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Underrepresentation in Public Institutions

Under-Representation in Public Institutions

Enabling women from Muslim and minoritised communities to access levers of political change

The voices and concerns of women from racially minoritised communities often go unheard and neglected by political decision makers. Dr Khursheed Wadia’s research has studied the barriers faced by women from Muslim and minoritised communities in public life. The research has covered both the UK and France since 2000, amplifying the voices of these populations of women and sharing their insights.

The challenge

Women from racially minoritised communities are as active as men in grassroots politics, and are as likely to vote, yet they are under-represented in political institutions. Many face conflicting gender roles, family expectations, and ethnic and religious community pressure, which compounds wider discrimination based on gender and sexuality, race, religion and class. As a result, ‘political activity’ needed to include civic and informal political spaces (even those considered apolitical).

Our approach

Dr Wadia’s research covered three main themes:

  • The under-representation of women in politics and the effect on policy and gender equality

  • How feminist struggles put issues on the political agenda

  • The gendered effects of policy on women

One area of emphasis was forced marriage policy in France. Dr Wadia showed how the French state’s universalist approach prevents policy responses which take into account the differing experiences of women from minoritised communities. Her research has examined the social and political cultures and contexts of the UK and France, comparing the effects of the UK’s policy of multiculturalism with the French Republic’s policy of universalism.

Our impact

Recommendations from Dr Wadia’s work have made a significant difference to the struggles for equality of women from racially minoritised and Muslim communities in the UK and France. A report of the House of Lords Inquiry on Citizenship (2018) incorporated many of Dr Wadia’s recommendations, including better funding for TESOL classes, and improved support for charities such as the Muslim Women’s Network UK. As a result of this input, in September 2019 the Government invested £10 million more in TESOL classes, including funded childcare so that mothers could attend.

The Muslim Women’s Network UK has also benefitted from Dr Wadia’s expertise, forming new alliances with other feminist groups, adopting more effective lobbying techniques and introducing a series of activist workshops for women from minoritised communities. These workshops learned from a capacity-building programme that Dr Wadia created and ran in 2018-2019 which provided 13 women with new skills, knowledge and networks to tackle issues as diverse as sexual consent, honour-based abuse, disabilities and beauty norms. Aiming to empower young women from minoritised communities, a toolkit was developed to share with other organisations.

Dr Wadia’s research has helped women from racially minoritised communities to access political structures. Her work has influenced national policy, informed advocacy and lobbying, and empowered individual young women to effect social change.

Discover more of Dr Wadia's research

Read the Integrated Communities Action Plan

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