We’re excited to announce three new initiatives that will help our mission to end violence against women and girls.
10 December 2022
By Hannah Uguru
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is an annual campaign to highlight the forms, causes and consequences of GBV worldwide. Starting on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and ending on 10 December, Human Rights Day, 2022’s theme is all about ending violence against women and girls (VAWG). It’s a call for resistance against recent international pushback on women’s rights: a ban on abortions in many US states follows the repeal of Roe vs Wade; April 2022’s Policing Act in the UK now restricts the extent of public protesting, coming swiftly after nationwide Black Lives Matter marches and anger over the murder and abduction of Sarah Everand by a Met Police officer; a global rise of ‘incel’ culture, leading to increased instances of violent extremist misogyny. As a specialist counselling service for low-income and minoritised women, The Maya Centre stands in solidarity with activists and other organisations working to eradicate VAWG and support survivors of such. Here’s how we’re marking 2022’s 16 Days of Activism…
Not My Shame Project
Not My Shame is a collaborative project between The Maya Centre, King’s College London’s Centre for Society and Mental Health and Sweet-thang zine. With the aim of understanding how societal shame affects the mental health of queer victims of abuse who identify as women, Dr Georgina Gnan and Zara Asif are the researchers behind the initiative. Discussing their research backgrounds, Dr Gnan shares, “I’ve done a lot of work around stigma and mental health relating to LGBT people and those living with HIV. My colleague, Zara, is a woman of colour who’s done a lot of work in women’s shelters, so for her, this was a passion project that spoke to her personal interests as much as her academic ones.”
This research contextualises a six-week creative writing workshop for Black LGBTQ+ survivors of gender-based violence, which was hosted by Black lesbian Andreena Leeanne, a lived experience speaker, poet and author. The creative insights of this workshop have informed a zine produced by Sweet-thang, which features a collection of visual art and writings from some of the workshop’s participants and Black and mixed-race activists. Leeanne believes the focus on this group is essential as there is a dearth of resources and spaces specifically for Black women who also identify as queer or LGBTQ+.
The Maya Centre played an integral role in recruiting women for the workshops, hosting them within our safe and confidential space and including a Black Women’s counsellor in all sessions in order to provide support, reflection and prevent re-traumatisation.
Ultimately, Not My Shame seeks to validate the multifaceted challenges and experiences of Black queer women through academic study and real-world conversations. The project leaders will provide further insights at the in-person launch of the zine in February 2023, where physical editions of the Not My Shame zine will be available.
The Maya Centre in Partnership with Cripplegate Foundation
Cripplegate Foundation is a grant-making foundation local to Islington. It supports both residents and organisations in the borough with the vision of “a society where everyone can live a rewarding and fulfilled life, free from poverty and inequality.”
The Maya Centre is delighted to be working with the Cripplegate Foundation, Islington Council and three other funded VCSE partners to explore how we can improve women’s experiences of domestic abuse services in Islington. Speaking on the partnership, our CEO Emma Brech comments, “We believe passionately that women need to be supported to amplify their voices as part of resilience-building, creating strong support and safety networks. A multifaceted approach is needed in which women are given agency and control over their own decisions and life chances.” It’s an honour for us to be able to continue our work in this area for low-income and minoritised women.
The Maya Centre has been lucky to receive funding from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) via the London Community Foundation. MOPAC’s goals include ensuring women and girls get the response and support they need from specialist and ‘by and for’ services; providing support to improve the safety of women and girls in London; working to make our city safer for every woman and girl.
Our most recent round of funding is dedicated to prioritising the needs of minoritised women with experiences of sexual and domestic abuse. We will be able to help 36 women have 24 weeks of therapy each. This money is excellent news for us as it increases our capacity to provide free, long-term specialist counselling, which is hard for these groups to access. It will also enfranchise us to continue offering mind-body therapies for women who complete a course of counselling: reiki, massage and reflexology. This is also noteworthy, as these therapies work with reconnecting women’s relationships with their bodies in a safe way following sexual trauma.
Looking ahead to 2023
The essence of 16 Days of Activism does not end on 10 December — it is only the beginning. As touched on, these initiatives and funding mark our continued opposition to VAWG and provision of free, accessible aid for women survivors. We’re passionate about the work we do and are looking forward to 2023.