Domestic violence and abuse against women

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241 women were killed by their partners or ex-partners between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2017 in England and Wales. This means that around 2 women are killed every week, although studies maintain that there are probably many more women killed by their partners than the data shows. Even though these numbers are shocking, these crimes constitute the most evident form of domestic violence against women, as this issue has a much bigger scope than it appears at first sight. Being name-called or shamed by your partner, not being allowed to access your own money, being forced to have sexual relations or feeling fearful when you are around him, are also different forms of domestic violence and, as such, should be treated with equal seriousness.  

Domestic violence is defined by the government as “any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality”. It can then include psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional violence, but it is not limited to these types of abuse. Honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation are also included in the broad spectrum of domestic violence. It is also important to note that although domestic violence can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality, women are much more likely to suffer, as has been proved by data showing that, in 2013-2015, four times more women than men were killed by their partner or ex-partner.   

Domestic violence is a very serious issue that is much more pervasive in our society than data shows. According to the authorities, domestic abuse is chronically underreported to support organisations, which means statistics show only a small fragment of what is actually going on around us. However, government funding for this issues has been systematically reduced in the past few years, especially since 2010, when the coalition government was elected and started its programme of austerity. These austerity measures have deeper effects on women who are already in vulnerable positions, such as BAMER women, whose greater need of support makes them the hardest hit when funding is reduced from domestic violence services.

Even though in the year to March 2017, 1.9 million people in England and Wales (1.2 million women and 713,000 men) suffered from domestic abuse, the government has kept reducing its budget for services to support victims of domestic violence. In fact, local authorities across England have cut spending on refuges for those suffering domestic violence by nearly a quarter since 2010, from £31.2m in 2010-2011 to £23.9m in 2016-2017. This has meant that many refuges have been forced to close or reduce capacity, leaving many victims of domestic violence unprotected and without the possibility to leave their abusive relationships.

Women deserve to feel safe and protected by society, which is why a stronger institutional response is needed to face such a devastating social problem. In doing so, special attention should be paid to those in more vulnerable positions, such as women from BAMER communities. Some of these women face difficulties speaking English, which makes it harder for them to seek help or know about their rights. Moreover, those women who are dependent on their partners for their right to stay in the UK face an even more problematic situation, as that status can be used against them to prevent them from leaving an abusive relationship. It appears evident then that the special needs of BAMER women should be taken into account when addressing domestic violence.

Here at JAN Trust, we stand against domestic violence and provide support to women by creating a safe and confidential environment where they can seek advice and guidance on the issue. With our English classes and different workshops, we also seek to provide a space where women can increase their confidence and become empowered members of society. If you would like to seek advice, or are interested in any of our services, please visit our website www.jantrust.org.

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Posted in JAN Trust, Sexual Violence, Society, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where are the safe spaces for women in our society?

The Warwick University ‘rape chat’ scandal reveals a society where sexual violence and hate speech festers in the shadows, and safe spaces for women are non-existent.

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Universities are often held to be cultural centres of knowledge and self-expression, where people are free to learn, and the best and brightest come together to create a better future for us all. But the recent Warwick University scandal, where two male students had their original 10 year bans reduced to just 12 months for threatening to rape fellow students, has shown that not even these spaces are safe for women. Following significant online backlash the university confirmed these students would not be returning next September. Although this decision is a relief, the saga reveals the truth about modern society: there are few safe spaces for women.
This incident is just one of many where violence against women is being given a space to thrive in private, whilst women are increasingly under threat. This is not the first time that a university group has been uncovered for perpetuating sexual violence against women. A similar incident occurred at The University of Edinburgh in 2014 when the minutes from a meeting of an all-male society that contained rape threats to fellow students were leaked. The problem is so prevalent it has led the National Student Union to publishing guidelines on what university student unions can do to tackle hate speech on campus. This culture is not restricted to the university campus.

