Blog by Aqsa Suleman, AVA guest blogger
There has been a cultural reckoning these past few months since the murder of George Floyd. There has been greater emphasis to visibly show your support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and take action to eradicate racism and inequality at a societal, organisational, and individual level. In early June, greater attention to Black Lives Matter sparked many organisations in the charity sector to issue statements officially supporting Black Lives Matter and vowing to commit further action towards racial equality.
It is now time for organisations across the charity sector to truly represent the values of social justice, change and support for all communities that they proudly profess to do so in their mission statement, strategy and websites. It is time for change in the Violence Against Women and Girls Sector, a sector deeply and historically committed to eradicating not only violence but the use of patriarchy and power to dominate, oppress and abuse women due to their gender. The VAWG sector has always understood the brutal use of patriarchy to violate women’s rights, bodies, and lives. It has been a sector that has faced its own battle for visibility, support, significance. The same drive, energy and dedicated passion is needed to support and amplify the stories, voices, lives of black women.
Black women are not only disproportionately affected by intimate partner violence, domestic abuse, and sexual violence. Black women also face violence from the hands of systems, that are rooted in racism and white privilege and fail to provide them with the protection, support, and dignity they deserve. Alongside being survivors and victims of domestic or sexual abuse, Black women are also often survivors or victims of racist abuse that they have endured from individuals, groups, and systems across society.
The case of Breonna Taylor demonstrates this. Breonna, a 26-year-old medical worker from Kentucky, was sleeping at home on March the 13th 2020. Breonna, alongside her boyfriend, awoke to hear a loud banging on the door. The police entered the property and fired shots, striking Breonna, and killing her. Breonna received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes after being shot and died instantly after being struck. This tragic case shows how systemic racism rooted in the US police force, led to the violation of a black woman’s rights, and directly led to her death. Despite petitions and strong campaigns of support, Breonna’s killers have not faced any repercussions. Justice for Breonna has still not been served.
In the UK, the case of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman also demonstrates systemic racism at the hands of systems, that either inflict violence on Black women, or are normalised towards the violence faced by Black women. In this case, Bibaa and Nicole were both sisters that had been tragically murdered at a London park. After their deaths, 2 Met Police officers decided to take a photo of their bodies and circulate it to other people, including members of the public. One photo taken showed a police officer with the 2 bodies of the victims. These police officers’ treatment of Black female victims’ bodies heartbreakingly shows that Black women are denied their dignity and rights, even after their death.
Within the VAWG sector we have lived and learned experience of how devastating violence can be to women’s physical and mental health. VAWG organisations continue to engage, support, advocate for women predisposed to violence. It is time that the VAWG sector took greater action to provide trauma informed support and care to Black women to show their solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement.
What can the VAWG Sector actively do to amplify the voices of Black women and support Black women?
- We could diversify the VAWG sector in terms of composition, and actively recruit and retain the talent of BAME employees. Black women can only seek meaningful support and engagement from the VAWG sector when they come across more employees in this space that look like them, wholeheartedly understand and relate to their lived experience of racism or multiple disadvantage. Efforts should be placed in recruiting BAME staff within senior positions, such as management and trustee level. This allows the strategic direction and overall work and activity of VAWG organisations, to explicitly centre Black voices and lives.
- It is important for us to stand up to support Black led women’s organisations and VAWG organisations, such as Sistah Space and Imkaan. These organisations provide crucial support and have always strongly advocated for BAME beneficiaries and service users. Support the expertise and key services they provide. Consult with such organisations, partner with such organisations, and look to support the resources and work of these organisations. I have attached links below to these specific organisations, so you can reach out to them and finds ways to support them!
- Take action to discuss and raise conversations surrounding race equality and diversity in existing or upcoming training, events, meetings, reports. Communicating about equality at a wider level and across different formats, will help to enrich staff members’ learning and understanding, and could generate great ways to elevate the conversations surrounding equality, further into action.
- Individually reflect and continue to educate yourself by reading resources, supporting your Black colleagues and friends and taking time to reflect on how you can use your privilege as an organisation, group or individual to support or advocate for Black women and their lives.