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Happy Valentine’s…? Valentines Day isn’t hearts and flowers for everyone

‘But I love you!’

Hearing this after an abusive incident can counter-act the abuse that took place.  It can cause some victims to put the hurt, the chaos, those feelings of unworthiness to one side to give their partner another chance.

When you hear the words ‘domestic abuse’ you might visualise a woman being pushed against the wall or hit across the face. However, domestic abuse isn’t always physical, it can encompass emotional and financial abuse as well as coercive control.

The normalisation of coercive control encompasses a string of strategized movements and violent threats to cause intolerable fear. It may begin with simple mood swings because he’s ‘had a bad day’, slowly escalating to tactics of force, threats, and demeaning behaviour. One moment he is angry, controlling and abusive, while in the next he is loving, caring and compassionate. Manipulating the victim and creating doubts for the victim to ponder over.

Many times, women are denied contact with parents, friends and family, are made to feel worthless, and ultimately start to hold themselves accountable for all aspects within the relationship. Isolating the victim and making them totally dependent (many times financially), whilst continuing to intimidate and undermine which may result in depression, self-degradation and low self-esteem.

The Domestic Abuse Bill recently passed in Scotland ‘could change Scotland forever’ as some campaigners have stated. The Bill creates a specific offence of “abusive behaviour in relation to a partner or ex-partner”. This includes psychological abuse such as coercive and controlling behaviour as well as violence. . This law will assist in changing the way domestic abuse is perceived, recognising that psychological abuse can have detrimental effects on the victim as well as any children involved, a break-through in the way cases were previously dealt with.

It is worth noting where this abuse stems from and its association to patriarchy. From early generations, gendered violence has accounted for women being at the receiving end of abuse. Men‘s behaviour has been justified by culture and religion. The ‘absolute’ belief in the patriarchy is very much at the core of our societies where, whenever this male superiority complex is challenged, there follows extreme backlash and the fear of broken relationships which can prevent some victims from leaving their partner.

Experiencing domestic abuse as a South Asian woman comes with additional challenges. Many times, their own family consistently victim blame (or as I like to say ‘women-blame’). Some women are told ‘it’s because you answer back,’ ‘You speak too loudly,’ ‘He’s your husband, you should be listening to him.’ Comments like these can make the victim seem like she deserves to be abused.

Cultural barriers prevent abusive relationships being spoken about with relationships strictly viewed as a private matter, this allows for the continuity and further acceptance of abusive  behaviour, once again giving men the upper hand to dictate and abuse their power.

The normalisation of this type of abuse in the home environment and its detrimental effect on each generation, paves way for the next set of men and women ready to ‘carry out’ societal expectations and be socialised into these norms.

Failing to recognise emotional and mental misconduct as domestic abuse, it is our duty to address this behaviour from our homes and raise awareness in both men and women, so we are able to correct and report this type of behaviour and rectify customary beliefs. Ridding our future generations of this toxic environment and reshaping the conventional, raising the threshold to create a better society.

My Big Beating Voice!

 

 

We’re so excited about our new project, My Big Beating Voice, with Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre. The project marks next year’s centenary of the suffragette movement, and aims to work with young Muslim and /or ethnic minority young women to explore issues to do with gender inequality and grow our big, beating voices.

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To find out more visit the project website https://mybigbeatingvoice.wixsite.com/mybigbeatingvoice
Contact:  MBBV@mwrc.org.uk

Woman to Woman – Blog 2

W2W Blog 2

Woman to woman, let me tell you about when I escaped an abusive husband.

I’ll be honest; I still feel I should have been the one to leave. I knew the way my ex-husband treated us was wrong. Even though I tried to make it work well past the point I should have left, I knew enough about abusive relationships to know it was affecting my health, my mood, and also making my children miserable. But it was him – he got impatient with us and felt his life was too busy with a family, and he said he wanted a divorce and stormed off.

However, I had to be strong to deal with what happened next. I felt so incredibly peaceful and happy after he was gone. I was able to meet friends, to finish my studies, to get on with making a life. I knew deep down this was so much better for everyone. My ex-husband, however, decided he wanted to come back within a few months. At first, he was very pleasant so I thought we were getting on well and communicating for the children. Then, he got nasty. He threatened me. He would come to the house and hit things – my bins, my shed. I didn’t like him shouting and hitting things in my home. He bombarded me with e-mails. It took me back to the place I was emotionally before he left.

