Gender and Justice Empowerment Project is an innovative, 3 year Comic Relief funded programme that will empower, give collective voice and protect vulnerable refugee and asylum-seeking women affected by crime. It builds on our previous Comic Relief funded Abused No More project which empowered nearly 100 refugee and asylum seeking women, reached over 1,000 stakeholders and influenced policy and practice in the area of gender-based violence and asylum.
Refugee and asylum-seeking women face multiple disadvantage as a result of persistent race and gender inequalities. They are also more susceptible to be victims of hate crimes and violence against women. At the same time, they are less likely to have sufficient knowledge of their rights and the host society’s legal and institutional systems. They usually don’t have the financial resources to bear the cost of remedy proceedings, while legal aid cuts have exacerbated this problem. As a user-led Institute, we have evidence that there is a need to empower these women so that they can directly affect institutional and societal change from the bottom-up. Focusing on those who perceive themselves to be victims, our project gives them an opportunity to assist with the incorporation and implementation of the Victim's Directive. Once the project is completed, refugee and asylum-seeking women will be better protected in law, policy and practice due to their direct actions. Over 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women will be directly supported through training and mentoring to acquire a voice in decisions that affect them, particularly at this critical point of time marked by restrictive legislation, discriminatory policy changes and practice of violence against women.
For the first time the EU Victim's Directive embodied in the UK legislation as Victim’s Bill provides an opportunity to advance access to justice for victims irrespective of their residence status. It also extends protection of all victims who receive services from all sectors (including private), ensuring that victim support services (e.g shelters, trauma support counselling) are accessible and appropriate. It places emphasis on violence against women & girls (VAWG). The Victims' Commissioner and the 2015 Joint Committee on Human Rights (VAWG Report) highlighted that refugee and asylum seeking women (RASW) are overlooked as immigration policy is developed separately from VAWG policy. The voices of refugee and asylum-seeking women have not been heard while their immigration status make them ineligible for legal aid, leaving them with no choice but to remain in violent relationships or face destitution.
The Gender and Justice Empowerment Project gives refugee and asylum-seeking women an opportunity to engage with, hold to account and influence decision makers by lobbying the UK government to introduce safeguards for non-EU citizens when implementing Victim’s Directive, namely in order to:
• Extend the victim’s definition to women who are not EU citizens
• Ensure provision of translation and interpreting services
• Focus on the importance of specialist shelters
• Provide culturally competent trauma support and counselling
It is essential that these safeguards are in place to protect all women and girls in the UK from violence, regardless of their immigration status. The project recognises that migrant and asylum-seeking women can have direct voice and influence policies impacting on them, thereby shaping services according to their real needs and wants.
The project is currently in its second year and in terms of milestones in its first year the project has seen great progress. We have produced user-led policy briefings and responded to consultations, the members from the Women's Group participated in a roundtable discussion on VAWG at the Commonwealth Secretariat and we delivered an Annual Conference - which took place on 15 December 2015 - entirely devoted to gender inequality, victimization and offending. One of the women from our Women's Advisory Board, Maimuna Jawo, was a key speaker at the event (you can watch her speech here), and two other women, Mariam Mansare and Bassey Dunnu attended the event and led workshops.
We are now at a stage where the women involved in the project are confident and motivated enough to become active project agents. Going forward, we want to expand the user led approach so that the project also becomes user delivered. Women will be supported to lobby their own MPs and local politicians, especially around the ambiguity that remains within the Victim’s Code around how people’s immigration status impacts on their rights. They will also be empowered to co-deliver face to face recruitment and training elements of the project, they will be trained in advocacy, trainer the trainer skills, human rights and other relevant areas in order for them to confidently deliver training and empowerment sessions with other refugee and asylum seeking women.
There are several ways to get involved in this project:
If you are a refugee or asylum seeking woman you can join our Woman's Advisory Board that meets monthly to discuss the project, take part in training and plan future activities. The advisory board also runs training and conducts research with other women in a similar situation to ensure the project is both extending its reach to others and developing through listening to migrant women.
Organisations working with refugee and asylum seeking women can partner with and have our advisory board deliver training to their staff or the beneficiaries they work with.
If you would like to get involved in the programme please e mail email@example.com