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A Magazine for Sheffield

Women Talk Sense

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Lisa Maltby

International Women's Day is celebrated in Sheffield this month. SheFest is collaborating with Sheffield Theatres, Museums Sheffield and Festival of Debate, while events will also take place at the University of Sheffield and the SADACCA building on the Wicker around the 'official' 8 March date. A revolution is underway, and maybe it always has been, wherever women get together.

At a recent Women's Interfaith Forum event in Sheffield, a mixture of women - Christian, Muslim, no faith or various - shared the feeling that religious boundaries aren't really an issue. Of course, they discussed politics, war, climate change, trafficking, terrorism, trans, gay and women's rights, racism, authoritarianism and macho culture. But as one Muslim woman pointed out, just listing problems isn't enough. What we're doing about them in our communities matters more.

[Mums United] have become a mutual support network, a resistance

Despite Sheffield's easy-going reputation, many children are gripped by gang culture at a young age and their families' hearts start breaking. Local group Mums United was formed to stop this suffering, by mothers tired of witnessing abusive and criminal activity among the youngsters in their neighbourhoods. Through an impressive series of events and activities, they have become a mutual support network, a resistance. The group's founder, Sahira Irshad, explained in a recent interview that the key starting point was simply getting women together under one roof.

Street gangs are often the foot soldiers of large crime syndicates that prey on areas of youth alienation, where traditions, income or family links have been disrupted. Social scientists say these are hierarchically structured, surprisingly like private corporations, crossing generations and boundaries. Ben Wallace MP, Minister for Security and Economic Crime, admitted to the scale of it last year; over 4,600 organised crime groups. While terrorism keeps him awake at night, it's nothing compared to the scale and harm of today's serious organised crime, linked to the highest levels of society and reaching across borders, he said. No shit, Sherlock.

The gangland mentality can be stopped

Our behaviour is all-important. We can help to immunise against negative behaviour through positive interactions with the young people around us. We must try, and it's good that the responsible adults in the room are getting their heads together. Fundamental changes are needed, moving the next generation towards a kinder, more intelligent future.

The gangland mentality can be stopped. Mums United have shown that. If you're thinking about joining in with a parent-run women's or community group, don't hesitate. You'll find you're not alone, and so will our children in fact, that's the point.

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