The children were also upset. He used to ask them what I was up to, and who with, constantly. They felt torn. One of my children didn’t want to see him anymore.

I eventually picked up the phone and called Women’s Aid.  I didn’t know if I would be able to get support from them. I knew some women experienced different forms of abuse, and my ex-husband had never put me in hospital with his violence. They reassured me that the abuse I was suffering was definitely serious and warranted their support. At first, I only really wanted support for the children as I was worried about them. However, the worker who supported me was so kind and helpful. She reassured me. She helped me to get my confidence back.

I also accessed counselling which let me explore the impact of the relationship on me, how it affected my closeness with my parents, how it was making me ill.

Once I was honest with myself about what we needed, I decided I should get a divorce. This was not an easy process but I had help accessing legal aid, and my solicitor was great.

Now, I’m working and supporting my family. My husband went back to his home country and he sees the children during the holidays.  It is not always easy but I feel we have better boundaries since the divorce. My children are so much happier now and they do better at school. They have more friends, and to be honest, so do I! I used to be so lonely.

#WomanToWoman, Women’s Aid helped me get my life back, and helped my children recover.

#YouCanChangeThis
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Woman to Woman – Blog 1

W2W Maheen

 

I’m Maheen and I’m from Pakistan. #WomanToWoman, I want to talk to you about feminism. When I was growing up in Pakistan I went to an all-girls school. There was lots of talk about empowerment and ambition amongst women- how we could do anything, and could smash barriers, but it was fairly superficial. We didn’t get into the nuances of feminism, and we were in a protected environment so didn’t have so much of an idea about inequality in the real world. In Pakistan, we did discuss women’s rights, and the way social class influences outcomes, but we didn’t use the word feminism.

Now, if you asked me what feminism meant, I would say it’s a philosophy that supports all women accessing power, no matter the circumstances they were born into.

In 2005 I went to Canada to study in sociology and psychology. This was really liberating because I had a lot of friends who were well-informed feminists. I was intrigued and took classes on feminism, reading about the sociology of gender, feminist philosophy and the sociology of work. I took on a part-time job and this was the first time I’d worked, so it gave me more of a sense of the real world and how gender politics play out. This is when I became aware of intersectional feminism (feminism that takes into account all women’s diverse experiences, not only the majority). In Pakistan I was in a majority but in Canada I was in a minority. My awareness of difference was political – a growing awareness of the way race and class influence how sexism plays out, and personal – I was more aware of differences such as my accent, or the way I dress. I felt less confident to speak out in class, for example, than I would have back home.

My room-mate ran for election in student council. I supported her in her campaign and enjoyed it so much, I then became more involved in student activism. I was part of the ‘No Means No’ campaign on campus to raise awareness of the issue of consent.

We also worked to ensure the student council became more diverse and representative of the student body.

I attended our local ‘Take Back The Night’ march, which was part of a wider campaign to end sexual violence and victim-blaming.

 

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These experiences were so powerful, I knew I wanted to devote my life to helping marginalised people and fighting against structural inequalities. Since then, that’s what I’ve done. In the past, in Pakistan, I worked to make high-quality education accessible to boys and girls in low-income schools. I trained caregivers in childhood sexual abuse.  I moved to Scotland and I was really glad to hear about Amina existing as it supported everything I believe in. I started volunteering here and now I work on the Employability team, helping other women to overcome barriers and find work, volunteering and greater confidence in their skills, and I’m also an ESOL tutor, supporting women to improve their skills in conversational English.

When you first learn about inequality, it’s so hard to take in, it’s easier to ignore the problem or resist the facts. But the more you read and interact with a diverse group of people who share their thoughts on the issues, the more your understanding grows.

#WomanToWoman, there’s nothing more empowering than taking action against inequality. Each woman can make a difference!

#womantowoman  #youcanchangethis
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HOPSCOTCH Film launch

HOPSCOTCH colour poster with laurel (1)

A film by Roxana Vilk based on Nadine Aisha’s poem ‘Hopscotch’

What happens when you walk down the street…if you’re a young woman of colour…who may or may not wear a hijab? ‘Hopscotch’ produced by Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre with support from Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, explores just that. A film poem based on the true account of the harassment and violence experienced by women of colour and Muslim women in public spaces, ‘Hopscotch’ aims to highlight the lived reality for many women across Scotland today.

