16 days: My Body Back

my body back puzzle piece

 

When receiving vital care feels like you are re-living traumatic events, something has to be done.

We ACT because they … support women to re-gain control over their health, their bodies and themselves following sexual assault.

The My Body Back clinic opened on the 6th August 2015 in Barts Health NHS Trust providing a cervical screening clinic especially for women who have experienced sexual violence and a clinic where women who have been raped can self-test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

My Body Back is about ‘women reclaiming power over their lives, their bodies and their choices’. Early intervention is vital for treating cervical cancer and cervical screening can save lives. However, going for these type of tests can trigger traumatic memories for many women so they avoid going for testing which could be life-saving.

At the My Body Back clinic all of the female staff are trained to work with women who have experienced sexual violence. There is also a Sexual Violence Health Advocate (SVHA) who can support women going to the clinic throughout the process. My Body Back recognises that the process can be emotional and discusses each woman’s individual needs to make sure they are comfortable throughout the smear test. An emphasis is on control. For example, if there are certain body positions a woman does not like or phrases she would prefer are not used during the test, then these will not be used.

They also run Café V, is a space for women to learn about loving their bodies after violence. These run on a Saturday morning, and are a safe space for those who attend to talk about enjoying sex again – by themselves or with a partner – and any problems they may be experiencing.  The project is essentially about women reclaiming power over their lives, their bodies and their choices.

Services like My Body Back are rare and at present they are by no means guaranteed. The Istanbul Convention would ensure that survivors ‘have access to services facilitating their recovery from violence’  [Article 20]. My Body Back is a brilliant example of a service that does this in a powerful way – one well worth protecting.

ACT: Sign the Petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and protect and expand on lifesaving services like My Body Back

SUPPORT: Find out more about how you can support the My Body Back project

16 days: Asylum Aid

asylum aid puzzle piece

 

Ensuring that women seeking asylum in the UK are treated with fairness and dignity

We ACT because they… provide women seeking asylum with support and legal advice; educate, lobby, and campaign on issues affecting women seeking asylum; and run training on gender issues in the asylum system.

Asylum Aid work to support people seeking refuge in the UK from persecution and human rights abuses abroad. They also have a particular focus on women seeking asylum who are often overlooked.

The Women’s Project was set up by Asylum Aid as the first of its kind to provide women seeking asylum with free legal advice and representation; one-off advice and referrals to other agencies. Asylum Aid also lobbies and campaigns to push for reform on issues that affect women seeking asylum, as well as training on gender issues in the asylum system. Through the Women’s Project, Asylum Aid also publishes a range of educational materials on women and asylum, including research reports, leaflets and audio guides, and newsletters such as Women’s Asylum News.

Asylum Aid work to bring about large scale change through its advocacy work. This has included establishing the Charter of Rights of Women Seeking Asylum, which sets out minimum standards in the UK asylum system for women fleeing persecution and violence overseas. More recently, the Charter’s Protection Gap Campaign, called for key changes in the UK asylum system to make it fairer for women and girls, with particular attention to those who have experienced violence. Asylum Aid explains ‘Women and girls who have fled the world’s most brutal wars and repressive countries fall through a protection gap in the UK asylum system. Many of them have been raped or have experienced domestic violence, but they are not given the basic protections that we take for granted when it comes to any other woman in this situation.’ Following the campaign, the Home Office produced a new Women’s Asylum Action Plan, which addressed all of the issues the campaign had raised.

The Istanbul Convention is the first international protocol bringing the issues of refugees and Violence Against Women together. If ratified, it would ensure that gender-based violence against women be recognised as a form of persecution. The instrumental work of Asylum Aid shows us that this is necessary to ensure women seeking asylum are treated fairly. Their research indicates that women claiming asylum who were refused, were more likely to get that refusal overturned on appeal than men.

ACT: Sign the petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and ensure gender-based violence is a recognised form of persecution.

SUPPORT: Donate to Asylum Aid

16 days: Stay Safe East

stay safe east puzzle pieceDomestic violence is never easy to seek help for, but what if you have nowhere to go that understands?

