We are a national Muslim women's organisation and a registered charity (1155092) that works to improve the social justice and equality for Muslim women and girls. We carry out the following types of activities. Specific projects can be found here:
Some MWNUK activities include (in no particular order):
Role models are a powerful way of raising aspirations of both women and girls to realise their potential. We have tried to do this through:
•Mobile Exhibitions- A number of mobile exhibitions were developed in 2010/11 highlighting Muslim female role models from diverse sectors. These included: sportswomen, pioneering women, women in history, Muslim women from across the UK and Birmingham women. These are being shown at events, schools, universities and libraries.
•Posters- A pack of 12 posters was developed in 2010/11 to highlight Muslim female role models in Birmingham which was sent to secondary schools and colleges.
•Booklet- A role models booklet profiling Muslim female role models from in Birmingham was developed in 201/11. The booklets which highlighted more than 30 women was sent to schools, libraries and careers offices.
It is important to provide training either to Muslim women or those who work and engage with them on issues that affect them. Workshops we have organized include:
•Gender Islam and Advocacy– In March 2008, we conducted a 5 day training workshop in collaboration with international experts to empower Muslim women by exploring the principles of equality and justice. The workshop was held in March 2008 in Leicester and attended by women from around the UK. Funding was received from Department of Communities and Local Government through our partner organisation, Fatima Women’s Network therefore not shown on current accounts.
•Forced Marriage– In December 2010, we organized a national workshop in partnership with Practical Solutions and West Midlands Fire Service on forced marriage which was delivered to front line professionals.
•Understanding Parliament– In May 2011, in partnership with Parliamentary Outreach and the University of Warwick (and in part sponsored by Economic Social Research Council), a national workshop was held to help Muslim women to understand how parliament works and how they can influence decision making.
Model Muslim Marriage Contract Initiative
For several years, MWNUK has been collaborating with the Muslim Institute and progressive scholars to develop and promote a model Muslim Marriage Contract for those entering religious marriages in the UK, while also taking part in a campaign to promote civil marriage among British Muslims. In 2010, the MWNUK Chair has taken the lead role in developing a website dedicated to promoting the model contract and civil marriage, which was launched at the end of 2010. The website(www.muslimmarriagecontract.org)contains information about Muslim family laws and women’s rights in other countries; classical Muslim jurisprudence and Sharia; and civil marriage. The MWNUK Chair is also part of a high-level discussion group organised by Stephen Hockman QC seeking to develop consensus recommendations from within the Muslim community to Government regarding Muslim marriages.
Safeguarding Muslim Children
MWNUK are a member of theNSPCC National Muslim Advisory Groupthat meet to provide input on safeguarding Muslim children. We were involved in helping shape thefirst national NSPCC conference on Safeguarding of Muslim children which was held in London on 17th March 2011and aimed at front line professionals working with Muslim communities. Shaista Gohir, Executive Director of MWNUK facilitated the workshop on ‘cultural practices that can amount to child abuse.’ We are continuing with our partnership working with the NSPCC and now exploring ways of raising awareness amongst Muslim communities of child sexual abuse.
Engagement with Policymakers
We have responded to and participated in government consultations which have included written feedback and roundtable discussions. Issues that MWNUK have responded included forced marriages, preventing violent extremism, female genital mutilation, and civic engagement. Government Departments that MWNUK have engaged with include the Home Office, Foreign Commonwealth Office, Communities and Local Government, Ministry of Justice and Government Equalities Office. We elicit the views of Muslim women and those working with them on various issues to inform our approach and thinking and to be able to channel them to government so they can be considered in policy making.
Some examples of consultations have included:
National Listening Exercise One of our first activities was, with the collaboration of the Women’s National Commission, was to ask Muslim women about their needs. A national listening exercise was carried out in 2005 across five cities which included: Leicester, Birmingham, London, Manchester and Bradford. More than 200 Muslim women participated in workshops which resulted in the reportShe Who Disputes, which identified both the exciting space for and unjust barriers to Muslim women’s full participation in society. This analysis remains the main inspiration for our work, in addition to the on-going interaction of our members with women in the community. Our work is about changing the foundations of Muslim women’s lives and not just improving services. Clickhereto view report.
