Ask Charlotte 1 — Become The Voice CIC & Palestine

Image Credit: Charlotte Littlewood.

Charlotte Littlewood is the Founding Director of Become The Voice CIC. A grass roots youth centred community interest company that she has built in response to the need to tackle hate, extremism and radicalisation within communities and online.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Become The Voice (BTV) is an activist organization. In getting at the nuance of the inspiration for the title of the organization, its purpose and content, its values and mission, and so on, apart from the website, please elaborate on these.

Charlotte Littlewood: So, Become The Voice was created in January of this year. What I had noticed working in counter-extremism and in Prevent (which is the soft end of counter-terrorism) in the UK, is a distinct lack of coordinated work on the central ground, we have seen politics divide with an increasingly illiberal far-left alongside a far-right. Identity politics have taken front stage. We have seen radicalisation taking place Left and Right, but definitely not in the Center.

BTV is about equipping, enabling, and empowering youth to speak out on progressive, central values — speaking out against hate. Through this, it provides resilience in the participants against extremist narratives and to be able to reach out to people with progressive and positive messages. There is an emphasis on outreach. Once they have been upskilled in understanding the issues of extremism, and we bring them together on positive messages that counter hate, we equip them to take that to social media enabling grassroots outreach.

So one problem was a lack of grassroots work. Another problem was any attempt to create youth work was coming from a top-down government effort rather than the young doing this from their own media platforms, their own ways of engaging with each other. That is a second unique thing about BTV, it is truly youth lead.

Jacobsen: BTV is collaborating with activists on the ground and helping Palestinians. How so? Why this group of individuals? How are we reaching out via modern media to get the message out there?

Littlewood: What we did in Palestine was a gender equality women’s program, through this we were, naturally, opposing extremism in itself. It is important to give an understanding of Hebron, Palestine first. I took this quote from Rateeba, who runs the largest youth forum in Palestine. She spoke to me about extremism in Hebron and the history extremism in the women’s movement.

She said, “A women’s movement began to develop in the late 17th century. It was particularly prominent in 1965. Women were working side by side with men to achieve equality in the political and economic sphere. After the first Intifada in 1987, political Islam started to influence the culture of the Palestinian people. They moved our society far away from the leftist leading parties. They use and continue to use religion to influence people, coming into conflict with our leftist political parties. The Islamist groups started recording successes in the peace process as successes for themselves, which increased their popularity. The Left has essentially disappeared. There is little to no voice for the Left or the middle ground. We are, unfortunately, so affected by the states around us, e.g., the rise of Islamism in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and now Turkey. There is no escaping. Women used to get together dancing and go out. Now, this is forbidden. They changed the attitude of the people, even the understanding of Islam has changed. We used to live together with different interpretations of Islam and different religions with no conflict based on religion. We used to identify with our nation, language, and culture. Now, political Islam tries to dominate our identity.”

I think this really demonstrates the shift in Palestine towards extremism and a push against progressivism. So, working in gender equality was interesting, because it is gender equality that organizations like Hizb ut-Tahrir have really been working to prevent; it has, in the last year, prevented a shelter for battered women being created. In the last couple of months, they prevented a marathon from taking place that was running through Hebron because it was a mixed gender marathon: men and women were running together.

So as you can see there is an organised effort to push against gender equality and equality for women. This gave is reason to work in gender equality. We aim first to identify the issues facing people in an area and gender equality definitely was a prominent issue. We then work with organizations who are working in that area on the ground, so we can get some professionals involved to do some training with the young people — so they get hands-on workshops with people working on this day-in-and-day-out.

We had a number of women’s rights organizations work with the women, so they really understand the issues and how to speak about them, and understand the work being done and how they can move the issues forward for these organizations while working with them. The final thing we do is upskill them on how to use social media.

One of my directors of BTV is a digital expert. So, she understands how we present stuff on Twitter, how we should blog, the tone of voice, how we should hashtag, and when we should release stuff on social media. All this stuff, I do not know very well. She helps me with this stuff. We deliver this training to the young people. They, essentially, follow a step-by-step guide on how to post, to make sure their posts have the most effect.

You can go onto the BTV Facebook and Instagram and then see what the girls did use in social media. I am trying to find my report, which tells me exactly how many likes and shares and comments they got on their posts. But I can send those details later, so you can see the effect the young people had after using the can-do guide and the messaging put into it.

