The recent parliamentary report written by the Women and Equalities Committee is a welcome and detailed portrait of the challenges still faced by Muslim women looking to make a successful career in this country.
As an ex-Head of an East London comprehensive I know first-hand of that which the report describes as the “triple penalty” that many young girls face namely, being women, from a BME community and Muslim. However, I also know that these challenges are not insurmountable.
I am pleased that the report recognises the plurality of the Muslim experience; it’s too easy to assume that there’s a united mentality, a default Muslim perspective on an issue. This kind of thinking is as unhelpful as it is inaccurate. I am also happy that the report’s authors draw upon, amongst many other sources, Demos’ recent survey showing the major decline in ‘traditional’ views of gender roles amongst young Muslims.
Despite such advances, it’s clear there’s work still to be done.
At Mosaic, an initiative of The Prince’s Trust, we’re already embarked on a diverse and effective programme of encouraging ambition and self-efficacy amongst young people and when the report calls for “the Government to introduce a role models and mentoring programme aimed at Muslim women to help them realise their potential in employment” then I can’t help but think that they should look at the work we do as a model of what’s possible.
Since our foundation by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2007, we’ve been training our volunteer mentors to become just the kind of role models that the committee is seeking to find and what an excellent job they do. Many of our mentors are women from Muslim backgrounds and our Board, Regional Leadership Groups, and Ambassadors all feature successful, prominent Muslim women, all of whom have valuable experience that should be drawn upon when discussions about tacking inequality of opportunity occur.
Our Primary School programme in particular has a focus on mothers and daughters from Muslim communities. Mentors, again many of them Muslim women themselves, spend several sessions with these family groups guiding, nurturing and inspiring via both their advice but also the example that they themselves set as successful careers people.
If you’d attended any of the recent graduation ceremonies from the Primary School programmes then you’d be left in no doubt about their effectiveness, with all of the pupils talking with confidence and excitement about their future careers. We also know that the staff at the participating schools share their pupils’ positivity.
As with most charitable endeavours, we rely heavily on the generosity and support of our sponsors and individuals to make our work possible. And like many others, our reach is limited and there are numerous schools in which we could make a difference if we had greater resource. However, as a demonstration of the effectiveness of role models and mentoring, as proof that the barriers to success for young Muslim women can and are being overcome, I think we’re doing an excellent job.
 Information from Demos: Understanding Society conducts panel studies, with the same people interviewed repeatedly across a range of questions. The sample size was 38,952, and the data was collected between 2012 and 2013. Within this, households are randomly selected, although there is an ethnic minority ‘boost’ sample. Data are weighted to correct for sampling bias.
 Report, pg.5