Noori Bibi, Islington Council

What is your project about? How long has it been running?
The Young Muslim Voices project has been running since August 2007. Given the current social and political climate around Muslims after the 9/11 and 7/7 bombings, Young Muslims have been on the receiving end of much negative press, revolving around the perceived danger of their being ‘extremists’, ‘radicalised’ and ‘potential terrorists’. Yet, this group of young people seem to have no voice. This project was developed to give young people from Muslim backgrounds an opportunity to be engaged, to speak out against issues affecting them, also to empower them and get them involved in decision-making. The project works in partnership with the Community, Faith, and Statutory sectors to bring these issues to the forefront and has shown how amazing things can be achieved when young people are given a platform.

Describe your role on the project?
I am the Young Muslim Voices Project Manager. I work on the project as part of the ‘Listen Up’ youth participation project based at Islington Council.

What is the aim of your project?
The aim of the project is:

  • To give young people a voice about the issues affecting them.
  • Build an understanding between young Muslims and Islington council and its partners, faith and community organisations and the police.
  • To provide the opportunity for Islington’s young Muslims to discuss and pinpoint the issues that concern them
  • Improve awareness amongst decision makers about the issues facing young Muslims
  • Better equip the council and other services to provide equal access to social goods, such as, housing, employment, social services, education and training.
  • Work with young people to develop leadership skills.

How are children and young people involved in your project?
The young people are involved in all aspects, from steering the direction of the project, to engaging in projects, attending training courses, putting on events to raise awareness and attending meetings with decision makers.

What has been the key outcomes/ learning from the project so far?
The young people have highlighted several key issues that affect them, such as:

  • Equality in policing and the criminal justice system, e.g.: the impact of stop and search and the anti- terror laws
  • Identity and Britishness: How multiculturalism needs to be celebrated.
  • The impact of the media- The impact of the media in regards to the stereotyping of, portrayal and perception of young Muslims
  • Community and faith organisations involvement – how such organisations need to cater for and understand the needs of young people.
  • The importance of empowering and engaging young people as active citizens - lack of a voice makes young people feel disempowered. Young people want to be engaged and contribute actively to their communities.
  • Silent voices of the community- young Somalis, girls, refugees and asylum seekers who face many issues but have no voice.
  • Lack of access to mainstream services and employment

What are the key success factors of the project?

  • Over 14 months, the YMV project has been successful in engaging over 1,400 young  people.
  • Several creative projects have allowed the ‘silent voices’ (e.g., young refugees and asylum seekers) to speak out against issues affecting them.
  • Delivering a successful youth led conference in November 2008, which was well attended by key decision makers and community leaders to raise awareness and discussions around the issues affecting young people.
  • Building up links with key decision makers in the community and council, who are ready to work with the young people on the issues that are important to them, such as policing.
  • Launching the Young Muslim Voices report which details the issues and the recommendations made by young people
  • Winning the Philip Lawrence award 2008 for active citizenship
  • The Kick Islamaphobia anti- racism event which brought together over 400 people to stand up against Islamophobia
  • 20 young people are training in Youth Work and Participation Level 2, to become young leaders in their community.

What have been the key benefits of the project to young people?

  • Young people have felt that they are being listened to.
  • The project has allowed young people to develop leadership and campaigning skills on issues that affect them. It has also increased their confidence and given them the opportunity to be engaged in and lead on something positive.
  • They have access to a variety of training such as Events Management Training, Youth and participation work Level 2 and peer mentoring training
  • They have also received mentoring and support around issues such as housing, education and other services.
  • Integrating and mixing with young people from all communities to find that there are a lot of shared experiences, no matter what their faith is.=
  • Raising the profile of the issues affecting young people and showing that young Muslims are achieving great things and contributing positively to their communities.

What barriers have you experienced when setting up and delivering the project and how were they overcome?
The project has generally been well received, however it has highlighted the need for change in the way organisations and services are run.

It has been challenging to engage Muslim girls as cultural and parental factors prevent them from accessing projects like this. I have liased with parents and have managed to get several girls on board. We are however starting a borough wide girl’s project this year where work will be done with parents to allow them to engage.

In your opinion, what has been the most significant thing about this project in terms of engaging children and young people to participate in decision-making/ have their say?

This project has shown many key decision makers that young people are interested in actively being involved in their communities and are keen to get involved in decision making. Many of the YMV young people have done a lot of positive work, where they were able to bring people from all communities together, such as our ‘Kick Islamophobia’ event in April 2008which was an anti racism event that united over 420 young people with the message of ‘One community, One goal’. Our young people are also campaigning on issues such as knife crime. They have been able to take their messages to local councillors and now also have a meeting scheduled with Beverly Hughes (Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families) in the next few months. It has also taught them about the importance of  and the impact that everyone can have when they are able to and use their voice.

If you could give your top tip to anyone who wants to develop a project in this area what would it be?
Let the young people lead! Young people want to speak and are capable of campaigning on issues that are important to them if they are given the chance.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB