Furthermore, whilst intentional microaggression could be argued to be a conscious individual decision, any “unwitting” microaggression, i.e. subconscious or unconscious, by default must stem from engrained instinctive habits, and racial discrimination is only engrained through being accepted in society.

This is without even mentioning some of the flagship policies of the current government and its predecessors, many of which we have long campaigned in favour of abolishing. Such policies include: 

The tone of the report is at best paternalistic and patronising, and at worst downright insulting, by repeating the entrenched and extremely harmful tropes that ethnic minorities should be grateful for what they have and that our communities would be fine if they only “[helped] themselves through their agency, rather than wait for invisible external forces to assemble to do the job” (p.7). Ironically, these external forces would, in fact, be the forces of antiracism to counteract the original forces that put these communities into a greatly disadvantaged position to begin with. 

Black Lives Matter is dismissed as youth idealism and “inter-generational mistrust”, whilst arguments on White privilege are slammed as accomplishing nothing “beyond alienating the decent centre ground” (p.27), with the implication that decent people do not care to think about White privilege. Similar suggestions that one ethnic minority is better or lazier than the other, or that “there is a new story about the Caribbean experience [of]… the slave period” (p.8) beyond being tortured, oppressed, objectified, and treated as property, do not deserve any attention beyond awareness being drawn to their existence in a report by an ‘independent’ organisation tasked to analyse racism in the UK. Nevertheless, these sentiments seem to typify institutional racism.

The document is inconsistent and incoherent on many levels. In this same report that denounces antiracist movements, racial equality is discussed in the lens of expectation, with current ethnic minorities being ‘praised’ for having “higher expectations of equal treatment” and not “tolerating” racism (p.11). Apart from racial equality being a fundamental right rather than an expectation, the constant active voice used is entirely at odds with the realities of racism, when ethnic minorities are subject to racist abuse from individuals and discrimination from society and institutions. The latter reduces many minority communities to passive victims with very few options beyond trying to continue to speak out.

Even more concerning is what happened behind the scenes, which we are unlikely to ever know. Experts cited in the report have expressed their surprise at being quoted without their prior knowledge and fury at having their research misrepresented for ostensibly political purposes. The controversy surrounding the findings and conclusions, and extremely restrictive pre-publication release embargo — which all but guaranteed positive press until people got round to reading the report in full — have also led many to question the political motivations behind the report. Some have suggested that the report was specifically geared towards the government’s political interests, whilst others have suggested that the report was and is being used as a mechanism to distract from other government failures, most notably the ongoing response to the pandemic.

Regardless, JAN Trust will continue to speak out against all forms of racism and empower our marginalised minority communities. Whilst the report sees “objective data” as superior to lived experiences that bias research against “minority self-reliance and resilience” (p.31), we give a voice to those whose voices are often ignored or belittled. To paraphrase a well-known phrase, one million may be dismissible as a general statistic, but there is no denying the tragedy of even one individual suffering from the effects of racism. Please see more information on our work on our website and donate to support us in our mission to speak truth to power. 

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How can data be weaponised to target marginalised groups?

Data can portray a false narrative when taken out of context. Its use and abuse can lead to adverse implications for wider society.

Society is increasingly using data to influence policy decisions and people’s lives. Particularly during the pandemic, the UK public has been constantly fed the narrative that the government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis has been guided by the science and data, while our GCSE and A-Level pupils’ futures were directly dictated by data through the algorithm. In numerous ways, data can be a tool for social good: it informs us how society is functioning, and exposes how systemic inequalities manifest in people’s reality through identifying social exclusion and marginalisation. However, data can also be dangerous when paired with prejudices or short-sightedness, in making decisions that further marginalise communities. Data can be weaponised in media narratives, in policies that reinforce systemic inequalities, through presenting misleading data visualisations, or framed to fuel hate-filled agendas. When taken out of context, data can be misinterpreted, misconstrued, and manipulated. So far, this argument appears very abstract; what actually is data? The concept seems unfathomable, given its scale and intangible nature. These examples will illustrate how the uses and abuses of data influence society, and our lives, and why this must be considered when thinking about the use of data today. 

