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  • Writer's pictureMaslaha

Celebrate International Women's day with Maslaha!

Overview

At Maslaha, we are aware of the importance of addressing the needs of racialised women and dismantling stereotypes and oppressive systems that perpetuate sexism, Islamophobia, and racism. We have always applied and adapted our tools and approaches to the experiences of women and girls from all walks of life. Our work highlights the strength of working across three strategic spheres; practice, policy, and public imagination, to challenge commonly held misconceptions about young Muslim and marginalised women.


This International Women's Day, we'll be sharing some highlights from some of our projects.


Muslim Girls Fence (MGF)

When you think of fencing, who do you imagine? Probably not Muslim and Black and brown girls. That’s because fencing is traditionally seen as an elite and white, male-dominated sport. However, our Muslim Girls Fence initiative, a collaboration between Maslaha and British Fencing launched in 2015, challenges assumptions and narratives about Muslims girls and women relating to their gender, racial, religious and other identities through fencing and the arts.

“Some people think that Muslim girls are quiet, can’t do sports, have to stay at home. We’re breaking stereotypes because fencing is a white male dominated posh sport. Muslim girls can do whatever we want to do, we’re sporty, we’re confident, we’re strong, we can be whatever we want to be” - Year 7 MGF participant



MGF are celebrating being a part of the This Girl Can National Enjoyment gap campaign, which launched last month. However, the context of why this project is needed is rooted in the current climate and conditions of Islamophobia, racism, and sexism in the UK. The government’s counter-terrorism legislation including policies such as Prevent have stifled the spaces Muslims have to express their thoughts and feelings freely and without stigma. What this has meant is that whole communities are censoring themselves, parents are avoiding having conversations about politics or religion in case their child says something at school that could be misconstrued. We have even spoken to teachers who are avoiding contentious issues in case a student says something that has to be reported.


This leads to young Muslim girls and women being disproportionately and systematically excluded, othered, surveilled, and dehumanised. The gendered nature of Islamophobia means it is essential to have initiatives like MGF which, through breaking down misconceptions and raising aspirations and access to sport tangibly, provide such women with the space and tools to confront structural inequalities and tell their stories on their own terms.


The response to a pervasive fear of self-expression is where the arts becomes vital. The creative outputs (e.g., events, exhibitions and artworks) generated from MGF disrupt the mainstream narratives that exist about Muslim women by offering an alternative reference and point of view that is unapologetic about being complex, while sparking an imaginative and emotional response that is often missing in public discourse.


These include our youth-led mental health resource that we are currently working on, due to be launched this year. The resource is targeted towards young women and girls across the country and is presented in a zine format, addressing the topics of care and wellbeing. It focuses on how Islamophobia and racism impact young people’s mental health, as well as looking at the impact of creativity and physical activity in improving young people’s wellbeing.


“I am a Black Muslim girl. It’s something I am proud of and defines who I am. I have complicated feelings about my identity because of the stereotypes and expectations that are attached to being a woman. But to me being a Black Muslim girl is about sisterhood and power.” - Year 12 MGF participant


Schools With Roots (SWR)


Our SWR’s project offers a range of strategies to support UK primary schools develop sustainable and anti-racist practice around engaging with their local communities and families. We believe that if schools are more connected with their local communities, and teaching is more socially and culturally relevant to pupils, that pupil educational outcomes will improve, and marginalised communities will have more opportunities to flourish.


We recognise that while teachers are educators at school, it's often mothers and women relatives that are educators at home – learning begins at home. A key principle on our SWR project is that we work with parents and carers as equals who bring unique strengths, knowledge, and experiences.


This International Women's Day, we want to showcase our “Forest Gate Stories, a locally printed zine made in collaboration with mothers whose children attended Sandringham Primary School in Newham in East London. The zine was created to give these mothers a platform to tell their stories in their own terms, and to help teachers better understand the needs and stories of the communities they worked with. The zine breaks stereotypes by sharing these women's passions, struggles and how they contribute to their community with their own expertise.




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Join us in celebrating the stories and achievements of the Muslim and marginalised girls and women in our community this International Women's Day!

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