Northern Ireland news

Women's Aid launches 16 Days of Action with 'Hear Her Voice'

`Hear Her Voice' was launched by Women's Aid to mark `International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls' and the start of its 16 Days of Action

DOMESTIC abuse survivors have shared their stories of the lasting impact on their lives, families, and future by words, song and creative arts in a new project.

Hear Her Voice was launched by Women's Aid yesterday to mark `International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls' and the start of its 16 Days of Action.

It reflects on the experiences of domestic abuse survivors and was opened by at Crowne Plaza in Belfast by First Minister Paul Givan and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill.

Hear Her Voice grew from focus groups at eight Women's Aid groups across the north, where 91 survivors shared their stories, with the common themes were captured through art, photography, a website and a creative writing book.

Among the experiences are how after they leave survivors and their children are often subjected to `post-separation abuse', including financial abuse, physical and virtual stalking, protracted child contact disputes and legal cases.

Ms O'Neill said the "immense bravery of the survivors who have shared their experiences will not only help to inform and shape this crucial work, but it will help to empower other women to make their voices heard".

"We say to all the women suffering abuse across our society that your voice matters; you will be listened to; and help is available."

Mr Givan praised "the incredible courage and resilience of the women who have shared their stories" and promised "we are listening".

He said the executive is working "to develop a strategy that will deliver ambitious solutions to tackle the cause, not just the symptoms of the problem".

Sarah Mason, Women's Aid Federation chief executive, said she is "so proud to see the valuable work from this project being launched, especially as the project, which was kindly funded by Comic Relief at the start of the first lockdown and faced potential delay due to Covid 19".

"By pure determination, commitment and creativity Women's Aid rose to the challenge and the project was successfully rolled out and exceeded all original aims and outcomes."

It is part of a three-year partnership with Allstate NI with employees volunteering time, skills and knowledge.

Vice president John Healy said in the "short space of time many milestones have been achieved", including art therapy classes for survivors, mentoring Women's Aid leaders, learning and development sessions, building a website and fundraising.

Women's Aid's 16 Days of Action is a call to raise awareness of key issues around violence against women and girls

Support and information are available at womensaidni.org and emergency calls to PSNI on 999 offers a Silent Solutions Service which allows callers too scared to make a noise or speak to press 55 to get help

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