Queen comforts former resident of women’s refuge

Camilla comforted a former resident of a women’s refuge (Hannah McKay/PA)
Camilla comforted a former resident of a women’s refuge (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Queen has comforted and commended the bravery of a former resident of a women’s refuge who began to cry when telling her story.

Camilla reached out to squeeze the woman’s arm as she sat and spoke to her and three other women at the crisis accommodation in London.

The refuge is run by the Ashiana Network which supports South Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish women who have experienced traumas including domestic and sexual violence, forced marriage, honour-based violence, financial abuse and coercive control.

Camilla heard personal stories from four women – both former and current residents – who are not being identified for their safety.

One woman told the Queen how she has been apart from her daughter for years and broke down in tears.

Camilla comforted her and said: “I think you’re very brave. I think you’re all very brave.”

Another woman told of how she came to the country aged 18, how she did not speak any English at the time and only had with her the dress she was wearing.

She went on to tell the Queen that she is now studying to be a social worker and has become a “strong lady”.

Camilla at women's refuge
Camilla spoke to staff and former and current residents at the women’s refuge (Hannah McKay/PA)

Camilla listened to her story and said: “It’s amazing how all your lives have been turned around just by being in this one special place.

“The problem is there’s probably not enough of them. There must be so many young people like you arriving in this country, you know, and you are probably some of the lucky ones who found this place because, you know, there are probably many others out there who are still searching for help.”

After another woman said she felt much more confident having lived at the refuge, the Queen told her it was “so lovely” to hear.

She continued: “It makes us all happy to hear that all four of you, when you’ve been through such a terrible time, but things are getting better, and they’ll go on getting better.”

Camilla thanked them for sharing their stories and said she believes they will “all go a long way”.

She was then introduced to key staff from the charity and stakeholders.

Speaking to a representative from a funding organisation, Camilla said: “I have never actually visited anything quite as brilliant as this. It is remarkable.”

Ashiana Network director Shaminder Ubhi thanked the Queen for visiting the refuge, explaining that the recognition helps to promote the service and raise awareness around violence against women and girls.

Following a short address by Ms Ubhi, Camilla said: “We ought to clone you in some way. There’s just not enough of you.”

She was gifted a mosaic, hand-made by some of the residents, a bouquet of flowers and an Ashiana Network-branded tote bag that Ms Ubhi jokingly told the Queen she could use when going to Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Waitrose.

Camilla and Shaminder Ubhi
The Queen and Ashiana Network director Shaminder Ubhi (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Ashiana Network is a community-based project that was first established in 1989.

It grew from a need for safe housing for young South Asian women who were experiencing familial domestic violence and began as a seven-bed house with resettlement support, becoming an independent charity in 1994.

The network has since expanded to provide a range of services and is nationally recognised as a high-quality organisation aiming to end violence against women and girls.