Before Christmas I read a tweet about an anthology project and was curious to learn more. I discovered the Muslim Women’s Network and invited the vice chair, Nazmin Akhtar, to tell us more about the Muslim Women’s Network and the project.
About Muslim Women’s Network UK
Muslim Women’s Network was formally established in 2003 with the support of the Women’s National Commission (WNC), to give independent advice to government on issues relating to Muslim women and public policy. In 2007, Muslim Women’s Network decided to establish itself as an independent organisation to ensure its autonomy from Government. We renamed the group ‘Muslim Women’s Network UK’ (MWNUK) and became a Community Interest Company in 2008. In December 2013 we became a registered charity.
Our current priority areas are as follows:
- Sharing understandings of gender in Islam from a human rights perspective.
- Sharing knowledge of UK family laws, marriage and divorce.
- Changing attitudes to domestic violence against women.
- Changing attitudes to mental health.
- Changing attitudes to women’s leadership.
- Supporting actions to addressing forced marriage.
- Supporting actions to addressing child sexual abuse.
Our aim is to gather and share information relevant to the lives of Muslim women and girls in order to influence policy and public attitudes, to raise the profile of issues of concern to Muslim women and to strengthen Muslim women’s ability to bring about effective changes in their lives.
As such our work is very wide-ranging; as well as working on a grassroots level we also remain engaged within the governmental and public sphere so as to ensure that the voices of Muslim women are taken into account with any decision making. In 2013 we attended various parliamentary meetings including the Ministry of Justice on the subject of Muslim marriages, presenting Evidence to the Joint Committee of Human Rights and also to the All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry on domestic and sexual violence. We responded to three Consultations, in relation to legal aid, child sexual exploitation and media plurality, in order to highlight the issues of Muslim and BME women and also published the pioneering ‘Unheard Voices’ report which highlighted the vulnerabilities of Asian victims of grooming and sexual exploitation. This was launched at the House of Commons in September 2013 and has received national media coverage. Moreover, as well as attending and speaking at a number of conferences and events nationally and internationally, we have been carrying out our own training workshops and dealing with cases involving Muslim women that are brought to us. It is with thanks to our supporters and our board members and staff who volunteer a great amount of time that we are able to carry out such far-reaching work despite limited funds.
We hope to continue our work even further in 2014 and would like to encourage all women who are either Muslim themselves or working with or have an interest in promoting the rights of Muslim women to join us as members so as to ensure that we continue to represent the diverse views and opinions of Muslim women in the UK and can expand our work to higher levels. To join please visit our website:www.mwnuk.co.uk
Launched in April 2013 on World Poetry day, the project aims to create an anthology, a collection of short stories and poetry, that will provide a voice to Muslim and ethnic minority women as well as the wider community in a novel way and assist in tackling the very real and pertinent issues affecting us all. At the same time we hope that it will provide a platform by which to recognise the talent of those within Muslim and BME communities.
We had two rounds of submissions and have received contributions from individuals from a range of backgrounds, each with a beautiful take on the subject they have chosen to discuss. Topics covered include domestic violence, mental health, sexual exploitation and racism. We were particularly honoured to have received contributions from victims and survivors and would like to thank all for taking the steps to not only have their voices heard but also to help others.
Once published MWNUK aims to distribute free copies to schools and libraries as well as to prominent personalities across the country in a bid to further education and promote arts and literature whilst simultaneously promoting the talents of the community. An event was also held in East London in June 2013 launching this project, where spoken word artists and poets performed live on stage whilst henna art, Islamic calligraphy and Islamic art was also on show to highlight the beauty of art and talents of the community.
The anthology is now in its editing stage and we hope that we can have it published and launched sooner rather than later. However, to do so we require funding and would be grateful of your support; for just £15 you will be able to contribute to the project and receive a copy of the book itself!
To pledge a donation please visit: http://muslimcrowdfunding.com/
Nazmin Akthar, Vice-Chair of MWNUK, who is leading the project, said:
“We have very talented individuals in the community who are not being given the opportunity to take their skills further. Given MWNUK’s commitment to changing attitudes to women’s leadership we therefore decided to take a step towards addressing this issue.”
“We understand the diversity amongst Muslim and BME women and appreciate that issues affecting us must be considered in a wider social context; we hope that the anthology in its combined format will do justice to our individualities whilst at the same time highlighting issues that affect us collectively.”