Fatma Ipek has been running Kvinnokraft (woman power) in Stockholm suburb Fittja since 2016. The idea is simple but effective: a group of local women go out and walk the streets together in an effort to encourage calm and order among the young people there.
“The project has been going for two years and there's definitely changes. We've created a safer feeling, we hope there will be more changes in the future,” Ipek told The Local.
The scene of unrest during the Stockholm riots of 2013, Fittja has struggled with social problems for a number of years, and was one of six 'risk areas' in Sweden named in a report by Swedish police in 2015.
Many of its residents have a Turkish background, and according to Ipek, the roll of mothers in Turkish culture means that they command a kind of respect from the youngsters that even the police aren't able to call upon:
“The young people have reacted differently, but the majority of Fittja's residents have the same culture and according to our culture you respect mothers, which we have seen a lot of when we're out walking”.
“Many think it's fun and come up to us to greet us, some think it's uncomfortable because you’re not supposed to look stupid in front of mums according to our culture. The positive thing is that the kids listen to us, if we say something to them they listen to us and move on or stop what they're doing. Whether that's temporary not not I can't answer,” she added.
That doesn't mean the project has been straightforward however. The original idea was for both men and women to be involved, Ipek explained, but some men didn't take kindly to the idea of women leading the charge and pro-actively trying to make a difference in the area.
“We walked together with men before but we couldn't cooperate and didn't agree. There were some who thought that us women should sit at home, they didn't want to walk with us,” she noted.
That wasn't going to deter her however:
“I had the idea, moved forward with it and showed everyone that we're super mothers, and that even if we are around 50-60 years old we can cause a change. And no, we don't belong at home with the housework”.
Asked if the project's success could be exported to other areas, the Kvinnokraft founder said that she wishes other parents had thought to do the same.
“Yes, why not? It would have been so much better if previous parents went out and walked around the suburbs to make a change,” she concluded.