We ACT because they… listen and respond to disabled women experiencing domestic violence or hate crime

Stay Safe East is a leading organisation for disabled women experiencing domestic violence and disability hate crime. Yet, it is massively underfunded.

Stay Safe East combines high-level policy and research work, with day-to-day support and case work for the women that come through the doors, ensuring disabled women are heard and responded to.

And being heard and responded to is what makes a specialist service like Stay Safe East vital. Disabled women are twice to five times more likely to experience domestic violence than non-disabled women, but systematically experience greater barriers to services including not being believed or services not being accessible.

Disabled women also experience different forms of violence, such as withholding of care and medication, or the use of impairment to abuse the individual. Their experience of domestic violence is often on a continuum with disability hate crime and harassment experienced as a disabled person.

An important service at Stay Safe East is a Disabled Women’s support group where disabled women are able to talk about their experiences and support one another. This space is vital as it means people can discuss their lives without fear of people not understanding the disability dimension. Stay Safe East’s specialist services would be offered protection by the Istanbul Convention in Article 22.

They also provide essential training and advice to other services across the country to ensure they can support disabled women facing violence. This include collaborating on this guidance on how to improve support services for disabled women experiencing violence. Article 4 of the Istanbul Convention states that all women must have access to services, and it is only with insights on how to create and improve services for disabled women that this can be achieved.

We need to ensure services like Stay Safe East remain in place, to make sure no woman is left to face violence. The Istanbul Convention recognises this need and gives them the protections they deserve – and that is why we are campaigning for it.

ACT: Sign the Petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and protect services like Stay Safe East

SUPPORT: Donate to Stay Safe East

16 days: White Ribbon

white ribbon puzzle pieceThe largest effort in the world of men working to end men’s violence against women

We ACT because they … work to ensure men take more responsibility for ending violence against women

Violence against women is mainly carried out by men so it can only end if men take action.

White Ribbon is a national campaign calling on men to make a simple pledge “never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.”

White Ribbon Campaign seek to engage men in tackling violence against women through campaigning, lobbying, organising and fundraising. They raise awareness about violence against women and the importance of men taking responsibility for tackling it by speaking out against it and challenging its root causes. They have recruited support from MPs, charities, public and private bodies, and celebrities. White Ribbon also support women’s groups and organisations carrying out work to end violence against women and girls.

The Istanbul Convention recognises the importance of men and boys’ role in tackling violence against women and girls. If ratified, the Istanbul Convention would ensure that the UK Government had to take necessary action to engage men and boys in actively preventing violence against women [Article 12.4]. The Convention would also ensure awareness-raising campaigns and programmes about violence against women as well as education at all levels of education about violence against women and girls, relationships, and gender equality [Articles 13, 14].

ACT: Sign the Petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and ensure action to engage men and boys in preventing violence against women and girls

SUPPORT: Donate to White Ribbon’s invaluable work

16 days: IKWRO

Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO)ikwro puzzle piece

Protecting and promoting the rights of Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan women and girls who are at risk of violence and abuse

We ACT because they… provide advice and support to women to escape the threat of ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and domestic violence and to promote their rights.

Founded in 2002, built on the belief that ‘one person can make changes wherever you are’, IKWRO initially responded to the need for culturally specific support, advocacy and counselling for women from Iranian and Kurdish communities. And in response to need, IKWRO has expanded to represent women and girls from all Middle Eastern, North African and Afghan communities, primarily in the UK.

IKWRO provides direct services for women and girls, including advocacy, training, and professional counselling. They also provide advice and support to professionals from bodies such as the police, social services, and schools to help them to understand issues affecting minority ethnic women. In addition, IKWRO campaign for better laws and their effective implementation, as well as for appropriate resources to uphold the rights of women and girls and ensure their safety.

IKWRO works closely with communities, running training groups with women and girls in which the participants explore issues such as their human rights and entitlements. Not only is it a chance for women and girls to meet others who share similar experiences, but it also helps build up their confidence and skills.