The first example refers to the debate over whether public postcode-level testing data of Covid-19 should be published to help get to the ‘root cause’ of any outbreak, through identifying potential outbreaks and responding to them quickly and effectively. However, this data was not published out of fear that certain communities would face discrimination and stigmatisation, further damaging community cohesion, given that publishing detailed data could lead to the identification of individuals or families. The government initially pushed for the data to be published, but, following the concerns from councils, the information was withheld. This fear for marginalised communities comes in the context of a surge in online anti-Muslim hatred during the UK Covid-19 lockdown, and the concern for wider BAME communities given the disproportionate impact of the virus on these communities. Furthermore, this highlights that when the wider implications for society are not considered, the publication of postcode-level data could be weaponised to further hate-fuelled rhetoric. 

Secondly, a significant example of the abuse of data is highlighted (on many occasions) by the Trump administration. The case of attempting to add the ‘citizenship question’ to the 2020 US census, which was drafted to ask respondents: “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” The drafted options included: “Yes, born in the United States”; “Yes, born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Marianas”; “Yes, born abroad of U.S. citizen parent or parents”; “Yes, U.S. citizen by naturalization”; or “No, not a U.S. citizen”. This was eventually abandoned after it was blocked by the Supreme Court and highlights how serious the implications would have been for US politics if the citizenship question had been adopted. This is due to the fact that census results are used for the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives, are a vital determinant for all levels of governments, and influence the allocation of funding for key social services.  Furthermore, it was feared that including the question in the 2020 census would have resulted in an underrepresentation of noncitizens and minority residents in the national statistics, and has been highlighted as a central strategy to increase Republican power, by excluding noncitizens from the census figures. This agenda highlights how data can be utilised to further discriminate against already marginalised communities. 

Data must be used as a tool for social change instead of a weapon of political marginalisation and exclusion. It is crucial that we are educated about the dangers of data manipulation and the potential for published data to be weaponised against marginalised communities. Over three decades ago, JAN Trust was created to support these very minority communities in North London and beyond, by working to strengthen and support these communities we keep women and their children safe. Please see our website to find out more about our work. 

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Environmental racism – What is it and why should we care?

The climate crisis threatens everyone’s right to a safe and clean environment, but people from BAME communities are already suffering from pollution disproportionately.

What is environmental injustice?

Alike many other discriminatory policies implemented by governments, environmental policies reflect existing power structures and entrench inequity in society. In the words of Mustafa Ali, former head of the EPA environmental justice program, “environmental injustice is about [the state] creating sacrifice zones where we place everything which no one else wants. The justification is always an economic one, that it makes sense to build chemical plants on so-called cheap lands where poor people and people of colour live, but which are only cheap because all the wealth and economic opportunities have been stripped out. The people who live in these areas are unseen, unheard and undervalued”.  Adverse environmental conditions affect those most marginalised the worst, namely people from BAME communities and those from low-income backgrounds. This phenomenon is apparent worldwide: lands of Indigenous peoples are used as dumping grounds for waste without any regard for people or cultures, and in cities pollution levels are highest in areas with the highest proportion of marginalised residents. In the US, race is the number one indicator of the location of toxic facilities like coal fired power plants and incinerators.

Climate change and racism

It is not merely pollution that creates harm though – proliferation of climate change in itself is racist. The consequences of the climate crisis are increasingly adverse and rapid: for example droughts or extreme heat caused by global warming affect marginalised communities the most. As climate change accelerates, we must acknowledge and support not only those who suffer from the proximity of facilities that emit toxins to the environment, but also those whose homes will become inhabitable due to sea level rise, those who lose their livelihoods to floods, and those who lose loved ones to natural disasters and diseases exacerbated by climatic conditions. More often than not, these communities are located in the global South and the least able to afford adaptation to the worsening conditions, despite being the least responsible for climate change in the first place. 

Environmental racism in the UK

Although climate change is a global issue by nature, the UK is very much culpable of racist policies regarding the environment. In London, for example, people from Black, African and Caribbean communities account for 15.3% of all those exposed to such high levels nitrogen dioxide that they breach EU limits, despite constituting only 13.3% of London’s population. In areas where air quality was poor 37% of residents were from the most deprived backgrounds, while only 7% were from the least deprived. JAN Trust is based in North London in the borough of Haringey, where nitrogen oxide levels exceed the EU limits. In Haringey, the proportion of BAME residents is higher than average. A United Nations Economic and Social Council report from 2017 condemned the UK for not meeting its responsibilities of environmental justice under international law. The pattern is clear – why are policy responses to pollution not reflecting it?

