Today (Tuesday 29th October) a range of women’s organisations have written an open letter to the Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz calling on the Council to re-instate funding for the London Black Women’s Project specialist BME refuges.
London Black Women’s Project has been running the Newham refuges for 32 years and yet risks closure on November 5th unless the Council reverses its decision. The letter has been signed by Imkaan, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, The Fawcett Society, Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis England & Wales among others.
The actor and comedian Meera Syal, the patron of London Black Women’s Project says:
“London Black Women’s Project quite literally saves the lives of women and girls, and supports them to regain safety and a sense of self. It is desperately important work that they have been doing for 32 years. Such deep knowledge and expertise is to be treasured and it would be a travesty for Newham to deliberately force its closure. I am proud to be the patron of London Black Women’s Project and want to add my voice in calling for the full reinstatement of their funding.”
A service user of the refuge says:
“If London Black Women’s Project was to be closed down, it would be devastating for the women and children who would need the same support that I needed when I was at the refuge. This refuge saved my life.”
Rena Sodhi, the Director of London Black Women’s Project says:
“In the last year London Black Women’s Project has supported over 170 women and children through the refuge service and also provided counselling, legal advice and advocacy support to over 600 women and girls.
“We cannot stand by while our vital, life-saving services, which have been built by and for BME women are decimated and destroyed by funding decisions such as this one. Council leaders and others need to understand that there is a very big difference between funding large non-specialist organisations with no base in the borough to supporting specialist smaller local charities that understand the specific cultural and intersectional needs of the women we work with. Safe refuges that are geared to the needs of the women who use them is not a luxury, it’s a must have.”
The letter sets out the specialism that London Black Women’s Project offers:
“LBWP services were developed more than three decades ago from the grassroots up to meet the specific and unique needs of BME women and children in the community who are arguably the most marginalised. LBWP understands the barriers that BME communities face and have shaped their work to reflect these specific needs via a ‘by and for’ service. This means support services that are run by and for women from the communities they wish to serve. This model offers an empowering experience to women and children, as the service users can see themselves reflected in an organisation that looks like them, speaks their languages, represents their needs and values their voice, agency and presence.”
Imkaan has found that BME women and children find BME services empowering as they can see themselves reflected in the governance, management and staffing of led by and for organisations. (2)
The full letter is available here (1), with the full list of signatories. It has been sent to the London Borough of Newham Council Cabinet, and copied to the Newham MPs – Lyn Brown MP, Stephen Timms MP, as well as the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Deputy Mayor Sophie Linden and the Chair of London Councils Councillor Peter John OBE.
We are urging the public to join our call by using social media in support of specialist BME services, which are being decimated across the country.
Notes to editors:
1. Letter is hosted here: https://www.imkaan.org.uk/open-letter-reinstate-funding-lbwp and letter can be downloaded here: https://bit.ly/2q0GYAp
2. Imkaan report ‘Vital Statistics: Experiences of Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & refugee women and children facing violence and abuse’, 2010
3. Petition to save LBWP services: https://www.change.org/p/don-t-remove-funding-to-london-black-women-s-project-refuges