EMBARGOED – SATURDAY 4TH OCTOBER 2003
WOMEN’S AID CELEBRATE 25
YEARS – BACK TO THE FUTURE
Northern Ireland Women’s Aid
Federation’s (Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland) 14th Annual General Meeting takes place
today at the Wellington Park Hotel. This is a joint celebration of their
AGM and a Regional Conference to mark 25 years of the valuable work of
Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland.
At the AGM, Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland will launch
their Annual Report and also their Strategic Plan for 2003-2006. The
Annual Report shows that between April 2002 and March 2003, Women’s Aid Federation
24-hour Helpline responded to 17,580 calls from women in crisis and almost
989 women and 1,112 children were accommodated in refuges throughout
The conference theme, ‘Back
to the Future’, will focus on the landmark work of Women’s Aid in the last
25 years and will also look forward to the future challenges. The guest
speakers include Eileen Evason, Broadcaster/Academic and Monica
McWilliams, former MLA (NIWC). Monica commented on the theme of the
“Women’s Aid has gone from
strength to strength over the past 25 years, however campaigning against
domestic violence is an unfinished business, so the next 25 years will be
just as busy”.
Invited guests include representatives from the Community, Voluntary and
Statutory organisations, many of whom have been involved in the movement
for the 25 years and more. Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland’s new Director, Hilary Sidwell, who took
up her post in August 2003 had this to say of the conference:
“Today we are celebrating a
quarter of a century of women working with passion, imagination, vision,
determination and commitment. These women have successfully challenged
attitudes and perception to domestic violence and have provided essential
help, support and protection to women experiencing domestic violence.
Thanks to the work of Women’s Aid in Northern Ireland and women’s
organisations around the world, tackling domestic violence is now a key
priority on the governments agenda.”
Photo opportunities available.
The first refuge opened in 1975 in Belfast. During 1977, Women’s Aid
groups were set up in Derry and Coleraine and with Belfast Women’s Aid
they formed the Northern Ireland Women’s Aid Federation (Women’s Aid Federation
Northern Ireland) 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. Thirty years ago domestic
violence was invisible and hidden. Since then there have been huge
changes in attitudes towards domestic violence and an enormous growth in
Women’s Aid groups. Unfortunately, there has not been a reduction in the
frequency of savage and violent attacks on women in the home. Sadly
Federation statistics show a steady increase.
6 women were
killed last year by their partner or former partner and the PSNI responded
to 15,512 domestic incidents.
Crime Survey indicates that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence at
some point in their lives. It cuts across class, age, religion and ethnic
group. It is most commonly perpetrated by men against women. These men
tend to be current or previous partners.
The impact of
domestic violence on the lives of women can result in homelessness,
protracted health problems – mental and physical due to repeated
threatened and actual emotional, sexual and physical abuse,
hospitalisation and at its most extreme death. The impact of domestic
violence on children either witnessing or being subject to domestic
violence is extremely detrimental.
have developed a range of support services for women, young people and
children living with and surviving domestic violence which include the 24
hour Helpline; outreach services in the community; drop in centres;
support services for children and young people and training and awareness
raising. For women and their children who have to leave their home,
Women’s Aid provides refuge accommodation. Within refuge support services
are available for women and children and on leaving refuge Women’s Aid
continue to provide aftercare support services.
The Women’s Aid
24 hour Helpline number is 028 90331818. Women can call the Helpline for
assistance and support and the Helpline can direct women to Women’s Aid
groups in their own locality where they can avail of a range of support
services for themselves and their children. For women who do not speak
English, the helpline now uses language Line, a UK wide professional
interpreting service in over 100 languages.