Private messaging and online platforms are allowing violence and harassment to operate in the shadows, whilst women do not even feel safe going outside. One of the victims of the Warwick University incident spoke of how this affected her mental health and feelings of safety on campus. She stopped going to classes or working her shifts on campus. Female students are increasingly afraid, and frustrated, of the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude that thrives in society. Often these hateful and frightening incidences are passed off as a joke. In this case, victims were forced to justify their fear and anger. Women are not even given a safe space to be upset or angry. They are told to laugh it off and ignore it. As one victim of the Warwick incident cited, university procedures did nothing to make spaces safer for the female students. Women are too often ignored and failed by the institutions and authorities set up to protect them. Even when the talk becomes physical violence, such as the case of ‘Incel’ violence in Toronto or ‘The Wolf Pack’ scandal in Spain, the rise of private hate speech and the issue of women’s safety is woefully ignored.

The attitudes that grow in private have a damning effect on public behaviour. In the street, women are targets of harassment simply because they are women. Some women are targets of more than just sexual or gender violence, but also of violence because of other aspects of their identity. There is a clear correlation between threats of sexual violence and other types of hate speech in the Warwick case, as the group used racial slurs and hateful language alongside their sexual threats. Unchallenged hate of women only paves the way for hate speech aimed at other groups. BAME women are especially vulnerable, attacked not just for their gender identity but for their religious or racial identity too. The more we allow private attitudes to exist unquestioned, the less safe women are. Some women, do not even have a safe space at home. Where are women safe from violence and harassment if their university, the streets they walk on, and their homes are not even safe?

Here at JAN Trust we are dedicated to giving the most vulnerable women in society a safe space to learn and feel part of the community through our workshops and classes. Our projects and campaigns on FGM and forced marriage work to help make vulnerable women’s homes a safer space for them to live without violence. We are working hard to challenge hate speech and to make young people more aware of the problem with our school workshops. Through our Web Guardians™ programme we support women in taking responsibility for their and their family’s online safety themselves. Our efforts make spaces safer for local women, and we will continue to call on others to do more to make all levels of society safer for everyone.

Posted in Crime, discrimination, Education, girls, JAN Trust, Uncategorized, Violence, women | Tagged , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust Welcomes UK’S First Conviction Against Female Genital Mutilation

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However, more work needs to be done to address the roots of this terrible crime

In a historic trial, a woman became the first person in the UK to be convicted for female genital mutilation (FGM) after evidence was found to implicate her in her 3-year-old daughter’s mutilation. She now faces up to 14 years in prison for her role in a crime that has been outlawed in the UK since 1985, yet has seen the failure of previous prosecutions.

We at JAN Trust stand firmly against gender- and honour-based violence and are delighted by the news. FGM is a procedure that involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Leethen Bartholomew, head of the National FGM Centre in the UK, spoke up about the lifelong impact this traumatising practice has on survivors, “both physically and psychologically.”

Other activists have spoken out in support of the conviction including Hibo Wardere, who was only 6 years old when she was subjected to FGM by her mother. Wardere wrote a memoir about her traumatic experience and her subsequent activism, Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today, and spoke on BBC Woman’s Hour this week about her feelings regarding the conviction. “I never thought I’d see it in my day,” she admitted. “The UK has showed that children have rights, they are respected and they will be protected. It doesn’t matter what community you come from. You will be held accountable.”

Wardere’s initial misgivings about FGM prosecutions are certainly grounded, for it appears that there is a lack of prosecution of FGM cases in the UK. Figures seen by the Victoria Derbyshire programme show that 939 calls were made to emergency services to report FGM between 2014 and 2018, but the Crown Prosecution Service only received 36 referrals from the police since 2010.

There are a number of factors that could explain this discrepancy. A lot of young girls risk being ostracised if they speak up about their experiences and are often reluctant to turn their family members in to the police. Teachers and law enforcement officials are also wary of stepping in, acutely aware of the cultural dimension of the issue. They are often worried about being labelled “racist” for criticizing a culturally-rooted and widespread practice, despite its obvious harm. Another alarming trend that makes prosecution of these crimes even more difficult is that FGM is increasingly being performed on babies and infants, according to the Victoria Derbyshire Programme. This makes FGM almost impossible to detect, according to FGM expert and barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman, who remarks that victims are as a result “unable to report, the cut heals quicker and prosecution is much harder once evidence comes to light and the girl is older.”

