I Can Be She in East London


10 women, 10 reasons why Muslim women are making a difference

Maslaha's TenSquared exhibition brought together photography, paintings and soundscapes that further explore the compelling stories of featured women from ICBS.  These portraits will compliment each other in capturing the vibrant textures of these lives and causes.

The first feature was exhibited at the launch of this campaign on the 31st of March 2011 at Meanwhile Space Whitechapel.  Muna Hassan, a young Somali health campaigner from East London was the first subject of this exhibition series.

The launch featured:

Photography by Liz Hingley – Liz intimately documents political and social issues, with a particular interest in alternative modes of community living.  Her exhibition of 2009 – ‘“Under Gods”: stories from Soho Road’ documented the lives of residents on one of Britain’s most culturally diverse streets in Birmingham.  This beautiful portrayal of faith and diversity was featured in the Daily Telegraph and on the BBC 2 Culture Show, and she is currently working on ‘“Under Gods” stories from Paris’.  

Paintings by Emily Kirby – Emily’s paintings have been exhibited in Prague, southern Africa, and across the UK.  Her work has always been concerned with the study of people, revealing the figure to be a landscape in itself.  Her continuing aim is to explore techniques which portray people in a free and powerful way, as a celebration of their identity.

Soundscapes by Angela Robson - Angela is an acclaimed BBC radio documentary maker and has reported from twenty-eight countries, including Rwanda, Tuva and East Timor.  A regular contributor to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4, her items have included a week-long series on five  ‘Women of the Qu’ran’.  She was the winner of the 2008 Lorenzo Natali Prize for Journalism and a finalist in the 2007 British Media and Environment Awards.   These soundscapes will bring these stories to life, creating an audio depiction of these women's lives which also allows them to tell their stories in their own words.  

Workshops with young women

The Free to Be exhibition took place from the 25th – 29th October 2011. 

These workshops - in photography, fine art, radio and film - opened up new creative possibilities to the young women who took part, empowering them to express themselves and learn new skills. Their work was displayed in this exhibiton at the Mile End Art Pavillion. At the exhibition launch, visitors were entertained by a spoken word performance from Poetic Pilgrimage and speeches from Aaqil Ahmed (Head of Religion and Ethics at the BBC) and Reedah el Saie (Director of the Mica Gallery). Over the week young people participated in a number of arts workshops, including painting, ring making, drumming, and more.

The goal of the exhibition was to showcase the achievements of the young women who took part in the workshops, Their work amplifies the voices and stories of young Muslim women in Britain today, creating a greater awareness of the important role Muslim women can play within their communities. 

As a young woman proclaimed in one of Maslaha’s ‘I Can Be She’ workshops: “it annoys me when people look me up and down just because of what I am wearing and think I am a weak, oppressed Muslim girl. I always want to show them that I am not.” 


More about the workshops:

Combining the spirit of Maslaha’s I Can Be She project with the Kiran Project’s extensive and long-term engagement with young women across London through the SHE project (Strength, Hope and Empowerment), these workshops focused on building confidence and facilitating access to different forms of media and expression, connecting young women with role models within their own communities and empowering them to share their own stories and aspirations.

This workshop series was inspired by our direct experiences of working with young Muslim women in different contexts.  Each workshop was run with eight young Muslim women, with each group from a different age bracket. The resulting material was shown in a local exhibition which took place in October half term 2011 (see below)

The multi-dimensional workshops aimed to:

1.     Train young women in how to use different forms of media including film, radio, photography, and fine art.

Participants were able to:

  • Gain a broad range of skills in areas such as film production, video camera operation, editing, scriptwriting, photography, radio broadcasting, interviewing, and creative arts
  • Receive training on how to blog and use social media in effective ways, and have the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of broadcasting and communications
  • Develop skills and familiarity with these different forms of media
  • Be empowered  to use these different forms of communication to reflect upon their own lives and their place in society, sharing rich stories and diverse experiences 

2.     Introduce young women to inspiring local role models who can help them consider their career paths and aspirations.

           This project was able to:

  • Create a greater awareness of role models and the important role Muslim women can play within their communities
  • Enable young people to meet potential role models across a variety of different professions, increasing awareness about the breadth of employment opportunities available to them in careers they feel passionately about.  In particular, there are few visible role models within the arts and media world, sectors which can sometimes be perceived as ‘less respectable’

3.     Challenge negative stereotypes of Muslim women and empower them demand change and achieve it for themselves. 

This project was able to:

  • Facilitate the ability of Muslim women to describe their lives in their own words and share their views across a wider spectrum by challenging  misrepresentations and prejudice
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