The Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) is wholeheartedly and systemically grounded in the lived experiences of Muslim women and girls.
It’s inception happened in 2003 after a group of women’s rights activists came together with the support of the Women’s National Commission to give independent advice and guidance to the government on issues relating to Muslim women and public policy.
When this commission was shut down in 2011, six of these women decided to continue their work by setting something up that would prioritise minority women amongst the myriad of equalities issues.
They started meeting with ministers and one of the first things they realised they needed to do was to gather data, so they ran focus groups with Muslim women and girls across the UK and published their first report in 2006.
The current Executive Director of MWNUK, Faeeza Vaid MBE, who took over in 2011, spoke to Shakti Women of the disheartening reality that “if you read that report, sadly the same issues exist today.”
This is despite the MWNUK’s robust efforts as a small organisation to tirelessly research, campaign and advocate for systemic change for almost two decades.
Faeeza speaks cogently about the ultimate mission of this Community Interest Company: to support Muslim women and girls whilst influencing policy and practice.
The main outcome of that first report was the MWNUK’s strategic provision of information and guidance for Muslim women about their rights and options in ways that were accessible to them.
They have produced a raft of short, digestible information booklets on topics such as saying no to forced marriage, mental health, hate crime andsexual exploitation.
These have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times!
Nonetheless, Faeeza and her small, committed team of activists quickly realised that language and format were barriers to the accessibility of their resources, so they started creating videos in different languages, such as Urdu and Bengali, and now have substantial content on a YouTube channel.
They also run a helpline for Muslim women and girls and receive hudreds of calls relating to a range of issues from domestic violence to honour based abuse.
The data they collect from the helpline helps the MWNUK paint a clear picture of where more research and support, or even institutional change is desperately needed.
For example, their 2019 report on Muslim women’s experiences of the criminal justice system was a response to countless calls to the helpline from Muslim female service users whose contact with the police, crown prosecution service or judiciary was “insufficient or inadequate”. Their cases highlight how the criminal justice system responds to Muslim women who have been victims of violence and abuse and whether they are 'getting justice' or what factors are contributing to any 'justice gaps.' Sometimes, the report concludes, the consequences of inadequate service can be fatal.
All of their learning resources, videos, data, and reports are free to download from www.mwnuk.co.uk.
Currently, the MWNUK team has partnered up with the Fawcett Society to deliver a programme called Equal Power which aims to get more minority ethnice women into politics by bridging the gaps in the civic experience and self-confidence required to stand forpolitical positions.
They’ve also been working throughout the pandemic to inform and support Muslim women, most recently publishing a video series on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Shakti Women wants to thank Faeeza Vaid for emphasising the importance of research and data in the struggle for equality and if you want to hear her and other inspirational women speak more on this issue, please sign up for a free spot at our launch eventfor the The Pink Paper -a 50+ page collation of the facts about women and girls in the UK today covering a wide range of topics