The National FGM Centre said that preventing FGM required kick-starting “a huge cultural shift in groups where FGM is commonly practised.” By educating communities on the enduring harms of this practice, such as severe bleeding, infections, complications in childbirth and even increased risk of newborn deaths, as well as challenging the misconception that FGM can be used to reduce the libido of a woman and thus her chances of “dishonouring” her family by engaging in extramarital sexual encounters, this strategy would address the root of the problem rather than simply treating victims or holding perpetrators accountable after the fact.

At JAN Trust, our project Against FGM is guided by the same logic. We hope to create this cultural shift by providing workshops in schools, universities and communities to raise awareness about the harms of FGM, to help students and teachers recognise instances of FGM and to support victims. In the last 5 years, we have delivered over 400 school sessions to this end, which means we have worked with over 40,000 youth and practitioners across the UK. We are proud to be contributing to the momentum of the movement against FGM, and will continue our fight to educate and empower communities to halt this traumatizing practice.

For more information about our work to address FGM, please visit our website here: https://jantrust.org/project/against-fgm/.

Posted in Campaign, Campaigning, Crime, discrimination, Education, Ethnic Minorities, girls, Health Issues, International, International Affairs, JAN Trust, London, police, Society, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

In a promising step to support forced marriage victims, UK government no longer requires them to pay for rescue

Perpetrators of forced marriages will now be required to bear the financial cost associated with the victims return

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At the beginning of January, an investigation by The Times revealed that young British women who are forced into marriages abroad are often charged for their return to the UK when assisted by the Forced Marriage Unit. These women, predominately South Asian in origin, are usually made to pay for their flights back to the UK as well as basic food and shelter, which can add up to hundreds of pounds in total. For women who are unable to pay, the Foreign Office makes them take out an emergency loan that has to be paid back within six months, or else is increased by 10%. The passports of these women are withheld from them until they have paid their debts.

For women, already under immense stress in the face of a traumatic event like a forced marriage, these strict requirements to ensure their basic freedom (and often, safety) appear unjust. Many MPs have condemned the loans as ‘astonishing’ and ‘immoral.’

However, following careful consideration of the matter, the Foreign Office announced on the 9th of January that it would reverse this policy. Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said that the Foreign Office would regard these women as “exceptionally vulnerable people” and impose Forced Marriage Protection Orders on the families who were responsible for arranging the forced marriage instead. This puts the financial burden of the rescue on the perpetrators of the act rather than the victims.

This is a promising step in the right direction. The United Kingdom criminalised forced marriage in 2014 to hold families accountable for their actions. A successful conviction could result in a jail term of up to seven years. While this was an important turning point, it is clear that forced marriage convictions are not a common occurrence. In 2018, only two such convictions took place. While the Home Office publishes a Forced Marriage Unit Statistics Report each year that details the number of women and men supported by the unit, the report fails to mention statistics regarding forced marriage convictions. Perhaps one reason for the lack of formal convictions is that victims often have trouble taking their parents to court as they do not wish to see them jailed. The Foreign Office’s new policy, then, in putting financial obligation on the families for the rescue of their children, creates another way for the government to hold these families accountable and makes it clear that forced marriages will not be tolerated.

It is important to dispel the common misconception that forced marriages are a cultural phenomenon particular to certain communities, and thus do not require the intervention of the government. Forced marriages are different from arranged marriages as they are finalised without the consent of one or both parties. Forced marriages are often imposed using threats, such as physical threats of violence as well as emotional blackmail. No particular faith sanctions forced marriages in any way either – freely-given consent is an important prerequisite of Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh marriages. Forced marriages are a real threat to the freedom and rights of women and there is no cultural or religious justification for them.

