On Thursday 27th of May, a diverse range of practitioners, including police commissioners, health workers, council members and youth officers, came together to learn about and address harmful practices affecting vulnerable communities. The workshop highlighted specific harmful practices, including Female Genital Cutting, Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence and Faith Based Abuse.
As it stands, I am fortunate enough to work across several space in the sector. I am the Director of Shiva Foundation, an organisation which works proactively to address systemic issues that affect vulnerable communities, including human trafficking and violence against women. I am also a Local Councillor for Borehamwood Hillside. I am excited to have been able to gather representatives from across sectors by leveraging both these roles. It was amazing to see these individuals in one room to discuss a topic that without doubt deserves a more comprehensive response.
Cllr Morris Bright, Leader of Hertsmere Borough Council and who sits on the Safety Community Board at the Local Government Association said: “this type of workshop is essential to ensure that these dreadful, hidden practices are more easily able to be identified so that help can be given to those who very often are suffering in silence. Just because we do not hear about something, does not mean it is not happening”.
I am determined to better understand the issue of violence against women within a local context and work with others to lead by example and build a strong response. I am honoured to work for a Council with a strong determination to address this at its core. My objective is to work on a collective basis and enable each individual, both practitioners and others, to identify the role they need to play in tackling violence against women in all its forms. As Police Community Support Officers, Natalie Pearman and Samantha O’Grady, pointed out: “we work primarily within the community and have a responsibility to protect individuals. It is crucial that we understand harmful practices so that we can effectively protect victims and refer them to the right agencies”.
I am keenly aware that some service agencies are hugely under-resourced and need more support. One of the major challenges my team at Shiva Foundation have found is the lack of statistics around harmful practices. If we could improve data collection, this would go a long way towards funding specialist services who have the capacity to effectively protect and support victims. Hopefully, trainings like these provide a safe space to learn and share knowledge so that we may work together effectively and efficiently.
Whilst this is going to be a challenging process and many gaps need to be addressed, my goal is for us to work towards becoming a leading and exemplary authority in the area and build a model that other council may follow.