Equality Bill In August 2007, MWNUK responded to the Government’s consultation on the introduction of a Single Equality Act and the extension of the public sector duty to promote equality to other grounds such as religion. Clickhereto view report.
Health Workshop We facilitated two workshops focussing on barriers to healthcare faced by Muslim women. The workshops were held in January 2008 in Bolton and Blackburn. A copy of the report submitted to the Department of Health is available on our website. Clickhereto view report.
Preventing Violent Extremism In September 2009, MWNUK submitted a report to the parliamentary select committee inquiry on the Preventing Violent Extremism programme after consulting our members. In August 2010, we hosted a meeting in Birmingham and facilitated a discussion between Muslim women and representatives from the Home Office where women could raise concerns about the preventing violent extremism agenda. This meeting gave Muslim women an opportunity to input their views directly to government to influence and shape new policies in this area of work. Clickhereto view report.
Roundtable with Government Equality Office The Women’s National Commission (WNC) was closed by government on 31st December 2010 to cut costs. As a result, some of the functions currently undertaken by the WNC will be delivered centrally through the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Department prepared a consultation exercise to engage with women across the UK over the coming months. Rather than wait to be consulted, MWNUK in partnership with the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick (and ESRC) contacted GEO to arrange a national roundtable discussion with Muslim women. This was held on 29th November 2010 and 14 Muslim women from around the UK from diverse ethnic backgrounds and diverse fields of work participated. The discussions involved how women from Muslim communities across the UK can be encouraged and supported to increase their civic engagement and influence policies and decisions affecting their lives and their communities.
Signposting and Responding to Information Requests
We regularly receive enquiries on a wide range of issue and signpost people either to our members or to other organisations or to individuals outside the network. We receive the most enquiries on issues linked to marriage and divorce. Although this is not an exhaustive list, examples of other enquiries include:
• Marriage and divorce rights (most popular enquiry) • support for new Muslim converts • forced marriage • female genital mutilation • discrimination • child abuse • charitable organisations and public bodies wanting to reach Muslim women • sexuality • mental health • domestic violence • immigration • academic research requests • advice on setting up local and regional Muslim women’s networks • requests to speak at events • volunteer and work experience
Speaking at events
We regularly receive diverse requests to speak at events by a diverse range of organisations which include:
• Muslim women's groups • faith groups • secular women's groups • local authorities • police • schools • universities • arts and film festivals • international events
It is important that Muslim women’s voices are also heard in the media. We regularly comment in niche and mainstream print and broadcast media. Some media examples include: Islam Channel, Alhulbayt TV, Ummah TV, BBC News, ITV, various BBC stations, Al Jazeera, Evening Standard, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Times, CNN etc. We also signpost reporters to appropriate members who have the relevant expertise so they can also contribute. Clickherefor list of media appearances.
We are continuing to build linkages nationally with other organizations. Some have included:
• being a member of the Women’s Peace Federation who conduct a series of dialogue sessions to increase dialogue with women of different faiths and no faith. • working in collaboration with the West Midlands Fire Service and Practical Solutions to organize a forced marriage training workshop. • member on the advisory board for Dying Matters which advises the National Council for Palliative Care from a faith perspective on issues related to health. • member of the NSPCC Advisory Group for child abuse in Muslim communities. • building links with schools and delivering faith awareness training for teachers in schools with high numbers of Muslim pupils. • working in collaboration with Parliamentary Outreach and the University of Warwick (and ESRC) to deliver training on understanding how parliament works. • working with Workers Education Association - participating by speaking and helping run a workshop at the Hard Times conference aimed at all women affected by the austerity measures. • Working in collaboration with the University of Warwick (and ESRC) and organising a round table discussion with the Government Equalities Office to get Muslim women's voices to government.