Between 2016 and 2017, the UK government’s Forced Marriage Unit rescued 82 women and it has been promising to see the government continue such important work in a more compassionate and just manner for the well-being of these young British women. In addition to holding perpetrators accountable, this new policy strengthens the culture of supporting victims, a culture that charities like JAN Trust have been working hard to foster at the grassroots level. It is our hope that providing victims of forced marriages with proper support will enable more to feel safe to speak up about their problems and get help on time.

If you are facing a forced marriage or know of anyone who is, do not hesitate to contact the Forced Marriage Unit:

Telephone: 020 7008 0151 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)

From overseas: +44 (0) 20 7008 0151

Out of hours: 020 7008 1500 (ask for the Global Response Centre)

To learn more about JAN Trust’s work to support women and BAMER communities in the UK, visit www.jantrust.org

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Crime, Education, Ethnic Minorities, forced marriage, Forced Marriages, girls, International, marriage, Politics, Sexual Violence, Society, South Asian, The Times, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JAN Trust’s 2018 journey!

At the start of New Year, it is natural to reflect on and consider how the year has been. Needless to say 2018 has been an incredible and busy year for us at JAN Trust! We’ve had some amazing highs, including working on vital social change projects and celebrating the achievements of our women! However , 2018 hasn’t been without some low points. As a small grassroots charity, it’s important to celebrate successes but also not to ignore the struggles that have been faced along the way. We’ve mapped out some of our highs and lows of 2018 below so you can follow our story, the issues we have been dealing with and how far we’ve come! We are positive and looking forward to what 2019 will bring including supporting more women and delivering more exciting projects!

Highs

Another Way Forward

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In 2018 we developed and carried out one of our most innovative and exciting projects yet – Another Way Forward; Empowering Young Women Against Extremism. This project  was supported by The ISD and Google.org to galvanise and empower young women between the ages of 16-25 years old to tackle extremism and hatred in society. Through intimate and candid workshops, we educated these Young Ambassadors on the issue of extremism and also how to get their voices heard and enact change online via social media campaigning. This culminated with the students coming up with ideas for and filming their own campaign videos with a professional film maker! This has been such an exciting project and we were so impressed with the passion and creativity of our Young Ambassadors! We can’t wait to see their campaign videos – definitely a highlight of 2018!

SAFE Sessions

In 2018, we continued delivering our counter-extremism SAFE workshops across multiple London schools and colleges. With the support from ISD and Google.org, we were able to deliver more than ever before which was definitely a real highpoint. Educating young people on such a sensitive issue is vital work and hearing some of the amazing feedback and witnessing the engagement and curiosity of the students made it so worthwhile and fulfilling. Here are some quotes from teachers about some of our 2018 sessions.

‘The presentation was extremely well-pitched and student feedback was positive.’

‘That was a difficult topic but the facilitators handled it well’

One student even left us a thank you note, which was particularly memorable and a great feeling for the JAN Trust team!

7

Certificate Ceremony

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In December, we held a Certificate Ceremony at our centre to celebrate our beneficiaries and their amazing achievements our skills based classes including English, IT and Fashion and Design, which we provide from our centre in North London. It was a really special day, with women who use our services from all different cultures and religions coming together to celebrate their hard work and successes.

Many dignitaries were also in attendance, and we would like to thank our MP Catherine West , the Mayor of Haringey Cllr Gina Adamou, Deputy Mayor Cllr Sheila Peacock, Haringey Council, Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, Cllr Liz Morris and the Borough Commander Helen Millichap. We really appreciated all their kind and supportive words to our users and to us at JAN Trust. It’s hard to believe that we have been encouraging, educating and empowering women in our community for 30 years now – and still going strong! Congratulations to all our lovely users for their awards/certificates, your hard work has paid off – well deserved and what a fabulous way to round off 2018!

European Diversity Awards 2018

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This year, JAN Trust and our CEO Sajda Mughal OBE were nominated at the Heathrow Airport’s European Diversity Awards 2018 in the categories of ‘Community Project of the Year’ and ‘Campaigner of the Year’ respectfully. This renowned awards ceremony aims to celebrate diversity across Europe and honour various individuals, campaigners, organisations and charities that champion diversity and are making a difference.