We need climate justice – now

The seriousness of this question becomes apparent when considering the consequences of environmental racism, for they are dire. Those exposed to toxic pollution suffer from various health issues and develop chronic conditions such as kidney, heart and lung diseases, and according to topical research, poor air quality actually increases risk of death from covid-19. African Americans are three times more likely to die from pollution than the overall population. Environmental racism literally leads to loss of life – it is high time that we do something about it.

At JAN Trust, we have been fighting structural marginalisation in society for over three decades. We support women and youth from BAME and Muslim backgrounds in becoming active citizens in their communities and beyond. The power of active community responses to environmental injustice is invaluable and should absolutely not go underestimated, however, the responsibility for structural change lies on the government and the policies implemented.

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What is Misogynoir?

The intersectional oppression and devaluation of Black women in society.

This blog explores the term’s origins, significance, and its implications for Black women in society.

Moya Bailey coined the term ‘misogynoir’ in 2008, which alludes to the anti-Black and misogynistic racism that Black women experience, particularly in popular media and culture. The framing of misogynoir has been worked on for years by Trudy of Gradient Lair. In one of her blogs, the writer highlights that misogynoir refers specifically to “Black women’s experiences with gender, and how both racism and anti-Blackness alters that experience” of misogyny. 

An interview between Moya Bailey and Trudy specifies that the term is specific to Black women, as, even though misogynoir can come from anyone of any race or gender, it cannot be experienced by women of any other race. While misogyny harms all women, misogynoir is conceptualised to explain the ways in which anti-Black racism, sexism, and misogyny, intersect “to malign Black women in our world”. Furthermore, under this definition, ‘women of colour’ is not interchangeable for ‘Black women’, given the unique experience of Black women. This should not be criticised as exclusionary in nature; “by being more specific in addressing the types of violence we experience, we are better able to come up with actions that truly address it”, as highlighted by Moya Bailey in the interview. An article by The Guardian quotes Black feminist commentator, Feminista Jones, who stresses that prejudice against Black women is ignored by mainstream feminism, and ultimately this term should be exercised more in feminist discourse. 

What are the stereotypes feeding into misogynoir? Firstly, there is the stereotype which presents Black women as angry, especially someone who speaks out, with the implication that this diminishes what is said. Secondly, in many aspects of culture and society, Black women’s bodies are hypersexualised. This highlights just two examples, though it is fundamental to recognise that these stereotypes ultimately engender the oppression and devaluation of Black women in society. 

It is important to look at the real-life implications of misogynoir for Black women. The everyday, lived experience of Black British women exposes the deep-rooted, intersectional discrimination and prejudice. The conceptualisation of this lived experience, misogynoir, explains why Black female figures in the public eye are targeted in the way which they are. It explains why Serena Williams is criticised for her behaviour on court, and why many fixate on her appearance, comparing her to an animal or a man, instead of her unmatched talent and sportswomanship. In politics, one example is the experiences of Diane Abbott, the first Black woman MP, who has suffered constant racist and sexist abuse online. Such hostility was exposed in a study, which was published by Amnesty International, revealing that in the run-up to the 2017 election, the abuse she received accounted for 45% of all abusive tweets against women MPs. Another example which demonstrates this disproportionate contempt for Diane Abbott refers to her experience of being sexually harassed by David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, to which she responded assertively and made him accountable for his actions. The response from the media was alarming; rather than being met with outrage or empathy for Diane Abbott, newspaper headlines scorned her language, instead of focusing on the unconsented to, inappropriate behaviour of David Davis. Sexual harassment should never be tolerated by reason of someone’s ethnicity, personality, or political views, like it was with Diane Abbott.

We at JAN Trust believe that the intersectional ways in which women are oppressed across the world need to be recognised. We find this oppression and discrimination unacceptable and work to empower these women against these forms of prejudice. We work with women that come from many different countries, cultures, and speak many different languages, and therefore encounter different obstacles. Please find out more about our work on our website

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Gentrification as a driving force for social injustice

The transformation of low-income neighbourhoods to trendy, more upmarket versions of their past selves often comes at an unfair cost for the communities who have resided there for decades.

