Last week, Sadiq Khan, former MP for Tooting, won the London mayoral election with a landslide victory, and was congratulated, and welcomed into his new role by women’s groups who stated that they looked forward to working with the man who described himself during his campaign as a “proud feminist.” But what will Khan’s win really mean for the four million women who make up the city’s population, especially those from marginalised communities?
During his campaign, Sadiq Khan spoke to the Stylist magazine about why women in London should vote for him to be Mayor. He declared that he would take “a zero-tolerance approach to domestic and sexual violence” and work closely with public sector and voluntary organisations to improve support for victims. He pledged to ensure that women and girls escaping abuse would have their housing needs addressed immediately and that he would look at support for women from Black Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds who are at risk of abuse. The pay gap was an issue he prioritised in his campaign something which Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said that Khan did after pressure from her party. Khan also told the Stylist that if he was voted into office he would establish a new agency called Skills for Londoners that would focus on creating opportunities for girls such as coding.
The new Mayor appears to be passionate about supporting women in the capital, and most importantly listening to their concerns. This year on International Women’s Day at an event in his former constituency with local women he admitted “as a man, as empathetic as you think you’re being, you don’t get certain things.”
All of the issues Khan spoke about in his campaign and promised to address if he won office are really important and affect all women, but BAMER women are affected disproportionately. When it comes to BAMER women, Khan, who is from the South Asian community, will be only too aware of some of the specific challenges facing women from these communities whether they are highly educated or not. When he was formally sworn in as Mayor last week he said that “… I never dreamt that I could be standing here as the mayor of London.” Coming back to the issue of BAMER women, last year a survey revealed that 71% of British Muslim women are more likely to be unemployed due to workplace discrimination. Islamophobia has risen rapidly with visibly dressed Muslim women being the targets of hate crime.
If Khan really wants to tackle these issues, then he must engage with organisations such as JAN Trust which has been working on these issues for over two decades, and therefore has the knowledge and expertise to tackle them in the correct way. We have paved the way in our approach to tackling extremism. JAN Trust conducted research on internet extremism in the 2000’s which culminated in a report titled ‘Internet Extremism: Working Towards a Community Solution’ and led to the design and development of its highly acclaimed Web Guardians© programme. The programme which has been delivered across the UK has received a lot of praise from the mothers who have participated in it. “I now know the signs of what we should be looking out for. We can stop our children being radicalised” one mother told us. The Prime Minister has also commended our programme when he said “I personally see this [Web Guardians©] as an excellent example of the importance of community-led schemes in tackling extremism online” and thanked us for our work.
In 2011, we launched our Against Forced Marriages campaign to raise awareness of this issue and prevent it from happening by educating women and girls. We have provided training to thousands of participants from the community, voluntary and statutory sectors including schools, police and healthcare professionals. In 2012, we decided to investigate the issue of forced marriage in further detail by carrying out a consultation over a 3 year period, which involved conducting a survey on forced marriage and resulted in the publication of a report ‘Consent Matters.’
JAN Trust has forged strong links with the communities it supports and along with understanding the importance of cultural, ethnic and religious identity this has enabled it to address the root causes of extremism, forced marriage and FGM.
Mr. Khan, we hope to hear from you very soon, perhaps see you in our centre, and look forward to working with you to continue tackling these issues in the right way!