Out of 60,000 nominations, our CEO Sajda won Campaigner of the Year 2018, and JAN Trust were Highly Commended in our category. This was a real highpoint of 2018 as it cemented for us that all our hard work was paying off and that it was being seen, heard and valued by more people than we could have ever anticipated. A huge thank you to the JAN Trust Team and to the EDA’s for recognising the work of this small NGO!

LOWS

Although these high points really do show what an incredible year of achievements JAN Trust has had, 2018 also brought with it some lows for us as a small, grassroots charity.

 

Home Office withdrawing funding for Web Guardians™

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Motivated by her own experience surviving the 7/7 bombings and demand from the community, In 2010 our CEO Sajda Mughal developed the Web Guardians™ programme. This programme works with mothers and women, providing them with the skills, education and confidence to prevent online extremism in their families and community. This award-winning programme became renowned as a pioneering and unique initiative, focusing on the importance of women in countering-extremism.

Despite this acclaim, in June 2018, the Home Office decided to unceremoniously withdraw funding for the project, after months of false promises that funding would continue. This was a huge blow to our team and our community as we had worked so hard on this programme and could see how important it was for the women involved in so many ways. Knowing that we have an amazing project that works, but not having the financial backing to deliver it, especially being a small non-profit, is extremely disheartening.

If you would like to help support us and keep our vital services available, find out how you can help here. 

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Women as agents of peace – the important role of women during the conflict and peacebuilding moment

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You have probably heard by now about Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad, the winners of this year’s prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. They are being recognised for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. This exceptional news is highly welcomed, as it will help to raise awareness and put an end to the horrific situation that many women and girls in conflicts have to go through. For years, women’s bodies have constituted part of the terrain of conflict, and sexual violence has been used as a deliberate military strategy aiming at damaging the social cohesion of the enemy’s community. A well-known case was the rape of more than 20,000 Muslim women and girls in Bosnia since the start of the fighting in 1992.

The use of sexual violence as a sexual weapon has been banned by International Law, both in the Rome Statute of 1998 and in the UN Security Council Resolution 1820 (2008). It is a cruel and unacceptable practice and much effort is needed to end with the impunity surrounding this issue. However, when talking about women in conflict scenarios, much attention is paid to their condition as victims, and less common are the articles about the active and vital role that women play in such settings. In fact, when we talk about peace negotiations and peacebuilding, the image of conferences full of men signing treaties is the one that usually comes to our heads. But women have played decisive roles in many conflict and peacebuilding settings, and their importance needs to be recognised.

Among the many examples, significant is the case of Liberia, where women created a strong grassroots movement to pressure the fighting forces to end the conflict and ended up being crucial for the signature of the peace agreements of 2003. Likewise, in Kashmir women from different ideological positions have joined forces in a platform rejecting violence to find peaceful solutions to the conflict their society faces. Afghanistan is also a significant case where women have been instrumental in providing health and education to children under the Taliban rule and in refugee camps.

This list could keep going on for a while, since the participation of women as active agents of conflict and peacebuilding is undeniable. However, women continue to be excluded from the negotiation tables and formal peacebuilding institutions, even though their participation in these processes has proven to be decisive for the construction of a lasting peace. Julia Bacha has stated that nonviolent campaigns are 100 percent more likely to succeed than violent ones – and women are heading these peaceful campaigns. In sight of this, we believe that a bigger effort should be taken by the international community to promote the role of women and their inclusion at the main peacebuilding organs, assuring their participation at all stages of the conflict resolution and state reconstruction processes.