What is gentrification?

Gentrification can be defined as the transformation of an area to a middle-class neighbourhood leading to displacement of the original predominantly working-class residents. Not only does this change concern the housing market, but it also transforms the social character of an area. The process of gentrification itself is a complex issue and depends on various factors often specific to the context a location, but generally deregulated real estate markets facilitate housing costs being driven up to the extent that the original residents cannot afford to live there anymore. In the process, social housing often suffers and is replaced by luxury apartments.

Gentrification exacerbates inequality beyond just socio-economic status. Displacement has a disproportionate adverse impact on the elderly, ethnic minorities, disabled people and those with mental health issues. Communities, in many cases generations of friendships between families, are ripped apart. For some, adaptation to such a change may prove to be extremely difficult and drive social exclusion. 

Gentrified London

London is a prime example of the negative effects of gentrification: some of the most up-market areas in present-day London used to be held in contempt. For instance, Notting Hill, nowadays amongst the most upscale areas in London, used to be a slum only a few decades ago. The pattern generally is that wealthy people occupy central London more and more, driving residents with lower incomes further to the outskirts of the city. This means that it is more difficult for working-class communities to access services and jobs in the inner city, demonstrating the divisive force of gentrification. Again, the cost to communities is substantial.

Brick Lane in Spitalfields used to be the hub of London’s Bangladeshi community, however as the area became trendy, the residents who made the area famous are now driven out the way. Many have lost their support network for everyday tasks such as childcare, not to mention the damage to social life moving away does. Community members criticise gentrification for changing the spirit and identity of the area, replacing art and culture with soulless business. Gentrification does not take place without resistance: frustrations with the rising prices have resulted in direct, sometimes violent action. In 2015, anti-gentrification protesters threw paint on a café window on Brick Lane. Similar protests also took place in Camden. In both cases, protesters cited dissatisfaction with “dog-eat-dog” economics resulting in a loss of community.

As a charity operating in a city so heavily affected by gentrification, we have witnessed the impact it has on already deprived communities. At JAN Trust, we believe everyone is deserving of a good quality of life and has a right to a community. The power of community cohesion ought not to be underestimated, as it has far-reaching consequences ranging from better health to public safety. Sacrificing communities is all the less ethical when it disproportionately impacts those who are already discriminated against in society.

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Narratives blaming minorities for spreading Covid-19 are not new — instead, they reflect a wider pattern of scapegoating

Blaming marginalised communities for society’s problems deflects attention away from where it is needed. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has birthed a dangerous cocktail of anxiety, conspiracy theories, and racism. The UK witnessed a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the pandemic’s initial stages, in direct response to narratives describing Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus”. Fake stories blaming Muslims for spreading the virus have circulated on social media, alongside antisemitic conspiracy theories blaming Jews for creating Covid-19 as part of a global plot. 

These trends are not unique; instead, they reflect a wider pattern in public discourse, the media, and policymaking in which marginalised and minority groups — particularly BAME groups and migrants — are blamed for various social issues. This pattern of scapegoating has implications not only for discrimination and hate crime, but also for how the scapegoated groups are treated by policy and public services.

For example, Muslims are a popular target for scapegoating, with issues like terrorism, female genital mutilation and “grooming gangs” regularly treated as “Muslim problems”: an inherent result of Muslim religious beliefs and “culture”. This has an impact not only on public discussion, but also in measures such as counterterrorism policy, which are often accused of disproportionately targeting Muslims for surveillance and profiling. Migrants are also a common target, with a distinct influence on public political opinions. The EU referendum in particular provided a legitimised space for anxieties about waiting lists in the NHS, reductions in public services, housing shortages, and overcrowded classrooms to be projected onto migrants and “foreigners”.

