(Our Director of Client Services, Karen Lewis with Farah Nazeer, CEO, Women's Aid)

On 12th-13th July, Karen Lewis, our Director of Client Services, together with Annette Murphy, our Advocacy Services Manager, and our front-line domestic abuse and sexual violence support team attended the Women’s Aid national conference in Edgbaston. An important event in our annual calendar, it focused on ways to build a safe future for women and children, survivors of abuse and continuing to end abuse together as a sector.

Farah Nazeer, CEO of Women’s Aid, welcomed everyone to the conference, ‘It’s wonderful to be here with our members, reflecting on the strength of our Federation as we work to keep women and children safe, raise awareness of domestic abuse and ensure future generations are wiser, better and kinder. We know we still have a long way to go, but we will end abuse together as we work to ensure long-term, consistent funding for the safety of all women. It is vital that we ensure support for specialist "By and For" services with the expertise that survivors need.’

Farah recalled those we have lost this year, including Jalna Hamner, a leading feminist scholar and campaigner who played a vital part as one of the founders of the Women's Aid Federation and recently passed away aged 91. She was also the partner of Sheila Saunders, one of Jewish Women’s Aid's founders.

There were informative panel discussions over the two days. Highlights included, ‘How is society’s response to domestic abuse changing and how can we improve it as we #endabusetogether?’ with Jess Phillips MP and Mollie Winnard, who recently played a survivor of abuse in the TV show, ‘Happy Valley'. 

There were also sessions with the Police and victim-survivors on the systemic challenges within policing and the criminal justice system. We heard about how specialist services support survivors through the family court process, as well as from Juno Women’s Aid, Rights of Women and the Ministry of Justice, on the learnings from their trauma-aware pilots to safeguard victim-survivors. 

We were delighted to hear from Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who presented the National Quality Standards Awards to those in the sector who have achieved areas of excellence. Additionally, there were workshops on women refugees, FGM, looking at anti-racism, and supporting marginalised women together with many other expert organisations doing incredible work.

 (image: Apsana Begum MP, Sue Coleman, Nimko Ali OBE, Sarah Dines MP and Sarah Hill).

The second day began with Sarah Hill, the Chair of Women’s Aid and Farah Nazeer, CEO, in conversation with Sarah Dines MP, Apsana Begum MP, Nimko Ali OBE and Sue Coleman asking, ‘Why we are yet to see meaningful shifts in VAWG, despite welcome changes in policy and legislation?’ This was followed by Women’s Aid ambassador, Alice Liveing, speaking about her experiences exploring what works in engaging young people around domestic abuse and violence against women and girls. Throughout the day, Women’s Aid discussed their General Election manifesto pledge.

Mina Smallman, retired Anglican Priest and mother of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, who were tragically murdered in London in an unprovoked attack in 2020, gave a keynote address. She spoke about the power of activism, saying, ‘The important thing about activism is that it has to come from a place of truth.’         


 (Image: Mina Smallman)

Our team had a truly inspiring, empowering, and thought-provoking couple of days, exchanging ideas with incredible members and other key players in the VAWG sector, seeing familiar faces, and meeting new people and organisations doing amazing work.

Thank you Women’s Aid- we can’t wait for next year!