At JAN Trust, we acknowledge the importance of promoting women’s roles and their inclusion in the public sphere, encouraging their active participation at the decision-making level. That is why we work to empower marginalised women, as we recognise that they have the same rights as men to be active citizens in their communities and fully participate in the public debates of the society. With that goal in mind, our organisation provides free English classes and other services to BAMER women to encourage their personal development and integration in society.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Campaign, Campaigning, child marriage, Education, Ethnic Minorities, International, International Affairs, JAN Trust, Sexual Violence, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25th November 2018 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

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25th November 2018 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations of our time. That is why every 25th November we celebrate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day is an opportunity for governments, international organisations and NGOs to raise public awareness about the levels of violence women suffer and to try to implement new measures to eradicate it. This year, the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign has chosen the global advocacy theme to be “Orange the World: #HearMeToo”. While orange has been the colour used the past years to unify all activities taking place on this day, the theme makes reference to the internationally popular #MeToo movement, a women’s initiative to end sexual harassment and sexual assault worldwide.

Violence against women and girls takes many forms, including physical and emotional abuse, rape, forced marriage, female genital cutting, trafficking and deprivation of resources and rights. It is estimated that one in three women in the world have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, while two thirds have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner. Moreover, according to the UN Secretary-General’s report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, in 2012 almost half of all women who were victims of intentional homicide worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member, compared to only 6% of male victims. In England and Wales, in the year to March 2017, 1.2 million women suffered from domestic abuse, with around 2 women killed every week.

These horrifying  numbers show the imperative need to keep working to eradicate violence against women and the necessity to dedicate an International Day to raise awareness on the issue, which has been celebrated on the 25th of November since 2000, after the UN General Assembly designated it on December 1999. However, this day was previously marked by activists in 1981, in homage to the sisters Patria Mercedes Mirabal, María Argentina Minerva Mirabal and Antonia María Teresa Mirabal, three political activists who were murdered in 1960 in the Dominican Republic on the orders of dictator Rafael Trujillo. The date was chosen by women’s rights activists to pay tribute to the sisters’ lives and to all women fighting to end oppression and violence.

Violence against women and girls is strictly prohibited by international law. Women’s right to live a life free of violence is upheld by numerous treaties, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). There also exist various regional treaties covering this topic, such as the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights of Women in Africa, and the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

In spite of this international framework, violence against women and girls is ubiquitous and much more needs to be done to end this problem. Women are still socially seen as inferior to men and this, for some, gives grounds for sexist behaviours and practices towards them that are contrary to human rights. A pan cultural shift of attitudes and beliefs surrounding gender roles and relations is a momentous task, but it is needed in order to tackle this issue. Addressing violent and toxic ideas of masculinity and hierarchical gender dynamics is a must in order to shift these oppressive viewpoints.

It is well known that violence has devastating and long-term consequences for women, but also for their families and communities. Likewise, research has shown that gender equality helps to prevent conflict, and that high rates of violence against women correlates with outbreaks of conflict. However, ending violence against women has not been given the importance that it requires, both at the international and national levels, which is why women still face intolerable levels of abuse. Greater efforts and more effective measures are needed, starting by addressing the funding shortfall in this area, designating sufficient resources for initiatives to prevent and end violence against women.

Although the official response has not been effective enough, international feminist movements are getting stronger and stronger, with women’s movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc and many others, being on the rise in the past few years. Women everywhere are raising their voices against violence and oppression and it is clear now how strong these initiatives truly are.

At JAN Trust, we condemn all forms of violence against women and girls and work to eradicate it worldwide. At our centre, we provide a safe space for women to feel free of sexist violence and to become empowered and independent members of society.

If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, Crime, discrimination, Diversity, girls, Inclusion, JAN Trust, police, Sexual Violence, Uncategorized, Violence, Violence Against Women, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Working for inclusion – Women’s voices in interreligious dialogue

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We are living in a moment in history where people, economies and governments are connected on an unprecedented global scale; what is popularly understood as globalisation. Although these global connections were at first experienced with enthusiasm and optimism, the last few years have brought a rise of extremist ideas and movements that threaten the peaceful coexistence among different cultures. Political leaders have arrived, such as Donald Trump and Marine le Pen, who defend old ideas of nationalism and promote a xenophobic discourse based on the strengthening of national frontiers. In the UK, since the Brexit campaign in 2016, far-right groups have been growing and hate crime has been experiencing a rising trend, with 94,098 crimes recorded in 2017/18.