IKWRO have long since worked and campaigned on issues such as “honour” based violence, forced marriage, child marriage and FGM. One of their first campaigns was Remember Heshu through which they demanded justice for Heshu Yones, a 16 year old Kurdish girl who was murdered by her father for dating a man outside her own culture. IKWRO’s campaign helped secure the conviction of her father in what was the first UK murder case to be recognised as an “honour” killing. This was followed by IKWRO’s Justice For Banaz campaign, which led to the first extradition from Iraq preventing two of Banaz’s rapists and murderers from escaping life sentences.

IKWRO’s current Right To Know campaign calls on the government to make every school “honour” based violence, forced marriage and FGM safe through a holistic approach by training all school staff, having appropriate safeguarding procedures in place, and educating young people about their right not to face these abuses and where they can access help.

Specific articles of the Istanbul Convention call for the criminalisation of acts such as those campaigned on by IKWRO [Articles 37, 38, and 39]. Furthermore the spirit of the Convention ensures that  in criminal proceedings ‘culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” shall not be regarded as justification for such acts. This covers, in particular, claims that the victim has transgressed cultural, religious, social or traditional norms or customs of appropriate behaviour ’[Article 42].

IKWRO operates as a specialist service for women experiencing abuse, it provides a unique element of support for women from certain backgrounds which makes it all the more powerful for those women accessing it. Specialist services are currently at more risk from the adverse effects of the reduced funding across local and national government.

The Istanbul Convention would protect specialist services like IKWRO [Article 22]. It would also guarantee the education in schools and training for professionals on different forms of violence against women, including “honour” based violence, forced marriage and FGM [Articles 14, 15].

Ensuring women are protected from violence from members of their own families and communities is essential to women living safe lives. IKWRO work to ensure this happens and the Istanbul Convention can help them in this mission.

ACT: Sign the Petition and protect services like IKWRO

SUPPORT: Donate to IKWRO and support their Right to Know campaign.

You can also keep up to date with them on social media on Twitter (@IKWRO) and Facebook.

 

16 days: Solace Women’s Aid

How do you respond to a problem as large as solace womens aid puzzle piecedomestic abuse?

We ACT because they … work alongside survivors of domestic and sexual abuse to achieve independent lives.

Solace Women’s Aid started 40 years ago when their first two refuges opened supporting 40 women. Part of the umbrella organisation Women’s Aid England, Solace now works with more than 7,000 women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence each year. They provide vital services to support individuals and families at a point of crisis and accompany them along the journey of rebuilding their lives.

Here’s a snapshot of their brilliant work:

Solace delivers specialist services across a number of London boroughs, including providing advice, advocacy, counselling, family and children’s services, Irish  traveller outreach, legal services, refuges, North London Rape Crisis Centre, and the Ascent project. In addition to this, Solace train professionals across in the various boroughs they work in.

Alongside delivering frontline services, Solace have also supported research into domestic and sexual abuse against women. This has included the recent and groundbreaking ‘Finding the Costs of Freedom’ research project carried out with the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University examining how women and children rebuild their lives after domestic abuse. The research indicated that removing themselves from the immediate control of an abusive man was only the first step for women fleeing domestic abuse. According to the findings, more than 90% of women experienced post-separation abuse, demonstrating the need for specialist support for women after leaving an abusive situation.

As mentioned in the Solace video, funding cuts to organisations like Solace have left many struggling to survive, and some have even had to close. This has left many women who have or are experiencing domestic and/or sexual abuse nowhere to go to for support.

The Istanbul Convention would protect services like Solace, guaranteeing adequate financial support [Article 8], specialist support services [Article 22], refuges [Article 23], rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres [Article 25], and much more… That’s why we’re campaigning for it at ICchange. And that’s why we need your support.

ACT: Sign The Petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and protect life saving services like Solace Women’s Aid

SUPPORT: Donate to Solace Women’s Aid

16 days: Everyday Sexism Project

everyday sexism puzzle piece

The project that inspired a worldwide movement

We ACT because … they catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day-to-day basis and campaign for social change through education and awareness-raising

In 2012, after experiencing a series of escalating sexist incidents, Laura Bates started the ‘Everyday Sexism’ project. From there the project snowballed with women around the globe documenting the everyday sexism experiences in their lives – now with over 80,000 women’s daily experiences of gender inequality. This was an important moment in the movement to end violence against women and girls. This mass documentation and #shoutingback by women highlighted the scale and severity of the sexism, harassment and abuse women experience on a day-to-day basis.

