Case Study: Imkaan

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Rosa invests in organisations which increase the leadership and participation of women. Women’s participation in public life and decision-making in the UK is at an all-time high but still falls short of an equal voice. Women’s rates of participation and leadership both directly in politics, and more widely in the economy and the media are low, and show that in most key areas of decision-making and influence, men still run the UK.

International experience indicates that women make progress when gender roles are challenged in education, in the media, and by women themselves.

The example below is illustrative of the sorts of projects Rosa has been able to support, empowering young women to be more vocal and take a leadership role in responding to the issues that matter to them.

Purple Drum art workshop collage

Purple Drum art workshop collage

‘Purple Drum’ is a Rosa-funded project launched by Imkaan to continue the work of the young women’s team that had delivered Rewind&Reframe – Rosa’s ground-breaking campaign to tackle media sexism.

Purple Drum enables young women to challenge problematic representation, including racism, sexism and homophobia, in popular culture through creation of visual, audio and written content for a dedicated blog, as well as through creative workshops and sessions in schools, higher education and community settings. The project engages young women, creating a space for them to lead the conversation, as well as in raising awareness to wider audiences.

Creative workshops invited young women to challenge problematic representations of women through creative outlets including poetry writing and visual art. One young woman, Ruth, describes how she created her collage ‘I will not be a prisoner’ at one of the workshops:

“I chose to focus on body hair for my collage because the media teaches us that, as a woman, being hairy is repulsive and unfeminine. I think it’s important to question where these assumptions come from, and why women are made to feel so deeply insecure about something that is natural to the extent that they must dedicate serious time/money/energy/anxiety in order to get rid of it and conform. For me having body hair where I ‘shouldn’t have it’ is a daily protest against how women are told to look in order to feel worthy, regardless of who they are or what they have achieved, while simultaneously challenging the way in which women are told to engage with and experience their own bodies.”

By the end of the workshops the 27 young women who participated reported that they felt more confident to talk about issues affecting women and also felt better able to take direct action and effect change.

Over 400 young people were also engaged through workshops in schools, higher education and the community. The workshops asked young women what they would like to say to government and decision-makers to change the way young women are represented in the media. They came up with the following set of asks:

  • Make policies to wipe out racism and sexism
  • Understand the impact of misrepresentation of women
  • Provide education for young men and women on media literacy in order to analyse and critique media messages
  • Encourage and promote better representation of all types of women
  • Make changes to media regulation including stricter policy on pornographic websites and music channels
  • Listen to women

Through supporting these workshops, Rosa hopes to have inspired future activists as well as encouraging more young women to question how perceptions of femininity are developed and perpetuated. The take-away message of the work has been summed up by one young participant:

“It is possible to change stuff. Thanks.”