The launch and private screening of Hopscotch was a huge success!

On Friday 26th May 2017, over 50 people from different organisations, Imams, politicians, film makers and poets came to the launch and  private screening of Hopscotch at the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) in Edinburgh.

The screening of the film was followed by a panel discussion with the talented film Director Roxana Vilk who shed light on the concept of the film and the techniques used, the poet Nadine Aisha Jassat who spoke about how her experiences of street harassment was the force behind her poem Hopscotch and Amina staff member Safa Yousaf who shared a powerful account of the sexual harassment, racism and Islamophobia she has faced as young Muslim women of Pakistani origin.

The panel discussion was closed with a poem recited by two young BME Muslim women from young Saheliya.

To end there was a lovely selection of canapes and cakes and much discussion and networking enjoyed by the guests on the open air balcony at SPL.

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PRESS RELEASE – Announcement: Spirit of Women

Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre Receives Spirit of Women Grant

 ‘My Big Beating Voice’ project to challenge gender norms and stereotypes

Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre (MWRC) is delighted to announce that it has been chosen to receive a Spirit of Women Changemakers small grant. Funding charity Spirit of 2012 (Spirit) created the Changemakers programme to mark and celebrate the centenary of the iconic moment in 1918 when women first won the right to vote.  The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, delivers the grants programme in partnership with business services company BE Group.

Amina – MWRC in partnership with the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC) is amongst seven recipients who will receive grants of £8,000 to £15,000 to work in communities across the UK. In the year running up to the centenary celebrations in March 2018, we will deliver our project, ‘My Big Beating Voice’, which will focus on creating a safe, yet dynamic, creative space where minority ethnic girls can develop their voice and share their views. A series of workshops will be run with the girls with a focus on VAW and challenging perceptions of beauty and gender stereotypes. The themes that will be explored with the girls will include sexual harassment, isolation, and negative body perceptions (i.e. body hair, skin colour, clothing choices). The project will focus on improving the confidence, wellbeing and mental health of young women and girls, who through disability and/or forms of VAW, have experienced ongoing lack of self-esteem, unworthiness or self-hatred.

Alongside these aims, the projects will look to change perceptions of disability and drive social cohesion. Demand was high, as over 400 charities and social enterprises applied to the programme, through systems designed by leading business services company BE Group. The final grantees were selected by an expert panel of women with civil society and funding experience.

Samina Ansari, Amina – MWRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“We are so excited to be selected as one of the organisations for this incredible opportunity to creatively work with minority ethnic young women and girls in Edinburgh, in partnership with Edinburgh Rape Crisis to support and amplify their too often under-represented voices on identity, body confidence and image, and gender stereotypes.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive said:

“We were delighted with the quality and diversity of the many applications we received, which demonstrated the ambition in the voluntary sector to tackle the harmful norms and

stereotypes that underlie gender inequality in our society. We are looking forward to working alongside these great organisations to drive real change across the country.”

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, said:

“100 years on from women getting the right to vote in general elections, women and girls in the UK still face formidable challenges. Spirit is proud to be collaborating with Fawcett and BE Group to fund these innovative projects, which will celebrate women and empower them to change things for the better.”

The funded activity includes work across England, Scotland, and Wales, with women across different age ranges, ethnic groups, and disabled and non-disabled people. It ranges from a media and workshop campaign to change perceptions of disabled women in Wales, to intensive workshops on objectification with at-risk girls in south London.

About Amina – MWRC

Amina – MWRC is an award-winning organisation, recognised by minority ethnic and Muslim communities within Scotland for its pioneering and responsive approach to addressing the issues and needs of Muslim and minority ethnic women. Having invested in this specialist area where there was previously a gap in services in Scotland, Amina is recognised as the national hub for gaining access to, and consulting with Muslim and minority ethnic women across Scotland.