Nothing has emerged more clearly from the Everyday Sexism Project than the urgent need for far more comprehensive mandatory sex-and-relationships education in schools, to include issues such as consent and respect, domestic violence and rape,’ 

Laura Bates, Founder of Everyday Sexism Project.

In addition to documenting women and girls’ experiences of sexism, the Everyday Sexism Project has led to awareness-raising and education in schools, the media, and wider society – including advising the police on Project Guardian, a project aiming to reduce sexual assault and unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport in London. The Everyday Sexism Project has created space for  conversations about sexism, gender inequality, and women’s common experiences of sexual harassment and abuse.

Awareness-raising campaigns and education initiatives like those born out of the Everyday Sexism Project are scarce. Yet they are imperative to tackle the root causes of violence against women and girls.

The Istanbul Convention would guarantee education on gender equality, violence against women and girls, and interpersonal relationships ‘in formal curricula and at all levels of education’ [Article 14]. The Convention would also ensure regular awareness-raising campaigns and programmes about the causes, nature, and consequences of violence against women and girls [Article 13].

ACT: Sign The Petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention to ensure nationwide education and awareness-raising on violence against women and girls

SUPPORT: Support the Everyday Sexism Project by liking them on Facebook, following them on Twitter, and continuing to break the silence about everyday sexism.

16 days: Rape Crisis & OSARCC

rape crisis and osarcc puzzle piece

Supporting survivors of sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse, and harassment

We ACT because they … provide frontline specialist, independent and confidential services for women and girls of all ages who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives.

 

Rape crisis centres have been providing invaluable services for over 40 years, offering support from refuge and counselling to legal advice. Rape Crisis England & Wales,  Rape Crisis Scotland, and Rape Crisis Network Ireland are the umbrella bodies set up to support the specialist work of rape crisis organisations across the UK.

Over the last year, Rape Crisis organisations in England and Wales alone responded to more than 3,000 helpline calls – a week. In total, they received 165,000 calls between 2014 and 2015. Over the same period of time more than 21,000 women were supported by just 17 specialist organisations for black and minority ethnic women.

Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC) are one of a number of rape crisis centres that provides a free and confidential service to those dealing with the effects of sexual harassment. They provide support directly to women including telephone, email and group support as well as advocacy work with an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate. OSARCC also provides specialist training to those working with survivors of sexual violence.

In addition to survivors, Rape Crisis organisations also work to prevent sexual violence through awareness-raising campaigns. For example, OSARCC worked together with others, including Thames Valley Police, to create the innovative #consentiseverything campaign. The campaign shines a light on sexual consent and the responsibility to get consent, rather than assume it has been given.

An impressive infrastructure has been built up amongst with Rape Crisis organisations, as well as independent rape crisis centres.  Yet need and demand for these services is at an ‘unprecedented level’ – with 3,500 survivors on combined waiting lists in England and Wales.

Despite the great need and demand, almost half of rape crisis centres in England and Wales alone are at risk of closure. At the time of writing, 42% of Rape Crisis member organisations, and the specialist umbrella body Rape Crisis England & Wales itself, have no funding confirmed beyond March 2016. Whilst the Government has just announced it will use ‘tampon tax’ to provide further funding for women’s charities, it is not yet clear how much could be dedicated to rape crisis centres. And as this is a tax the Government plans to challenge, it is only a short term funding solution.

We need a legally binding long term funding commitment to tackling violence against women. And this is what the Istanbul Convention provides. If the Istanbul Convention is ratified, the UK Government will have a legal commitment to set up ‘appropriate, easily accessible rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres for victims in sufficient numbers to provide for medical and forensic examination, trauma support and counselling for victims.’ [Article 25]. The Istanbul Convention would also guarantee ‘state-wide round the clock (24/7) telephone helplines free of charge’ for each form of violence it covers, including rape and sexual violence [Article 24]. What is more, the Convention also recognises the importance of awareness-raising initiatives like OSARCC’s consent campaign and would mean that we had more of them [Article 13]. This is key for the prevention of violence against women.