Given this disturbing sequence of events, we need to promote movements and actions that can improve cooperation between different cultures and religions. The interreligious dialogue, that is; all constructive interactions between people of different spiritual beliefs, plays a vital role nowadays to encourage a greater understanding between the different faiths, helping to prevent extremism and intolerance. Interfaith cooperation has existed since the founding moments of religions themselves, with examples of cooperation and mutual understanding between faiths being common throughout history.  

However, if interreligious dialogue is to have a profound impact in society, one huge gap needs to be addressed: the enormous underrepresentation of women within its formal levels. It is a fact that very few women are found in leadership positions within their respective faith. However, women have contributed enormously to this dialogue at the grassroots level, and have emerged as leaders in many local conflict resolution and mediation processes. One main example was during the Holocaust in Germany, where many Christian and Jewish women started creating religious support networks to help those who were most in need.

Interfaith women’s groups have been very common worldwide, representing an empowering space for religious women to share their experiences of oppression and resistance, and at the same time contribute to a deeper understanding of each other’s beliefs. These groups have on many occasions been of great importance in conflict-settings; building peace through dialogue. Such was the case in Liberia, where Muslim and Christian women were decisive actors in ending conflict and bringing forward a new peaceful country.

Given this experience and success within the interreligious dialogue, it was about time that women started being included at the formal and institutional levels. One of the principal spaces of reunion for interreligious practitioners is the Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was first held in 1893 to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities. However, it was not until 2015 that the Parliament focused on gender equality in the interfaith movement. That year, a Women Task Force was created to advocate for greater representation of women within the global interreligious dialogue and to encourage the empowerment of women within the different faiths. Although this task force was recognised as an important starting point for women’s inclusion, there is still so much work to be done to amplify grassroots leaders and formalise their voices within established institutions.

At JAN Trust, we believe that respect and mutual understanding are key values to encourage peaceful environments for different cultures to live together. That is why we encourage interreligious conversations and have supported local interfaith initiatives, such as the Faith and Future project, that brought together women from the Abrahamic faiths to discuss their religions, beliefs and shared values. JAN Trust recognises faith as a supportive social force that has the potential of improving social cohesion and inclusion.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.        

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, Campaign, Campaigning, Citizenship, discrimination, Diversity, Education, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, Islam, JAN Trust, Muslim, Politics, Representation, Society, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Modern slavery in the form of domestic work

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Every year, thousands of immigrant women come to the UK to work as domestic workers for wealthy families. Every year, thousands of them are subjected to abusive situations, where they are subjected to physical and psychological abuse by their employers. According to Home Office’s data, there are approximately 18,000 Overseas Domestic Worker Visas (ODWV) issued every year. A staggering 85% of domestic workers under that visa reported psychological abuse, while 33% of them received no wages at all. It is clear that modern slavery is a huge problem in the UK in a variety of forms and domestic workers are one of the most vulnerable groups to be exposed to this human rights violation.

This cruel situation cannot be tolerated and action must be taken to end modern slavery in the UK and the rest of the world. In 2012, as a result of the introduction of new visa rules, Overseas Domestic Workers were no longer allowed to change their employer, renew their visas or settle in the UK after five years of active work, all rights they had before. This led to a situation where domestic workers did not have any rights to leave exploitative employers, which encouraged abuse and mistreatment to happen without any repercussions. Four years later in 2016, the UK demonstrated some concern by softening some of the restrictive regulations of the ODWV. They decided to allow domestic workers to switch their employers within the six-month term of their visas, however, their right to renew visas was not reinstated.

Even though these changes were in the right direction, in reality, there hasn’t been a substantial difference. Most of the women coming to the UK to work as domestic workers do not have a good knowledge of English and are unaware of their rights and their ability to change employers. But even when they are aware of it, without the right to renew their visas, many domestic workers decide to stay with exploitative employers and send money back home instead of using that limited time to look for a new employer.

