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Sexual Abuse – we must break taboos and strengthen services

By: Sara McHaffie
In Glasgow, organisations are raising awareness of sexual abuse this September. One event is a screen debate on 18th September by the Women’s Support Project.

It can be difficult to talk about child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation. We don’t want to think it’s as common as it actually is. But sadly figures show that at least one in twenty children is abused. We can’t know the true scale as so many children aren’t able to speak out and many who try are ignored. We don’t want to think it happens in our communities but many resources and reports show that it affects all communities.

Abusers take advantage of silence and of fear of challenging ‘respected’
community members. We can take back control of the narrative by sharing evidence about the reality of what happens. We can do this without further stigmatising the victim/survivors of abuse. We can challenge any victim-blaming we hear. No child can ‘ask for’ or ‘deserve’ sexual abuse.

Amina MWRC contributed to research from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration which highlights some improvements that could lead to less children being abused. The report shows many existing barriers. Interpreters can, at times, collude with abusers, perhaps unintentionally. At other times, children are expected to translate for their parents as interpreters are not provided. Children shouldn’t be expected to relay sensitive information like this. The report highlights that services often have a reputation of being culturally insensitive.

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

Another issue is a lack of understanding among parents of the Scottish approach to child protection which involves agencies such as schools working together with parents, sharing information to best protect children. As well as parents becoming more comfortable linking with services, services can strive to ensure no children fall between the cracks.
This report shows that services fail to spot abuse in children from ethnic minority communities, and that it’s left to faith and community organisations to raise the alarm.

The Muslim Women’s Network’s ‘Unheard voices’ report from 2013 includes this quote from Shaista Gohir

“We can’t say from the research that child sexual exploitation is more of a problem in Asian or Muslim communities but what we can say is that Asian or Muslim victims often fall through the net. Their abuse goes unreported and they are not provided with the support they need. The sad reality is that sexual predators come from all backgrounds and tend to target those closest to them.”

A more recent report from The Children’s Society includes Professor Aisha K Gill saying

“It is imperative to use culturally tailored and community CSE interventions designed specifically for members of South Asian communities, as it has been suggested that these address the unique
backgrounds of South Asian women and acknowledge their distinctive barriers to reporting; as a result, those interventions are more successful”.

If you’re interested in learning more about what you can do, get in touch with us and if you’re in Glasgow, keep your eye out for events that might be helpful.


It’s Not Ok!

4th – 10th FEBRUARY 2019 is sexual abuse and sexual violence awareness week.

Many people, especially students and other young people, are speaking out and saying ‘It’s not ok’ because together, we can ensure nobody thinks it’s societally acceptable to commit these crimes.

Find out more and download a resource pack on the campaign website:


We made this film in conjunction with Imams and Shaykhs to spread the word that Islam is completely against any form of violence against women and girls. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhoqxA5l1J4

Activism can take many forms – you only have to do what you’re comfortable with. It’s all about starting conversations and changing the tone within your social groups. If the people you know understand you stand against abuse, they will change their views too. That way, less and less people will think they’ll get away with committing sexual violence. At Amina we made tiny signs for dolls to hold, with statistics such as

If you’d like to get involved, use the #itsnotok hashtag along with our #youcanchangethis campaign hashtag and participate in a conversation that’s become increasingly diverse and energised since #metoo sprung up.

If you’re in Dundee, you can also come along to one of our events during the week – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/best-of-men-duis-and-amina-mwrc-tickets-55523087048 a workshop for young men

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/duis-amina-mwrc-how-can-we-further-equality-workshop-for-women-tickets-55523804193 – a workshop for young women

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/amina-mwrc-dundee-awareness-raising-tickets-55338329433 an awareness-raising session in our Dundee office.