On the higher level of policymaking, scapegoating has the problematic effect of deflecting focus away from the structural problems that underlie many of the issues that marginalised communities are blamed for. For example, narratives blaming disproportionate Covid-19 infection rates amongst black people on ‘self-inflicted’ medical conditions like obesity have served to deflect attention away from the devastating impact of systemic racism in exacerbating health inequalities. Similarly, patterns of blame serve to mask the role of policy failures — for instance, the scapegoating of migrants for socioeconomic problems in the UK has been criticised for glossing over factors like a lack of funding for the NHS and failures in public planning policy. 

Blaming marginalised communities is not only seemingly easier than addressing the gaps in existing policy and the structural causes of various issues, but it also often serves to justify the amplification of exclusionary policies and repressive measures against already marginalised groups. For example, narratives about the negative impact of immigration on health, national security and the economy have played key roles in the birth of harmful policies as part of the ‘hostile environment’, such as the increased use of detention centres and limits on access to employment, housing, and healthcare. As such, scapegoating serves only to take the focus away from developing real solutions. For example, a preoccupation with Muslim men and grooming gangs distracts from the need to address the underfunding of community, healthcare and violence-against-women services. Similarly, relying on hard-line immigration policy to help with economic insecurity takes attention away from the need for changes to the welfare system and more funding for public services. 

As such, blaming marginalised communities — whether for the spread of disease, for terrorism, or for economic insecurity — does not only harm those who are facing the backlash. It also prevents us from investigating the real causes of the issues that we are facing.

At JAN Trust, we work to encourage, empower and educate marginalised communities, and advocate for solutions both nationally and locally that can help all communities to thrive. 

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Is it time to find an alternative to the term BAME?

This blog discusses the origins of the term “Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME)”, the significance of BAME as an acronym, and its implications for ethnic minority groups in UK society.

BAME is a term used in the UK to refer to Black, Asian, and minority ethnic people, reflecting a wide grouping of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities. In this classification, BAME comprises all Mixed, Asian, Black, and Other (non-white) ethnicities. According to the most recent census, more than 7.6 million people are considered as BAME in the UK. It is an administrative term, relating to ethnic minority groups, which is widely used by the government, the public and private sectors, and the media. We at JAN Trust refer to the term regularly. It has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, while the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19 pandemic have sparked vital conversations and heightened the use of the term, further exposing prevalent racial and ethnic disparities and marginalisation in the UK. While terms like BAME are important for recognising that structural inequalities must be addressed, there has been significant debate about the use of the term BAME in various contexts. Language and terminology constantly change, evolve, and progress as we become more politically aware; perhaps it is time to think again about the language we use to describe groups in society. 

As highlighted in an article by The Guardian, the discourse surrounding race and ethnicity in the UK has its roots in the idea of “political blackness”, which denotes a sense of solidarity between ethnic minorities against racism. Some claim that the term BAME expresses the same sense of solidarity that “black” once denoted, however, BAME is primarily an administrative term, and not a political one. Although many dismiss new terms as unnecessary political correctness, the terminology and language we use matter. This debate presents deeper questions about how people are categorised. Many criticise the homogenising nature of the term BAME, which groups together a wide spectrum of diverse cultures and identities into a singular acronym. This inherently ‘others’ any individual who is not white, and is a marker of a deep-rooted white superiority complex

What are the implications of homogenising the experiences of ethnic minority groups? It has been suggested that, in some cases, the term BAME masks the disadvantages suffered by specific ethnic and cultural groups, ultimately erasing individual realities of systemic inequalities. An example of this refers to a Sky News interview with Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. When asked the simple question, “How many black people are in the current cabinet?’”, he responded with, “Well, there’s a whole series of people from a Black and ethnic minority background.” There are no Black members in the current Conservative cabinet. By a “whole series of people”, Hancock is referring to the two members of the cabinet of South Asian heritage. This highlights the way that ‘BAME’ and ‘black’ can be conflated to hide the reality of the lack of representation of Black individuals in politics, institutions, and the media.

While acronyms like BAME are useful in some cases for investigating and recognising structural inequalities in the UK and measuring progress, most people who would be described under BAME reject the term and do not identify themselves by it. The majority of the population do not know what the acronym means or stands for. However, it is important to ask, what would be a better alternative? Does the problem lie with the term BAME itself, or is it the fact that it is overused in the wrong context? Either way, the concerns of BAME communities with regard to the acronym need to be addressed. As highlighted by Zamila Bunglawala, the Deputy Head of the Race Disparity Unit & Deputy Director Policy and Strategy, we all have an ethnicity, “so it is important that we all discuss ethnicity in a way that is appropriate, inclusive and sensitive to how ethnic groups identify themselves”. 