Rape Crisis centres like OSARCC are doing an outstanding job of supporting women who have experienced violence. The demand for their services is higher than ever before. We need to speak out to support them and make sure they are protected by the Istanbul Convention.

ACT: Sign the petition for ratification of the Istanbul Convention and to protect rape crisis centres.

SUPPORT: Rape Crisis England & Wales, Rape Crisis Scotland, and Rape Crisis Network Ireland and OSARCC

16 days: Educate2Eradicate

Educating and empowering young people about forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) and ‘honour’-abuseeducate to eradicate puzzle piece

We ACT because they… educate young people and deliver teacher training about forced marriage, FGM and ‘honour’-based abuse.

Educate2Eradicate are dedicated to educating young people about forced marriage, FGM, and ‘honour’-based violence in order to prevent and eradicate such violence.

The initiative is run by two inspirational women: Hibo Wardere and Arifa Nasim. Hibo Wardere is an FGM survivor who fled war-torn Somalia and is now a leading campaigner and educator on FGM. Arifa Nasim is a youth activist who has been campaigning against Forced Marriage for 4 years. She began her activism at Walthamstow School for Girls and her efforts have since ‘blossomed into a global campaign’ with #Youth4Change and Plan UK.

Educate2Eradicate run school assemblies, deliver teacher training, and go on panels to educate and raise awareness about each of these forms of violence against women and girls. Passionate about seeing such violence eradicated, they work tirelessly to empower young people and break silences. In addition to educating young people, they also train teachers about how to identify and respond to these forms of violence amongst the young people they work with.

To prevent violence against women and girls, we need to tackle its root causes. And to do this, education and training professionals are essential. The Istanbul Convention underlines the importance of education to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls and would ensure that such education is provided ‘in formal curricula and at all levels of education’ [Article 14]. The Convention would also guarantee training for professionals so that they are better equipped to detect and prevent violence, as well as aware of the needs and rights of women and girls who have experienced violence [Article 15].

Educate2Eradicate are doing brilliant work to prevent violence against women through education and training. We need more of it. And we need it to be guaranteed for young people and teachers across the country. This is what the Istanbul Convention can do.

ACT: Sign the ICchange petition to guarantee initiatives like Educate2Eradicate and ensure there are enough of them.

SUPPORT: Keep up to date with Educate2Eradicate on Twitter and Facebook and show them your support.

16 days: Rights of Women

rights of women puzzle pieceWorking to achieve equality, justice and safety in the law for all women

We ACT because they… provide vital services enabling women to access the legal advice and information they need to understand and use the law and their legal rights.

Rights of Women run telephone helplines offering advice on family, criminal, migration and asylum law. These helplines give women accurate and accessible advice and information about the law and their legal rights so they can make safe and informed decisions.

Rights of Women also provide highly informative and accessible training to professionals who work with women who might be accessing this support. They run training courses for professionals on topics such as Legal Aid, DIY Injunctions, Civil & Criminal remedies, Immigration & Migration, Family Court without a lawyer, Forced Marriage & Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and many more.

And the work does not end there. Rights of Women are uniquely placed to a have comprehensive understanding of the law and the barriers which women may face in trying to access justice. They use this knowledge and experience in their wide ranging research and policy recommendations, working to raise awareness and ensure women’s voices are heard to bring about change. One such piece of research, carried out in conjunction with Women’s Aid organisations, found that 38% of women who had or were experiencing domestic violence did not have the evidence to meet the legal aid threshold and 58% of respondents took no action in relation to their family law problem as a result of not being able to apply for legal aid. As a result of their research, changes have been made to improve women’s access to justice.

If ratified, the Istanbul Convention would protect and expand on this instrumental work, including awareness raising [Article 13], training of professionals [Article 15], and telephone helplines [Article 24], all of which would increase women’s access to justice.

ACT: Sign the petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention and protect services such as Rights of Women

SUPPORT: Donate to Rights of Women