About the Fawcett Society

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. For 150 years, our aim has been to help bring about a society where the gender you are does not limit the life chances you have.

www.fawcettsociety.org.uk

@fawcettsociety

About Spirit of 2012

Spirit of 2012 is a funding charity, established with a £47m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund.  We fund partners across the UK that provide opportunities in sports, physical activity, arts and culture, volunteering and social action. Spirit was founded to continue and recreate the spirit of pride, positivity and social connectedness that people experienced during the London 2012 Games.  We invest to create good outcomes for people and communities.

About BE Group

The BE Group is a market leading specialist in business information, events and commercial development programmes.

With a well-deserved reputation for delivering exceptional results, BE Group’s comprehensive portfolio of services for business is based on the individual requirements of our customers.

For further information, interviews or images please contact

Fresh Communication 0845 0945 468

Nathalie Golden nathalie@freshcommunication.co.uk 07769 66 66 27

Abby Richardson abby@freshcommunication.co.uk 07876 378 733

Editor’s notes:

Link to online press release

 

The Spirit of Women Changemakers grants programme was launched by Spirit of 2012 Chief Executive Debbie Lye at Fawcett’s Spirit of Women Changemakers Conference in Manchester on 19th November 2016.

Changemakers offered grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 to organisations for new projects which offer creative, cultural, sporting or volunteering responses to the following challenges:

  • Improve women’s body confidence and challenge or overcome objectification
  • Challenge traditional gendered caring roles and the undervaluing of care
  • Support the development of healthy personal relationships

The funded projects also meet the wider goals of the Fawcett Society and Spirit of 2012:

  • Demonstrate that the activity will contribute to social cohesion, bringing diverse groups together to engage in their communities
  • Challenge perceptions of disability, through the project activity itself or through ensuring inclusion of disabled people in the project activity
  • Improve the wellbeing of participants and volunteers involved in the project
  • Have a celebratory aspect in the run up to the 2018 centenary of women getting the vote.

Applications were open to a range of organisations including charities, Community Interest Companies and Social Enterprises, and from partnerships or coalitions. The funded activity will be completed by March 2018.

16 Days Of Activism

 

The 16 Days of Activism

The 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls fall between the 25th of November and the 10th of December.

This year, the theme is ‘Orange the World’, to raise money for organisations working to support women and girls, and to challenge violence against them.

Often, themes tie in with human rights issues and how they impact on women.

The 16 days of activism have been marked since 1991 in at least 187 countries around the world.

Organisations, groups and individuals try to mark the period with events and awareness-raising on relevant issues.

The two dates – the beginning and end of the 16 days – both have particular significance.

Why the 25th of November?

The 25th of November is International Day Against Violence Against Women. This was first marked in Latin America to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

25_de_noviembre_dia_de_la_no_violencia_contra_la_mujer

This is a photograph of the sisters by Alvaro Diaz y Adony Flores – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52247329

The sisters were forced to attend a party held by the dictator, and when he made unwelcome advances towards Minerva, she refused him and later slapped him, when he did not take no for an answer. She fled the party with her sisters. Her father was soon imprisoned and mistreated to the extent that he died soon after being released. Minerva and her mother were imprisoned in a hotel and told they could only leave if Minerva slept with the dictator. Luckily, they managed to escape. A law student, Minerva found herself banned from classes until she made a public speech praising Trujillo. Once she graduated, she was denied her license to practise law.

The president also turned his attention to the rest of the family – they were spied on and persecuted. This had the effect of turning them into revolutionaries. The sisters’ code name became ‘Las Mariposas’ – the butterflies. They struggled against the regime, distributing pamphlets and joining with others to overthrow the dictator. They were imprisoned but there was international outcry and they were released. When their husbands were imprisoned, the sisters were trapped in the mountains on their journey to visit them. They were murdered and this horrific act galvanised the Dominican people to fight and ultimately to overthrow the dictator.

Why the 10th of December?

December 10th is International Human Rights day.

Usually, the theme of the 16 days is closely tied in with human rights.

Violence Against Women Violates Human Rights’, ‘Bringing Women’s Human Rights Home’, ‘Demand Human Rights in the Home and the World’, ‘Building a Culture of Respect for Human Rights’, and ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!’ are some of the themes in previous years.

While many organisations campaign to release political prisoners, or to end oppressive regimes, it can be harder to find voices focussing on infringements of human rights taking place in the home: in the private sphere.