We also have another event coming up in March for International Women’s Day – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dundee-womens-festival-the-judge-an-award-winning-documentary-film-tickets-52662242184

In Glasgow? Come to our screening of our brand new amination ‘Just ‘cos I’m a girl’ https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/just-cos-im-a-girl-glasgow-screening-tickets-55276976926

Our Violence Against Women and Girls development team work year-round to raise awareness of these issues and we’re always looking to work with new groups, so if you’d like us to organise a workshop, get in touch on info@mwrc.org.uk

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.

Woman to Woman – Blog 3

My name is Afaq. #WomanToWoman, I want to share my story about how volunteering has helped me gain confidence and independence.

Growing up in Iraq, I studied computer science and enjoyed it. After graduating, I found work at an architectural design company. After a while, I got married and started a family, and left my work in computing.

A few years ago, my husband applied for a postgraduate scholarship to study overseas. He was accepted to study in Dundee so we came here two years ago.

When I came here I felt depressed and homesick. There was a lot of culture shock and I struggled to communicate. The local accent was difficult for me. We met some other Iraqis and I asked how I could learn more English. Amina MWRC was recommended and I came to a class and really enjoyed it. After the New Year break I came to the next full set of English Conversation classes, which were taught by an ESOL teacher called Gloria. She encouraged me to volunteer with Amina. I said yes because I wanted to improve my language skills and meet more people. At first, I wasn’t sure of the skills I had to offer but now, after a year, I know more about the way I can help people. After being a volunteer here, I would like to offer this kind of support to women in my home country when I go back.  Iraq has a lot of problems and women there could use this kind of help.

When I started volunteering, I wasn’t focussed on finding work, but as time has gone on, I have been thinking about working more. I found paid sessional work with Amina, teaching a group of women how to use computers. This is the first time I had paid work in the UK and also a long time since I worked outside the home. It has made me really happy. It showed me I can manage my time, my other responsibilities and made me aware of a new skill – teaching.

I enjoy volunteering because I know how much Amina helped me at first, when I didn’t know many people and wasn’t confident speaking English. I want other women to have the same support and companionship I found here.

#WomanToWoman, being a volunteer helped me to support others, and it helped my confidence, language and skills. Sharing my time with others feels like a blessing.


Self-Care Manual for Women


“When it comes to self-care there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Our Self-care Manual for Women is intended as a step-by-step guide that will help you to establish an approach that best suits you. This is the start of something new – something personal, positive and important. Even more than that, the journey of self-care is intended to support you in establishing and maintaining an approach that fits with your unique life circumstances…your strengths, challenges and needs,” said Self-care Workshop Facilitators, Mariem Omari and Katie Boyle.

What inspired us?

Amina MWRC has been delivering self-care workshops across Scotland since February 2015 under our Ending Violence Against Women Programme. Our workshops provide support for women who have experienced violence, abuse and trauma. Inspired by the feedback our participants gave about wanting a guide to both monitor their own self-care, and provide steps to becoming a facilitator, our new Self-care Manual for Women was created.

What we considered in the design?

The Self-care Manual for Women has been designed to ensure it is intuitive, easy to navigate, and able to be printed off at home. The 39-page manual outlines the Five Dimensions of Health and the self-care tools and activities we have used in our workshops, along with a sample one-day schedule. We also wanted it to be particularly inspiring for women from minority ethnic/Muslim backgrounds, as women from these communities make up the majority of our workshop participants. So we selected quotes that speak to their traditions and their faith.

What next?

The Self-care Manual for Women is currently being translated into Arabic and Urdu, and will be distributed to the women who have participated in our self-care workshops for their use, and/or to support them in future self-facilitated workshops. Train-the-Trainer sessions are also being planned to support women who have participated in our workshops to be able to self-facilitate their own groups.

Where you can get it?

To download your copy of the Self-care Manual for Women please go to https://mwrc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Self-Care-Manual-for-Women-1.pdf

Arabic and Urdu translations will also be available from this link in September.

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.


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.

W2W blog 2 pic 2

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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.


W2W Maheen2

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.



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.



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.



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