Southall Black Sisters (SBS), a long-standing domestic violence support group serving BME women, is facing possible closure after having key funding withdrawn from the Conservative-run, Ealing Council.
Despite the fact that SBS has received national and international recognition for the support it has given Black and Asian women in West London over the course of almost thirty years, the council is withdrawing an annual allocation of £100,000 to SBS, based on the view that there is no need for specialist services for BME women and that services to abused women in the borough need to be streamlined.
SBS maintains that this view fails to take account of the unequal social, economic and cultural context which makes it difficult, if not impossible, for BME women to access outside help or seek information about their rights. While all women face serious difficulties in attempting to leave a violent or abusive relationship, women in the BME community can often face additional barriers around racism, cultural expectations, language barriers, immigration issues and additional forms of violence such as female genital mutilation and honour violence.While the council has told SBS it should widen its service user group, it has refused to provide any extra funding in order for it to do so.
In a letter to the Guardian (20 February), Vivienne Hayes, the Director of the Women’s Resource Centre, wrote that, ‘the government is out of touch with those working at the coalface. We need good guidance for funders that genuinely promotes equality and cohesion and ensures that invaluable organisations like Southall Black Sisters do not become victims of a “one-size-fits-all” funding culture.’
On 26 February, over 100 people gathered on the steps of Ealing Town Hall to protest against the council’s decision.