Though Muslims make up almost 5% of the UK population, they represent only 0.4% of the media. Last year, a study by Cambridge University found that mainstream reporting about Muslim communities was ‘contributing to an atmosphere of rising hostility towards Muslims in Britain.’
Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji is Britain’s first hijabi newsreader. We asked Fatima about the challenges women face, and their hopes for the future, ahead of her appearance at WOW - Women of the World festival 2017.
After a tumultuous 2016, what would you say is the impact of recent political events on women?
It is difficult to talk of the impact of political events on women as a whole group. The 'tumultuous' events of 2016 actually provided us with a female Prime Minister. Does that automatically mean things will be better for women in Britain as a whole? Not necessarily.
Over in America, words uttered by the now President describing sexual assault were dismissed as mere 'locker room' banter. Yet we know 53% of white American women voted for Mr Trump and many of those women see opposing abortion rights as a key issue. So in a sense 2016 exposed the limitations of discussing women as a bloc group.
It highlighted that recent fashionable flavours of feminism, which have focused on individual empowerment and are therefore perhaps more palatable; are simply not enough in challenging systems of power.
What would you like to see happen for women this year?
There are obviously very many issues I would like to see addressed. A tangible one I would pick out for 2017 is to see the gender pay gap addressed; women in full-time work currently earn nearly 14% less than men.
Linked to that, it would be great to see practical measures in place to support women coming back to work after having a baby, as it seems this is a key point where women end up missing out on opportunities, promotion or pay.
Women are one group among many who have felt the impact of recent political events. How can we best support each other in changing times?
The very first thing has to be for those who campaign for women's rights to recognise that discrimination has multiple layers. Personally, I find a lot of the sexism I face is entwined with racism or islamophobia.
It is exciting that more people are now actually talking about intersectional feminism in mainstream media outlets. There has been some recognition that women of colour face both racism and sexism; we now need to build on these conversations and translate them into action – whether that is in solidarity by speaking out in support of a marginalised group, forming alliances at protests or sometimes just by listening.
What would you personally like to do to help improve women's lives this year?
For me it's going to be about continuing to expose injustice and unfairness through my journalism, whether that is by sensitively telling the story of a sexual assault survivor, trying to get answers for a bereaved mother or highlighting the difficulties faced by female refugees.