I Can Be She was a pioneering project which aimed to empower Muslim women and change the ways in which society perceives them. This project was funded by Open Society Foundation's At Home in Europe Project – and ran from 2011 to 2013. The idea emerged from conversations with Muslim girls who were specifically asking for related resources and sources of information.
Muslim women face a double discrimination on the basis of both their gender and their faith. According to available statistics, Muslim women in the UK face the highest inequalities in health and housing, and are up to 70 per cent more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women - even when they have the same qualifications and language skills. Muslim women report the highest rate of ill health among all faith and gender groups – 16 per cent, compared to 8 per cent of Christian women. 57 percent of Muslim communities live in the most deprived 20 per cent of Local Authorities. In addition, the portrayal of women and Islam in the media has distorted perceptions of Muslim women. Recent figures show a 70 per cent rise in hate crimes against Muslims in London between 2014 and 2015. 60 per cent of these incidences involved women, with women wearing face veils being the victims of the most aggressive attacks.
Sources: Office for National Statistics, Labour Force Survey; The Muslim Council of Britain, British Muslim in Numbers; Met Police statistics.
What We Did
Maslaha created a campaign to capture the diverse stories of Muslim women in Britain today, capturing the spirit of everyday activists, visionaries and pioneers. As part of the campaign, Maslaha developed an online platform – ICanBeShe.org – with films and articles featuring these stories; an exhibition series that explored some of these stories through mixed media and visual arts; and workshops with young women enabling them to capture their own stories.
In March 2011 Maslaha officially launched its campaign with an exhibition, which featured the story of Muna Hassan, a 27 year old health campaigner from Newham. The exhibition brought together talented artists, featuring photography by Liz Hingley, paintings by Emily Kirby, and soundscapes by Angela Robson.
In the summer of 2011 Maslaha ran a series of workshops with young Muslim women in East London in partnership with The Kiran Project. These workshops trained participants in arts and media skills and empowered them to play a more active role in their community, resulting in fascinating films, radio broadcasts, photography and art based on the lives and perspective of these young women. The work produced from these workshops was shown in a local exhibition in October 2011.
On the 7th February 2013, Maslaha brought together 50 young people from across London for a Question Time in Parliament to discuss violence against women in collaboration with schools and colleges in Walthamstow, Southwark and Lewisham. The event was part of the global One Billion Rising campaign and it was hosted by Stella Creasy MP to enable frank and open debate with a panel of practitioners and decision makers. The expert panel was chaired by Yvonne Roberts, a leader writer from the Observer, and included representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service, the police, Greater London Assembly, women’s refuges and support services, including Leyla Hussein, director of Daughters of Eve, and voluntary sector grassroots organisations. You can listen to highlights from the event, including sound bites on domestic violence, the case for Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and a positive message for young men. You can see more facts and statistics for this project by downloading this pdf.
On 8th March 2013 Maslaha was an outreach partner for the International Museum of Women's online exhibition - MUSLIMA: Muslim Women Art and Voices - launched on International Women's Day.