Moreover, many of the domestic workers coming to the UK have no choice but to stay after the six-month period of their visas due to economic reasons. This leaves them in an unprotected situation, forced to work shrouded in a veil of secrecy and exposed to high levels of mistreatment. It was at the beginning of this year when the appalling news arrived of a domestic worker who died of pneumonia as she was too scared to go to the doctor. Due to the data-sharing agreement between NHS and the Home Office, the immigration status of the patients has to be reported, which results in many of them not getting the health care they need out of fear.

The abusive and enslaving conditions suffered by Overseas Domestic Workers need to be taken seriously and strong measures are needed in order to end this horrible situation. We cannot continue to allow modern slavery to happen around us without doing everything we can to stop it. We at JAN Trust stand against modern slavery and condemn the awful conditions that many domestic workers are forced to live with. At our centre we work to empower vulnerable women, providing a secure space for those who seek advice and guidance, so they can become independent and active members of our society.

If you want to know more about what we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org

Posted in Crime, discrimination, Ethnic Minorities, International, police, Politics, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The hidden burden of economic cuts – a feminist perspective on austerity programmes

The UK has been going through some years of continuous economic cuts. Since the 2010 campaign of budget cutting by the current government, a wave of austerity has spread through the country, with continuous reductions in social welfare programmes, especially in social care. We have seen how less and less money has been spent in unemployment, housing and social exclusion projects. This trend has produced terrible effects on the population. But sadly, as all too often is the case, women have again been the most affected.

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Public policies are not usually thought of in terms of women and men. But these policies are not neutral, they have a gendered impact that make women more vulnerable to their effects. One main example of this is the case of cuts to welfare. Cuts to welfare, as a result of austerity, has meant that women have been required to prioritise care responsibilities, such as care for the young, elderly or disabled, which can prevent them from entering employment, or facing in work poverty as they are only able to undertake part-time, low paid jobs. Changes to Universal Credit, and other benefit changes will only further enhance this issue for women.

However, policy makers rarely, if ever adopt a feminist perspective to try to correct this issue. And this has been no different in the past few years in the UK or, at least, the effort to support women has not been strong enough. As a recent study proves, women are holding 86% of the burden of the austerity measures approved by the current government. By 2020, predictions show that tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men. And, as always, less affluent women are expected to be the worst affected.

A significant case where economic cuts have had devastating effects on women has been in programmes directed to tackle Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG). Between 2010 and 2012, local authorities reduced 31% of the funding in the sector, from £7.8m to £5.4m. Many local organisations dedicated to provide assistance to women and girls suffering from violence have been forced to close many of their refuges due to economic constraints. As a result, they have been forced to deny assistance to many women in vulnerable positions, leaving them in dangerous situations and fearing for their lives.

But among all women, those from minority ethnic groups have been the ones experiencing the greatest loss during the years of austerity. BAME women from all income groups have been the hardest hit by these measures, and they are expected to lose another 11.5% of their incomes by 2020, a study says. In the last few years, these women have experienced a double discrimination when trying to get a job in the labour market. While already being marginalised for belonging to minority communities, cuts made in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding has further impeded their full integration in society and their chances of getting paid employment.

Women from minority communities are the most vulnerable of all and are therefore in need of greater protection from the state. Politicians and policy makers should be reminded of this if they want to prevent women’s marginalisation from the economy and from society, which would result in incredible loses for the country as a whole.

At JAN Trust, we believe that women and men should have equal opportunities in society. We support the idea that a feminist approach should be taken when treating important issues concerning the population, such as when designing public policies, so that women’s discrimination is not further entrenched. At our women’s centre, we provide free services for the most vulnerable women, including English, ICT and numeracy classes. With these, we try to help them increase their chances of having a better life and becoming active and empowered citizens.

If you want to know more about the work we do, visit our website www.jantrust.org.

Posted in Active citizenship, Advocacy, british, Ethnic Minorities, Inclusion, Politics, Prime Minister, Representation, Uncategorized, women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,