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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
Northern Ireland’s 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 Northern Ireland.

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 conference: 

“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.


 Notes to Editors

  • 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. 

  • The British 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.  

  • Women’s Aid 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.