Fragile – Newly Launched Aunties Network

FRAGILE Network – an ‘aunties’ network to support and respond to women and girls facing CSE issues

This work not only builds on our 2 year FRAGILE project but also compliments existing CSE focused work that is taking place across the Bradford district.

This is a three year project recruiting and training 30 local Muslim women from Bradford to establish a network of trusted ‘aunties’ who other women/girls can go to regarding concerns of child sexual exploitation. These women will be recruited based on their critical role in family structures and community relations. They will have a strategic role in addressing and responding to CSE issues faced by women/girls.

The network will visit public organisations (schools, community centres, etc) to offer support, insight and knowledge; and hold ‘front room conversations’, to raise awareness within the Muslim homes, informing and enabling mothers’ and daughters’ to benefit from greater awareness of signs, dangers and to empower them with a voice that can be heard. They will support women/girls to engage with specialist agencies, rather than trying to solve the situation.

Many Muslim women/girls silently endure acts of child sexual exploitation (CSE), as there is a general reluctance in the community to engage with the underlying cultural issues inherent in a patriarchal social structure based on male hegemony and the privileging of male sexuality and their links to CSE. But we have found that there is a growing willingness from some sections of the community, predominately women, to acknowledge and address this issue. We aim to strengthen these sections and contribute to a culture of speaking out early.

Providing help at an early stage we hope to significantly reduce the risk of harm, risk of CSE and connected risk behaviours. Also have a positive impact on the confidence and independence of vulnerable Muslim women/girls, who are recognised as one of the most socially deprived and economically disadvantaged groups in the UK. We hope to address the many situations where CSE information has been disclosed but not ‘heard’. Also, enhance the ability to recognise risky and exploitative relationships, and increasing an understanding of rights, which are likely to reduce the risk of ongoing sexual exploitation.

The project will support and strengthen specific intense links between the network and local schools, nurseries and child care providers to ensure early intervention. We hope by encouraging individuals in need to recognise and take account of both child exploitation and sexual abuse, such an approach will help to tackle the prevailing culture of silence that surrounds it. We found disinclination to report is rooted in an attempt both to ensure the unity of their families and to maintain their own izzat (honour).

The ‘aunties’ network will encourage and enable women/girls to come forward early and without fear. In many cases early is as soon as they can, which could be after many years of abuse. By having local women at the forefront we hope that two things will happen, one early engagement and two a communal strength to challenge at scale the current situation.

While our project will focus on women/girls, we will not exclude men/ boys who come to us as victims of CSE.

Further information can be found here: http://www.muslimwomenscouncil.org.uk/child-sexual-exploitation/