A project which helps young people challenge and report racism in the North East has won praise from the government’s Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism.
Sara Khan praised the work of the Challenging Youth Racism project which has been carried out by researchers at Teesside University and practitioners from Humankind.
Over three years the project has delivered more than 350 workshops to over 7,000 people across the North East.
The workshops which were delivered to young people aged between 11 and 19 were designed to increase acceptance of others, increase awareness about the impact of racism and encourage young people to challenge and report racism when they see it.
In addition to the workshops, the CYR team also provided one day Racism Awareness Programmes (RAP) and have trained over 150 RAP ambassadors to educate others and provide support for those affected by racism.
In 2008, Sara Khan co-founded Inspire, an independent non-governmental organisation working to counter extremism and gender inequality and has been included in the BBC Woman’s Hour Power List as one of the top ten influencers. She was appointed Lead Commissioner of the independent Commission for Countering Extremism in 2018.
Speaking at a conference held at Teesside University’s Darlington campus to launch the CYR report, Sara praised the collaboration between the different agencies involved in the project and the impact it has made.
She said: “Extremism is causing very real harm to individuals, communities and wider society. We can, and must, do more.
“This project shows how dialogue and open, diverse debate are important tools in countering extremism.
“It is also proof of how much can be achieved by giving young people the information and the tools to unpick and challenge hateful narratives.
“I look forward to hearing about the next stage of this project.”
As a result of the workshops carried out by the project:
• 74% of young people increased their willingness to challenge or report racist behaviour.
• 65% of young people increased their understanding of how racist behaviour impacts people.
• 85% of young people maintained or increased their acceptance of people of a different religion, nationality and/or skin colour.
The report from the CYR project has found that while young people are more empowered to challenge and report racism, some media and family and community influences are still perpetuating racist views and stereotypes.
It also found that where young people were exposed to racism, it does not necessarily mean they agree with it and there were concerns raised by young people in terms of how racism was responded to when they reported it at school.
The conference attracted dozens of delegates from the public, private and voluntary sector.
Speaking after the conference, Professor Nigel Copsey from Teesside University’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law, said: “The report has been very well received with a lot of positive engagement from everyone at the conference. There were some very good speakers which nicely encapsulated many of the main findings of the report.”
Dr David Temple, Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law and lead author of the report, added: “There’s been a wide a range of views with a lot of invaluable perspectives, looking at different ways to tackle racism.”
The CYR project was funded through the National Lottery Community Fund and was a partnership between Teesside University and Humankind.