Here at JAN Trust, our values are to encourage, educate, and empower marginalised women. Our programmes have allowed women of various backgrounds to fully recognise the marginalisation and oppression with which they have been all too familiar, and instead fight for the justice they deserve.

Posted in BAME, british, discrimination, Diversity, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, Politics, Racism, Representation, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#IWD2021 around the world

This past 8th of March was International Women’s Day; the theme this year was #ChoosetoChallenge. This blog will see why we celebrate this day and look at the different protests around the world to remember the hardships of women who came out protesting, even under Covid restrictions. This year we need to #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo and empower women and girls alike.

How did it start and why?

International Women’s Day has existed for over 100 years in some form, but it is not before 1911 that the day, as we know it today, came to life. It was later made official by the UN in 1975. This day is a symbol of achievement for women but also assessing what more needs to be done to reach equality, which would still take over a lifetime to reach, as gender parity “will not be attained for 99,95 years”. It is thus important to celebrate the day to show light on our current conditions and empower women around the world; this year the theme is #ChoosetoChallenge which reflects on the hardships experienced due to the pandemic. Each year since 1996 has had a theme, with the first one being “celebrating the past, planning the future”. The day is marked by symbolism, with its official colours being “purple, which represents justice and dignity; green, which represents hope; and white, which symbolises purity”, these colours are rooted in the women’s suffrage movement in Britain and “The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) used these colours in their campaigning in the UK in 1908”. It is thus important to recognise the activism and symbolism attached to this day, which has been, once again, portrayed around the world. 

Marches around the world

This year has been no exception with marches happening around the world, despite Covid restrictions. This year has seen record-high numbers of violence against women and girls around the world which has been shown through protests around the world. 

“my body, my authority” – Bandung, Indonesia
Women protesting against rising numbers of femicide (reaching 940 this year) in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
Memorial to victims of femicide, Mexico City
Protest against femicide in Tel Aviv, Israel with “a placard that reads: ‘I refuse to be next’”
Protests sparked in Turkey after over 400 women were killed, prompting Erdogan to commit “to a European treaty on combatting violence against women”
This installation showed red shoes on a staircase to portray violence against women in Tirana, Albania

Other protests and marches have called out various women’s rights violations, from discrimination at work, to free sanitary pads, and prejudice towards pregnant women.

Women protest in Bangkok, Thailand in pregnancy attire to protest the conditions surrounding maternity
Protest in Seoul, South Korea to denounce gender disparity in the workplace
Woman protesting in Krakow, Poland against the near-total abortion ban
March demanding tax-free sanitary pads in Kathmandu, Nepal
Members of trade unions protest against labour conditions in Lahore, Pakistan

This day also marks the possibility for women to effectively unify to #ChoosetoChallenge their government and its failures, which include failing to address violence against women, gender pay gaps, and access to sanitary products. However, this 8th of March, the Mexican government violated that duty, with the protest against the rise in domestic violence and more particularly femicide, resulting in violence. Police used tear gas and batons against the crowds of women and their children, resulting in four people being severely injured

At JAN Trust we work hard to empower women; the 8th of March represents an important day for us in which we celebrate women and evaluate the improvements made in matters of women’s rights and the further improvements needed. On #IWD2021, we released a blog relating to the matter, and our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE spoke out to relate to the current issues and #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo, as she inspires us to do every day. This is a special time in which we must focus on promoting women, their businesses and offer funding to organisations like ours that fight for our rights and offer us opportunities. At JAN Trust, women can come to be empowered through ESOL classes, Fashion and Design skills lessons, and programmes on such gendered issues as FGM and Forced Marriage. The #ChoosetoChallenge motto is one that we implement in all areas of our work.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so.

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Refuge: run a freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247

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All images used have been credited through hyperlink to the original source.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Another Way Forward, BAME, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, discrimination, Diversity, forced marriage, Forced Marriages, girls, Inclusion, International, International Affairs, Politics, Sexual Violence, Society, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment