by NADEEM BADSHAH
LEADING campaigners have criticised funding cuts which have seen around half of ethnic minority charities that provided housing for victims of violence being forced to shut in the past 25 years.
Ahead of International Women’s Day next Friday (8), activists warned ministers that further money was needed to prevent more BAME services supporting survivors of domestic violence and forced marriages from closing.
Marai Larasi, who steps down in May as the executive director of the Imkaan charity, said she feels a “deep sadness and outrage” that an estimated 50 per cent of BAME services are no longer around.
And campaigners have backed her call for cash-strapped specialist services to be protected and for the government to make tackling violence faced by victims of all backgrounds a priority.
Professor Aisha K Gill, professor of criminology at the University of Roehampton and board member for the End Violence Against Women Coalition, told Eastern Eye: “As we prepare to mark International Women’s Day, the gap between the promises and realities on the ground is still too wide.”
“Violence against black and minority ethnic (BAME) women continues to pose some of the most serious challenges for our communities,” she added.
“The government needs to take full responsibility to end violence against BAME women and children.
“This can be achieved through a number of measures, such as a robust, legal and policy frameworks; a just, responsive criminal justice system; the provision of specialist services; and also through economic empowerment policies.
“I found a real urgency in Marai Larasi’s comments, which alluded to the importance of the need for protection, provision, promotion and fulfilment of BAME women’s rights that requires a holistic and intersectional approach.
“And this urgency should be replicated by our government and relevant authorities to put an end to the unnecessary violence against BAME women and children.”
Services affected include Apna Haq, which helps BAME women in Rotherham, Yorkshire, which lost its council funding in 2015, while Roshni in Nottingham, which supported victims of violence and racism, was forced to close in 2012.
Zlakha Ahmed, founder of Apna Haq, told Eastern Eye: “It makes me angry. It’s happening up and down the country.
“For 32 years I have worked full time and paid my taxes. But as BAME community services, they are not being commissioned by those taxes. It should be a crucial part of the work on the ground.”
She added: “I set up Apna Haq 25 years ago. For 11 years we survived on funding bids. In 2004 we won a local authority contract to work with vulnerable people.
“We held it for 11 years, but in the tender to apply, we lost out to a generic white organisation. I thought we were going to have to shut down.
“The next year we used our reserves (funds) and held a rally at Downing Street.
“We then received a National Lottery grant. The majority of our referrals [victims] would not go to other organisations. We are a real lifeline.”
There were 305 refuge services operating in England and Wales in 2017. Most councils
have slashed funding for refuges since 2010, according to research. From 178 authorities that responded to a request for information, 65 per cent had cut spending by an average of £38,000 each or £6.8 million in total.
Sajda Mughal, CEO of the JAN Trust women’s group in London, said: “The impact in the cuts for funding services of the past 25 years plays out clearly in the day to day running of JAN Trust and impacted significantly on our work and the lives of our beneficiaries.
“Without appropriate provision for these services, it means that many cease to exist and creates a greater pressure on those who have managed to survive these turbulent times. This can have a devastating impact on individuals who are survivors or victims, in particular, those that require specialist and culturally sensitive knowledge such as forced marriages or honour-based violence, that without the right services, are near impossible
“It is apparent what needs to be done is the government needs to provide funding to refuges and voluntary organisation like JAN Trust who provide essential services.
“Otherwise we risk ignoring women who are so very desperately in need of incredibly
Among the few BAME services that still exist is Southall Black Sisters, which marks its 40th anniversary this month.
Last November, the government announced 63 projects across England will share £22 million to help domestic abuse survivors.
It said the funding will provide support to more than 25,000 survivors and their families, including over 2,200 additional beds in refuges and other safe housing.