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Bradford academic to lead research into child abuse


University of Bradford academic Dr Samina Karim has been awarded a prestigious UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship to conduct a four-year study into child sex abuse. The Fellowship supports the most talented people to become the next wave of world-class research and innovation leaders. 

Dr Karim will receive around £1m in funding and in-kind contributions to undertake innovative research on the abuse of children from Pakistani backgrounds, both within the UK and in Pakistan. The project aims to support positive change nationally and internationally, as the research will yield knowledge on the cross-cutting issue of child sexual abuse in both countries in a novel way.

She says: “The eradication of child abuse is a global responsibility, and it is important to recognise the vulnerability of children, whatever the culture or context. The sexual abuse of children, therefore, is not limited to a particular place; so we need to think more broadly about how we understand and address these concerns.

“In the UK, we are now proactively responding to cases of current as well as historic child abuse, however those from migrant communities remain less likely to come forward. The reasons can be complex. Minority communities within any country, often face multiple layers of disadvantage, which makes it really challenging to address such sensitive issues.

“We do not want to marginalise communities, but it is important that we start to talk more openly about these issues and develop systems and policies that support the prevention and responses to child sexual abuse. Children are the future. In a healthy society, we want to offer them all the protection we can. Abuse at any stage of life is horrific but preventing children from enduring terrible things such as sexual abuse can potentially change their whole life trajectory. Prevention and early intervention are critical.”

Alongside the investment being made by the UKRI to fund the project, the research will also be supported by local institutional partners, Muslim Charity UK, Riphah Institute of Public Policy (Islamabad) and others.

Professor Peter Mitchell, head of the School of Social Sciences, said: “I am both proud and delighted that this grant has been awarded to Dr Karim. It is a credit to UKRI and their rigorous review process that they have identified the significance of the project, not just as an academic endeavour, but as a piece of work that can and will lead to beneficial changes in society.

“The project has a prominent international dimension, allowing an opportunity to conduct world-leading impactful research. The city of Bradford and wider region of West Yorkshire is the right place to conduct the research given that it lends itself to an illuminating comparison with customs and child-rearing practices in South Asian communities; and Samina is the right person to lead the research with her multilingualism, her extensive network of contacts in the community, in the services and across disciplinary boundaries in academia.

“The University of Bradford’s School of Social Sciences is the ideal home for this project. Our mission is not only to educate students and to create knowledge but to work with the community to make society better than it is. The objectives of the UKRI Future Leader Fellowship align perfectly with this mission.

“Graduate students will work on the project or on related topics and will benefit from the new knowledge that the project generates. In turn, this work will directly benefit the community by conferring enlightenment. Indeed, by helping the community to understand issues around child rearing, society will become safer, better adjusted, more functional and happier.”

UKRI application

The UKRI application states the project hopes to promote knowledge exchange and impact by learning lessons from data gathered both in the UK and Pakistan, ultimately to bring about a societal change, while supporting diversity and inclusion.

It states: “The research undertaken as part of the Fellowship will lead to the development of evidence on which to base interventions and will open the doors for further research to be conducted on an otherwise taboo subject within a Pakistani context both in Pakistan, but also within the UK.

“We will then be able to identify, whether this falls in line with broader understandings around the sexual abuse of children and whether there is a need to consider alternate strategies in terms of prevention and response.”

“Research relating to both the perpetrators of abuse and responses to victims of abuse from the Pakistani community within the UK remain relatively absent. The context of Pakistan serves as a point of reference for the UK, particularly Bradford, as the district has the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin (20.3%) in England, make the locality an appropriate space for this work to be developed.

When awarding the grant, representatives from the UKRI acknowledged the exceptional quality of the research proposal, with its excellent potential for impact, and considered Dr Samina Karim to be a priority candidate for funding, to support her journey in becoming a world class research and innovation leader.

Additional information

Dr Samina Karim is a former social work practitioner turned academic, specialising in the field of child protection. A passionate advocate of children’s rights, she holds a PhD on Power and the institutional abuse of children, as well as having experience of research to inform practice and policy relating to safeguarding vulnerable individuals. She is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Bradford and the Director of Studies for postgraduate programmes within the School of Social Sciences. She is also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and is about to embark on a ground-breaking four-year study to better understand the challenges and issues surrounding the protection of children from minority backgrounds..