Abuse happening to women and girls ‘behind closed doors’ used to be looked on as a private matter for a husband or a father.

The 16 days of activism has played a huge part in challenging this dangerous belief.

Women’s abusers can keep them prisoner unjustly, restrict their right to associate with whom they wish, physically harm and even kill them. These and other clear human rights violations should be taken extremely seriously.

It can be hard for women to find justice when there are no witnesses, but we can all clearly stand up and say that human rights violations are always wrong, and that personal relationships do not change this.

Dates in between 25th November and 10th December:

November 29th is International Women’s Human Rights Defenders Day.

December the 1st is World Aids Day, and it’s important to recognise the ways that women living with HIV and AIDS are affected by the virus.

The 6th of December is an incredibly important date for those of us who fight for women’s rights. It Is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. This is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man named Marc Lepine armed himself with a rifle and a knife, and killed 28 people, 14 of them women. He said he was ‘fighting feminism’ and seemed to view the women studying engineering as ‘a bunch of feminists’, simply for studying for a degree in a male-dominated profession.

His suicide note blamed feminists for ruining his life.

Due to the explicitly political and anti-women motives of the killing, women’s groups make an effort to commemorate the date.

Marc Lepine’s actions shocked a generally peaceful nation.

While resistance to women’s liberation is not always so brutal, it does exist wherever women fight for our rights, and it’s so important we support one another at home and around the world.

 

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Plaque at École Polytechnique commemorating victims of the massacre

What Amina does during the 16 days

As an organisation working to empower Muslim women, we raise awareness of our work in the community, and with national organisations. We ensure the voices of Muslim women are heard, as there are still barriers to Muslim women seeking help if they experience violence.

Amina staff attend and host events where we work together to end violence against women.

We also remind everyone of our You Can Change This campaign.

We get involved in activities like Reclaim The Night.

This is a march where the streets are reclaimed in the hours of darkness, and sexual violence is condemned publicly.

 

 

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This year, we are co-facilitating an event with the Dundee International Women’s Festival  so that local women from Muslim and BME backgrounds can learn more about violence against women.

Wherever you are, I urge you to get involved – you can change this!

Liberty is for all, not just those who feel safe at night

liberty-is-for-all-2The Reclaim the Night march has been defined as “marches, which protested the right of all women to have the freedom to go where they wanted without having to restrict their movements to accommodate the threat of sexual violence”.

 

The movement originated in the 1970s. Peter Sutcliffe was murdering women and this led to women in Leeds being told by police to stay home during the hours of darkness.

The suggestion that women should stay indoors to protect themselves, rather than control the behaviours of dangerous men enraged women and feminist groups throughout the country. Women were expected to limit themselves in public space and hide from men, as it was believed that if they were to go out at night, then they were making themselves vulnerable to attack.

 

Reclaim the Night is an important and fundamental part of modern Feminism. It is a movement which gives women a chance to voice their opinions and fears, whilst also showing the rest of society that there are problems and there is continuous fight to resolve them.

 

The first Reclaim the Night-style march is said to have taken place in Scotland in October 1977, and then the first that bore the name took place in Leeds, later that year.

 

The issues surrounding gender equality that existed in the 1970s still exist today, and it seems that society still has failings when it comes to progressive attitudes and behaviours surrounding the lives of women. In any other criminal case, the perpetrator is the one who is immediately blamed, not victim; however in cases of rape and sexual assault the victim is always expected to carry the burden of blame. A study conducted by the Scottish Government in 2007 found that 32% of participants agreed that if a woman is intoxicated or out alone at night, she must take partial blame for her attack. Reclaim the Night sends the message that this is not okay; violent men are the issue, not women exercising their right of free will and liberty. Violent men should be challenged, not women who are simply trying to have a safe and free existence. Liberty is for all, not just those who feel safe at night.

 

“Today we march, as so many women have done before us to say that we are never to blame for rape and male violence. Those men who choose to commit these crimes are to blame. We march today to demand our right to live without the fear or reality of rape and male violence, we demand an end to male violence against women, we take back this night to win the day”– London Feminist Network

This an abridged piece taken from an article written by Becca Sweeney, an Amina MWRC volunteer. The full article can be read here: liberty-is-for-all

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