how the project will unfold
At Maslaha, we work at three levels: practice, policy and public imagination. This is reflected in the approach we have taken with Muslim Girls Fence, described in more detail below. For more about our way of working and our strategic objectives, click here.
creating systemic change at a grassroots level
Every school that works with the initiative receives ten weeks of weekly fencing sessions alongside immersive Maslaha workshops exploring identity, self-expression and stereotyping.
For example, the fencing element of our pilot scheme in east London involved a series of fencing workshops led by former Olympic fencer and co-founder of the Newham Swords fencing club, Linda Strachan.
Girls then have the potential to maintain involvement in Muslim Girls Fence, and the opportunity to shape what that involvement could look like. So far, participants have had the opportunity to gain leadership qualifications accredited by British Fencing, join local fencing clubs and start their own community or school-based fencing clubs. Maslaha are also supporting participants through an Ambassador programme, where girls can act as advocates for the project at events and in the media, meet other Muslim Girls Fence participants in other cities across the UK, and build and nurture skills they are interested in — for example, public-speaking, media work, advocacy, mentoring and volunteering.
influencing and shaping public debates and media narratives
In each set of workshops, the journey of our participants is documented as an important part of challenging widely perpetuated stereotypes of Muslim women by presenting alternative visions of what it is like to be a young woman in the UK today. The participants themselves take control of their representation and, in this way, challenge and disrupt prominent narratives.
In our pilot project, the journey of our participants was documented by photographer Rehmat Ryatt and filmmaker Briony Campbell in the exhibition "Don't Fence Me In", part of the Women of the World (WOW) festival at the Southbank Centre in March 2016. Participants in another east London school are currently working with Sula Collective to create a zine on representation, identity and anything else they wish to express.
influencing policy at a strategic level based on our work at a local level
We are applying the insight we have gained from our pilot programme to scale up Muslim Girls Fence and develop a national engagement programme in cities across the UK. With the support of Comic Relief and another generous funder (watch this space!) we will be developing the project in five UK cities including Glasgow, Birmingham and London over the next two and a half years.
Our aim is for policy-makers and leading national sports organisations to have a more multi-dimensional and accurate reflection of the needs and experiences of Muslim women. For example, based on our learning from our pilot, we delivered evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee in March 2016.
a taster of what is to come...
Watch the video below on Maslaha's working approach, made as part of an online toolkit for developing an 'innovation mindset.' Our fencing project features from minute 06:06. Read more about the background to this video here!