Nisa-Nashim is bringing the Jewish and Muslim communities in Britain closer together by setting up groups of women who build personal friendships, grow as leaders and benefit wider society through our programmes and initiatives. Alongside our grassroots activities, we engage with government bodies, policymakers and others on how to promote social cohesion, and we campaign on issues that affect our members – raising awareness of Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and women’s role in society.
Against a backdrop of an increase in hate crime of 19% (Home Office figures), and an atmosphere of mistrust, exacerbated by a lack of meaningful personal contacts, Laura Marks OBE and Julie Siddiqi launched Nisa-Nashim in July 2015. The idea was to bring the Jewish and Muslim communities together through the women, by building understanding and friendships. Nisa-Nashim does this through a range of shared initiatives at the grass roots level all around the UK, led by a peer-mentoring model using co-chair partnerships of Jewish and Muslim women. Our vision is of a society in which negative misconceptions of those who are different from us are challenged, specifically in relation to the intersectionality between gender and religion.
Since its inception, Nisa-Nashim has established 24 groups of women across the UK, each co-chaired by a Jewish and Muslim woman, 90% of whom we introduce to one another. Each group is committed to building bridges and to helping tackle the local and broader issues of today. Groups are based on location and/or special interest, with an average of 30 members.
As a starting point many groups deliver social action projects whilst building their personal friendships, and continuing their shared leadership journeys. We focus on similarities rather than differences – indeed both communities share the challenges of historical immigration, weaknesses in women’s empowerment, prejudice from outside, and minority status.
Nisa-Nashim provides monthly programming platforms, and we support the Muslim/Jewish co-chair team in each group. Events have included Iftars at Ramadan, Rosh Hashana celebrations, visits to Mosques and Synagogues, and days of social action, moving on, now, to issues of Antisemitism and anti-Muslim Hatred.