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Ashiana Sheffield: Securing Safe Futures & Freedom

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Ashiana Sheffield has been working for over 30 years to provide high-quality, accessible services, tailored to meet the needs of women who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing violence and abuse.

We chatted to their Training & Development Officer, Evie Muir, to find out more about their incredibly important work.

Can you tell us a bit about the work that Ashiana Sheffield does?

We work with Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) adults and children fleeing domestic and sexual abuse, including forced marriage, human trafficking, female genital mutilation and 'honour'-based violence. While our head offices and Domestic Abuse team are based in Sheffield, we provide outreach support within our Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery team across the north of England. We also have refuge spaces and support women with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF). We provide one-to-one practical and emotional support, advocacy support, liaison with services, and host groups, events and activities.

How does the work you do support the specific needs of BAMER women?

We recognise that BAMER women experience abuse differently. Sheffield is actually estimated to have higher rates of domestic abuse, based on a number of social factors including a high BAMER community. Whilst multiculturalism is amazing, this may be due to; interpersonal and cultural norms, insecure immigration status, language barriers, disenfranchisement and institutional racism, accounting for why it takes BAMER women 1.5x longer to access support - something we often see the psychological effects of in our clients.

At the core of our work, we ensure that we come from a non-judgemental position of belief, prioritising clients' physical and emotional safety. We also apply a trauma-informed, intersectional approach to our practice. As Audre Lorde states, "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives." We recognise that people's multiple identities influence a person's experience of abuse and impact their ability to access support.

How is the current political climate affecting the people you work with?

It's a turbulent and uncertain time. The 'hostile environment' [Home Office policy] has seen negative attitudes towards migrant communities soar.

One way we see this translated most visibly is regarding clients' immigration status. Often extortionate fees need paying in order for people to obtain secure status. A lack of status means no access to work, housing and free healthcare and, due to cutbacks and increased fees, accessing legal aid may be systematically impossible. This creates a vacuum whereby immigration status can be used as a tool for abuse by clients' partners and families, but we are yet to see this highlighted in the upcoming and highly-anticipated Domestic Abuse Bill.

There's a concern that BAMER women's needs are not sufficiently represented and that the bill doesn't address cuts to services. The recommendations in this bill will surely impact how our clients experience domestic abuse services.

You've got an event coming up at SheFest in March. What is it about and why is it important?

We're hosting an event called 'Ashiana in Conversation with: Pragna Patel.' Pragna is the founder of Southall Black Sisters, who have been at the forefront of challenging domestic and gender-related violence for decades.

Our event will see two of Britain's leading BAMER organisations examine the intersection between gender, ethnicity and immigration status in the context of domestic abuse, providing a safe platform for the discussion of topics that are often marginalised from mainstream feminist discourse.

Our event is in celebration of International Women's Day in partnership with SheFest 2020. It's exciting to be part of a terrific programme of feminist events and we're committed to using this platform to amplify the voices of BAMER communities, ensuring the women we support are seen, heard and represented.

Find out more about Ashiana on their website, Facebook & Twitter.

Flick Jackson

Evie Muir is a sociologist, domestic abuse specialist and intersectional feminist who specialises in BAMER women's experiences of gender-based-violence. Within Ashiana, Evie's role as a Training and Development Officer as part of the Advocacy team provides her with the platform to advocate for BAMER women and facilitate the amplification of marginalised community's voices. For more information, partnerships or support, contact [email protected] or 0114 255 5740.

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