That is what we practically did as well. We use social media. We did some short videos. We used the BTV Facebook and Instagram platforms for them. They also used their own social media platforms. They had decent followings too. They were trained in how to be as effective online. It means they release the image at the right time of the day, when the most people will see it. There is a way to push a hashtag through a search, which will show the hashtags that are most popular to make sure that you get onto the right trend. There are tricks like that.

We saw them being liked and shared and commented on, at high levels. It is good. Now, we have over 300 people following the BTV Facebook page. A lot of that is Palestinian people from Hebron.

Jacobsen: For the work of BTV, how do modern media and communications technologies provide a platform for women, e.g., Palestinian women, who have a platform, especially when women tend to have fewer financial resources in most of the world to fund media campaigns for themselves?

Littlewood: So, BTV trained young women in how to use social media effectively. It gives them organizations, including ourselves and other organizations within my network, to tweet at and include in their posts. So, we can reach a wider audience. What is really, really useful about social media, it is completely free. There are no economic restrictions on this. Even some of the cheap phones, smartphones, they have the ability to take a photo and put things on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It is easy; it is accessible. As we have seen, social media is having a huge influence on how we see the world, our laws, our politics. I think the most obvious example of that is #MeToo. I was looking at this before. 4.7 million people engaged through 12 million posts in the first 24 hours after the #MeToo campaign was first released.

It it started with an activist standing up for a young woman who had been sexually abused. Then an actress used the hashtag, her name escapes me, she was the first to use it in the public sphere. That was in 2017. Within 24 hours, 12 million posts using #MeToo. It shows the impact and the reach we can have. Obviously, it influenced discourse, particularly if it was discourse in the UK. It has given the feminist movement a big kick up the ass once again.

Social media is a really important platform for women. It is free, easy, and accessible. If you create something that has impact, and people can relate to it, you can really get your message across.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Charlotte.

(Updated September 28, 2016)

Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com, Scott.Jacobsen@TrustedClothes.Com, Scott@ConatusNews.Com, scott.jacobsen@probc.ca, Scott@Karmik.Ca.

He is a Moral Courage Webmaster and Outreach Specialist (Fall, 2016) at the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality (Ethics Center), Interview Columnist for Conatus News, Writer and Executive Administrator for Trusted Clothes, Interview Columnist for Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), Councillor for the Athabasca University Student Union, Member of the Learning Analytics Research Group, writer for The Voice Magazine, Your Political Party of BC, ProBC, Marijuana Party of Canada, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Harvest House Ministries, and Little Footprints Big Steps International Development Organization, Editor and Proofreader for Alfred Yi Zhang Photography, Community Journalist/Blogger for Gordon Neighbourhood House, Member-at-Large, Member of the Outreach Committee, the Finance & Fundraising Committee, and the Special Projects & Political Advocacy Committee, and Writer for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Member of the Lifespan Cognition Psychology Lab and IMAGe Psychology Lab, Collaborator with Dr. Farhad Dastur in creation of the CriticalThinkingWiki, Board Member, and Foundation Volunteer Committee Member for the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation, and Independent Landscaper.

He was a Francisco Ayala Scholar at the UCI Ethics Center, Member of the Psychometric Society Graduate Student Committee, Special Advisor and Writer for ECOSOC at NWMUN, Writer for TransplantFirstAcademy and ProActive Path, Member of AT-CURA Psychology Lab, Contributor for a student policy review, worked with Manahel Thabet on numerous initiatives, Student Member of the Ad–Hoc Executive Compensation Review Committee for the Athabasca University Student Union, Volunteer and Writer for British Columbia Psychological Association, Community Member of the KPU Choir (even performed with them alongside the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra), Delegate at Harvard World MUN, NWMUN, UBC MUN, and Long Beach Intercollegiate MUN, and Writer and Member of the Communications Committee for The PIPE UP Network.

He published in American Enterprise Institute, Annaborgia, Conatus News, Earth Skin & Eden, Fresh Start Recovery Centre, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Huffington Post, In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal, Jolly Dragons, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Psychology Department, La Petite Mort, Learning Analytics Research Group, Lifespan Cognition Psychology Lab, Lost in Samara, Marijuana Party of Canada, MomMandy, Noesis: The Journal of the Mega Society, Piece of Mind, Production Mode, Synapse, TeenFinancial, The Peak, The Ubyssey, The Voice Magazine, Transformative Dialogues, Treasure Box Kids, Trusted Clothes.

Image Credit: Charlotte Littlewood.