Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland

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The 1970s… the beginning of the movement

 The Women's Aid movement in Northern Ireland is part of a widespread movement which began in the United Kingdom in the early 1970's.  The first refuge was set up in Chiswick in the Autumn of 1971, as a centre where women would meet, talk and seek help with their problems.  It soon became evident that the primary need of the women contacting the centre was for refuge for themselves and their children and this became the focus of their work.  The intense media attention given to this refuge during the early 70's was very effective in raising the awareness of the great need for more accommodation.  Throughout the mid 1970's independent refuges for women and children were being set up as part of an international movement which included Great Britain, Ireland, USA, Canada and Australia and many European countries.  In Britain many of these groups came together to share their experiences and used the name 'Women's Aid'. 

In Northern Ireland the growth of the movement has been dramatic.  The first refuge opened in 1975 in Belfast but unfortunately closed after 19 months as the small terraced house was unsuitable for the purpose.  The experience of running a refuge and the demand for its service proved the necessity of making provision for women and children who suffered from domestic violence.  During 1977, Women's Aid groups were set up in Derry and Coleraine and with Belfast Women's Aid.  These groups formed the Northern Ireland Women's Aid Federation in 1978.  The role of the Federation was to act as a co-ordinating and development body and also to maintain contact with sister federations which now existed in England, Scotland and Wales.  next page

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