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16 Days of Activism – Day Four

Shining a light on services

Project Maya

 

As the Senior BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, Refugee) IDVA for Changing Pathways, I work with women subjected to so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, women with an insecure immigration status and women with No Recourse to Public Funds. Sadly, victims of domestic abuse from BAMER communities face additional barriers to seeking support which include: being threatened by the perpetrator with deportation; separation of children; shame; losing a sense of belonging within their community; language barriers; isolation and having no or limited access to finances.

Working with up to 20 women at any one time, I seek to identify their risk and understand their barriers and multiple support needs. Advocating for survivors requires me to work with a range of different agencies including immigration solicitors, police, local authorities, and other specialist agencies such as Karma Nirvana, Rights of Women and Asylum and Migrant Help Services.

Some days prove more challenging than others! It is essential to my work that the women I support are aware of their rights and entitlements. For women with No Recourse to Public Funds I need to work with specialist refuge services and social care teams to gain funding for a refuge place where needed. Often, I need to refer a family to the local Children’s Social Care Department under Section 17 of the Children’s Act and that can be at times very challenging. I have heard women being questioned on their parenting, advised to ‘go back home’, to just find a job or leave the children with the alleged perpetrator of the abuse. In these cases, I continue to advocate for the woman and her children and where we have no success, I support her to access support from community case solicitors.

As you can see, advocacy is a large part of my role and an important part of my work is completing robust safety plans with the woman whilst I advocate on her behalf with services to ensure her needs are being met.

Some of the women I support have only been in the UK for a short period and this is very time intensive work as they need additional support to navigate daily tasks such as taking public transport and attending appointments. I arrange to meet with the woman in a safe location and use public transport with her to show her the routes for buses and trains and local hotspots.

Through my work on Project Maya, I have developed strong links with the local British Red Cross Team who provide support with immigration and donations. With their help, I can help the women I work with obtain legal advice on their immigration status and complete the forms to secure their status.

To undertake a role like this, I believe that a strong character and a passion for working to end violence against women and girls are essential attributes and this drives me to keep going to achieve successful outcomes for each woman I support. I help women subjected to abuse find their voice. Often my days are spent in council offices with women and their children who only have the clothes on their backs but when we get a successful outcome for that woman and her children that means they do not have to return to place of danger, this is what keeps me doing what I do!

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