Our founder Akeela Ahmed had the honour of being interviewed by the awesome women of new and up and coming initiative ‘Project Ribcage’. You can watch her interview here and read more about them in their own words below. The Project Ribcage team are Saffana, Fatimah and Faizah.
Project Ribcage is an initiative that came about after we- a couple of friends – grew tired by the number of articles/ opinions/ reports/ documentaries about Muslims consistently written and produced by non-Muslims. Within that flooded field of content, was a superficial fascination in Muslim women. It became increasingly apparent that the version of women portrayed, created a laughably unrecognisable narrative with which many of us couldn’t identify. This became serious when the indirect consequences were understood. As mass media has a role in sculpting perspectives that shape society this will negatively impact the self-image of young Muslims and how they understand themselves relative to the world around them. The focus on Muslim women means that impact on young girls is particularly damaging, and unsurprisingly, this would therefore limit the perception of their own potential.
“Being mathematicians and econometricians by discipline, we were unable to ignore the knock-on effect this would have on future generations- starting in academic achievement, career opportunities, and inevitably economic standing and social progress.”
Being mathematicians and econometricians by discipline, we were unable to ignore the knock-on effect this would have on future generations- starting in academic achievement, career opportunities, and inevitably economic standing and social progress. We assumed personal responsibility in partaking in the team effort to “reclaim the narrative”, and thus, Project Ribcage was born. An aim to create an accurate representation of Muslim women to change perceptions and mitigate the damage caused. We would do this by presenting a source of inspiration in the form of documenting real Muslim women’s accomplishments.
Admittedly, the journey started off without exact clarity of the target audience. Initially the project was aimed at the younger generation, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
This changed after one conversation. One of us volunteered on an employers’ mentoring program. This program was aimed at a select group of students in the surrounding schools, focusing specifically on those from disadvantaged backgrounds. It would teach them about the industry, and nurture professional skills whilst exposing them to an environment that they wouldn’t typically be exposed to. It culminated in a competition between the schools.
That year’s winners were a group of girls from East London. They were an accurate cross-section of that school’s demographic; almost all Muslim.
In congratulating the young ladies, it turned out that in the previous year, the same school had forfeited half way through – they felt that the competition had absolutely no relevance to them personally. This time, the participants saw a mentor with whom they could identify. They didn’t just stay, they won.
“Our aim is to elevate the perception that Muslim women have of themselves by showing them real success stories with the end goal of changing society.”
This shook the boat so much that it changed the tone of the project, it became apparent that there is very little need to tailor the message to anyone else. The people who need to hear and see this the most looked like us. So, at this stage, we narrowed it down and started finding the women who we wished we knew existed when we were young.
Our aim is to elevate the perception that Muslim women have of themselves by showing them real success stories with the end goal of changing society. It’s a matter of changing from the inside out. How could we expect to change people’s perception of Muslims if Muslims haven’t changed the perception of themselves? Once Muslim women realise their full potential, society will follow suit and recognise their contributions. We play to our strengths and leverage our understanding of the nuances of the umma and use it to address our audience. If others see Project Ribcage in the process, that’s great too.
Apart from the reasons explained above, another reason to fine tune the audience, is that we have no real interest in ‘normalising’ Muslim women. We are convinced that a unanimous effort to justify our existence to those who don’t particularly care is now not our battle. And we think that this has taken away from time that could have been spent on progress. Because of this, the bar of “success” has been set so low, that we have stunted our growth. Tailoring what we make to a Muslim audience allows us to skip to “normalisation” stage and go straight to the real content. We want to peacock and celebrate achievements to show that women are phenomenal, always have been, always will be.
We are interviewing inspiring Muslim women with a vision to create a catalogue, telling an individual truth in each entry. Understanding how each woman does what she does, and why. For us, we have found that the best way to reclaim the narrative is to ignore the notion of anything else but each woman’s truth.
Alhamdulillah so far, we’ve gone from strength to strength. The team has grown since the project started, and now we have more people dedicated to the cause. Amazing women have taken time to tell us their story and their vision of success. We discuss obstacles faced along the way and ask their top tips to those interested in a similar career. We listen to the women who are speaking from a place of experience and integrity and jump over hurdles together.
Our archive will extend to viewers around the world, for as long as the internet will allow. We want to be synonymous with motivation and the hope to be better than you were yesterday. Our site should be a place where women can go to listen to others who can be the spark that they need after a tough commute home. After all, someone else, at some point, somewhere in the world has experienced the same problem you may be facing, and understanding this is vital.
Amongst our list of interviewees are food bloggers, academics, artists and poets etc.
One of our recent interviewees is Suhaiymah, aka @thebrownhijabi. She is an MA graduate, a writer, poet and TEDx speaker. She discusses race, gender and islamophobia. She speaks explicitly about the objections and the rejections she has experienced but though her belief in herself and her message she persevered and continues to succeed in a similar field.
Our ultimate vision is to present the epicentre of the shift in the mindset of a generation. We want to put together the case that Muslim women, like any group of marginalised people, can elevate themselves to a position of power by building on the network that currently exists.
If you would like to keep updated, follow us on our social media accounts. Project Ribcage we can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud – @projectribcage. Visit our website www.projectribcage.com for an archive of all our written pieces and video interviews with amazing Muslim women.