Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Eradicating Violence Against Women and Girls Conference -Brussels

Being a subject close to my heart this conference was set to be a fully charged, roller coaster of a ride. I did manage to spend some down time the day we arrived in Brussels with a few members of the UK delegation. We managed to visit an amazing halal restaurant right in the heart of the city who serve the best Latin American and Mediterranean cuisine, followed by a tour, taking in some of the sights.

Perhaps, a much needed diversion prior to the day of the conference which was fuelled by passion and determination, to bring about much needed change. I've been working with survivors of many forms of abuse including rape, sexual violence and domestic abuse at a grassroots level offering therapeutic support, and often usually have grievances about funding cuts and the closures of crucial frontline services which are a huge detriment and for some fatal. These services are a lifeline and the current climate has made matters worse as we have seen an increase in statistics of violence against women. It is reported that in the UK over 3 million women encounter some form of violence or abuse per year. 1 in 5 women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. Coercion, abuse and exploitation via social media, revenge porn, are now a common occurrence and on the rise and marital rape has seen its figures rise as women become aware that consent is still needed, and it is not okay to be forced into doing anything against their will.

I am extremely pleased to hear that next year is the year to Eradicate Violence Against Women and is set to be high on the agenda at the European parliament. Although this is great news, I feel a little disheartened at the thought of how many women will die before that time comes. How many more women will be raped, abused and live in fear before this kind of violence is stamped out. However the women who I met on this trip, and all the speakers give me hope.

Hope that change can come, and through working together, by talking about it, by keeping it at the forefront of everyone’s minds, means it’s an issue we are no longer willing to brush under the carpet, or hide from, or shy away from. I want to thank my friend and inspiration Julie Ward for inviting me to be part of this trip and thank her for her commitment as always.

I pledge to continue my work with survivors and develop ways not only to support but to look at awareness, education, prevention and as a collective eradication.

Aisha Mirza

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