Empowering families to resist violent extremism

We have been working with Luton Borough Council since 2009 on a series of innovative projects intended to empower families to work together to protect young people against the lure of violence, extremism, drugs, alcohol and substance misuse, knife and gun crime, grooming, gang culture, the potential dangers of the internet and social media, and other anti-social activities that can destroy lives, peace and social cohesion. The participants were mothers and other women in the family.  The courses gave them the tools, the insights and the confidence to become safeguarding champions and the promoters of peace in their families and the wider community. They included presentations by outside experts on safe use of the internet, countering distorted interpretations of religion and how to recognise the signs of radicalisation and alienation. In addition, the courses and the discussions within them enhanced participants’ skills to build strong, loving and trusting friendship between them and their youngsters. So far, there have been three phases: 
  • Muslimah Matters, 2009 - 2016;
  • MotherCircles, 2016-2018: We worked with Women without Borders, based in Vienna, to pilot in the UK the Mother School courses they have developed through experience of working with women worldwide;
  • Women's Engagement for Safeguarding: Building on the experience of of Muslimah matters and MotherCircles.

Dr Nazia Khanum introduced the first Mother Circles to the United Kingdom

Empowering communities

We work with statutory agencies and communities to improve the access of vulnerable and excluded groups to local services. There is a failure in social justice and fairness when services such as healthcare, justice, housing and education are not delivered equally across the community because specific groups are unable to access the facilities that ought to be available to them.

Unmet needs drive multiple deprivation, stoking up social tensions, including violent radicalisation, ill health, unemployment and under-employment and driving up the future costs of remedial action to tackle the needs that build up over the years. Children bought up in poor housing may suffer life-long medical conditions and be unable to achieve the educational standards they need to improve their career prospects. Patients who cannot access primary care may develop chronic conditions which could have been prevented.

Luton Community Health Forum (LCHF)

Since 2013, we have been working with LCHF, supported by the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Learning Trust (CLT), to improve the healthcare experiences of service users by raising their awareness of available healthcare facilities, enhancing their understanding of their own rights and responsibilities, and helping them improve their capacity for self-care through healthy diet and lifestyle. We deliver workshops in the most deprived areas Luton, focusing especially on South Asian and Muslim women. Our courses are multi-lingual, since many of the learners are not at ease with English, and they are  led by trainers with extensive understanding and experience of, and credibility with, the local communities. They are supported by mentors who are able to offer the learners more one-to-one coaching:
  • Negotiating Your Way To Better Health (NYWTBH) is an empowerment training course to enhance participants' knowledge about the NHS and local healthcare services and develop and strengthen their confidence and communication and negotiation skills in healthcare settings.
  • Discovering My Inner Strength (DMIS) has a focus on women with mental health issues and depression.

Our aspirations are higher than our immediate aims and objectives for healthcare. We believe that when the learners will be more confident and have better communication and negotiating skills, they will be able to use them in all aspects of their lives and also become positive change-agents for their families and wider networks.

Resilient spirits: the needs and aspirations of young Bangladeshi women in Luton

In 2002, the Bengali Women's Project commissioned us to undertake the first evaluation of the specific needs and aspirations of young Bangladeshi women in Luton. We found impressive examples of enterprise, courage, dedication and energy among the young women. With multiple cultural identities, as Muslims, as Bangladeshis and as British citizens or residents, they tried to create a balance within their lives. As in other communities, they had their individual needs and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. Nevertheless, confronting racism and sexism, and with little support from statutory or white-led voluntary service providers, several of them had already achieved considerable success in terms of education, their careers and their personal lives. 

N Khanum - Resilient spirits 2002.pdf

Women's poetry evenings, 1995-1997

In 1995-1996, we arranged women's poetry evenings, supported by Bedfordshire County Council to develop local creativity. Women of all ages and ethnicities met in the Council Chamber in County Hall to read their poems and participate in alively evening of poetry and discussion.
The following year, we published Say it in verse, an anthology of their poems.

Say it in Verse 1997.pdf