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To celebrate Southall Black Sisters’ 40th anniversary, we have printed a pack of six greeting cards entitled “Struggle Not Submission” depicting artwork created by users and members of the SBS Support Group.
Our weekly support group for vulnerable and isolated users involves a range of therapeutic activities and classes. Using drama, arts and crafts and photography along with writing, life-skills, citizenship and English classes, our aim is to empower and support women over a period of time. User participation in our ‘ambassadors programme’, has enabled SBS to become more effective in reaching ‘hard-to-reach’ groups and has brought about increased referrals and reporting. This, in turn, has allowed us to take early action in the prevention of domestic and other forms of abuse. In the process of engaging and mentoring each other, our users forge strong, meaningful friendships and alternative support networks that help them to deal with their isolation and resist family and community pressure to succumb to violence and abuse. Through regular engagement in support group activities, our users become confident in challenging their own marginalisation and the economic, political, social, cultural and religious processes and practices that condone gender-based violence and inequalityMany of our users go on to lead SBS campaigns on a range of issues that speak directly to their daily experiences of abuse and inequality. Their involvement has fostered long term changes in community attitudes and enabled women to claim their place in their community and society. For example, our users have joined the worldwide women’s resistance against sexual harassment by marching on the streets of Southall under the banner ‘From Delhi to Southall’. They have also campaigned against racist and often illegal immigration enforcement measures through the state’s ‘Go Home Van’ campaigns in which they led direct protests challenging the practice of racial profiling that promoted divisions within local communities. Their actions inspired other nation-wide protests against the government’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policies. Many of our users have also spoken out against the erosion of secular and civic community spaces and have raised awareness about the role played by pioneering BME women who have fought for equality such as the suffragette Sophia Duleep Singh.
These are just some of the ways in which our support group activities have enabled our users to overcome their victimisation and emerge as survivors and advocates of human rights within their communities.