Transcript of Reflections by Founding Director Charlotte Littlewood.

“My name is Charlotte Littlewood and l am the Founding Director of Become The Voice. This is a short introduction to the organization and myself. It’s an exciting month for us at Become The Voice because next month will be our first birthday which is why we’re doing some reflecting on what we’ve done this year and getting excited about turning one next month. You’re also gonna hear from our Digital Strategist and our Youth Engagement Worker from Palestine later.

My heart and my mind is completely in Become The Voice – BTV is about encouraging positive content not only online but in communities. It’s about creating a greater understanding of where bias and therefore hate and issues with prejudice, racism all the way through to radicalization and terrorism come from.

Charlotte Littlewood, Founding Director

“If we can have a better understanding of the underlying issues & grievances and address them in a safe and useful way, then we can build resilience in the people we’re working and keep them from becoming perpetrators in this themselves and the communities to build resilience against extremism in total. We look at building awareness around different issues and then training the people in how to use social media more effectively, how to use conversations more effectively to counter hate by and then what we’re really doing is creating positive counter-narratives to hate.

“One example is what we did in Palestine: We worked with initially predominantly women and then a mixed group on challenging issues that affected particularly women in Hebron. We gave them the choice to decide which issues they thought were particularly grievous for them and then we got in third sector experts to do training around those issues. We looked at forced and early marriage all the way through to something as controversial in that in that part of the world as abortion. There is an organization out there working on sexual rights and then sexual health – really interesting, cutting-edge work being done by a group of young women that were then later joined by a group of men as well.

“The group went out to do training around domestic violence out in rural areas around Hebron. Which empowered these women who felt that they could really make a positive change to their environment, their society. The work with the communities outside of Hebron resulted in the time I was there in an actual referral so they got to see a direct positive result from the work that they were doing.

“This is how we positively build resilience to extremism: If people feel like through positive action they can make real change and challenge issues that really frustrate them, they’re far less likely to be vulnerable and drawn into groups that want to challenge some of the same issues through hate and violence and ultimately radicalize them into extreme hateful groups. So that is the basis of our work, our thinking behind our work and we were very lucky to be able to take that to Palestine this year.

“We hope to take that to Palestine next year because we’ve been invited to return and the group of young people was really keen to target extremism more directly. They want to look at the prevention of gender mixing especially in sports, so we are working towards that at the moment. We’ve also been invited to take Become The Voice to Lebanon to work with refugees which we’re really excited about. Especially considering the horrific case in the UK recently of the bullying of the Syrian brother and sister. We see a need to humanize refugees and hope that through working with a group of refugees out in Lebanon we will be able to bring back their stories and give them voices. Ultimately we want to connect to refugees that are living in the UK and challenge perceptions of them in our communities.

“We also have plans to do stuff in the UK, and I look forward to telling you more about that in the new year. The work will be very focused around manifestations of hate. Some of the work I’m doing at the moment is around challenging anti-semitism, so we would want to bring that into what we’re doing with Become The Voice, too. We’re also going to be running interfaith programs in the Southwest of England, which is a rather neglected part of the UK when it comes to challenging extremism and radicalization – it doesn’t get the same kind of funding, it doesn’t get the same kind of resilience work. We are lucky to be collaborating with Exeter University and organisations down in Exeter to build an interfaith platform there.

“That’s a really useful place for me to stop and hand over to Sarah our Digital Strategist but also our interfaith lead who is launching the Interfaith program down in the Southwest.”