Meet the amazing women working locally to tackle violence against women and girls

Thursday 24 November 2022

Friday 25 November marks White Ribbon Day 2022.

It's the global movement of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls, followed by 16 days of activism encouraging people to never commit or remain silent about gender-based violence or domestic abuse. 

One in three women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, mostly by a partner – such as a husband or boyfriend. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and the immediate and long-term physical, sexual, and mental consequences for women and girls can be devastating, including death. 

To raise awareness, we are highlighting some incredible women working locally to end violence against women and girls. 

From campaigning and lobbying the government, supporting homeless women into refuges and running English classes for refugees, to helping women escape abusive relationships and providing much needed support and counselling, meet the women working tirelessly to keep other women safe...

Laura Maziale, Founder and Director of Creating Ground 

Laura is the CEO of Creating Ground, a local organisation that works with refugee women in the borough, and has over 11 years experience working with migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Working with women from migrant backgrounds, Laura hopes to create a space where different people in different contexts and communities can share their skills, knowledge, expertise and talents, to realise their potential and create a better society.

"Many of the women who come to our sessions are still in the process of seeking sanctuary, have No Recourse To Public Funds, or are refugees. Many of them are in temporary accommodation and feel quite lonely and isolated. But migrant women should not only be seen as “vulnerable women”, “mothers” or “underrepresented”. They should also be identified and recognised for their many other identities as political thinkers, professionals, community leaders, activists and change makers. 

"Only if women are really free to be who they want to be, they can feel valued and appreciated, they can feel that they can participate and contribute to the society and can eventually flourish. A just and fair society is made of free and safe individuals. Feeling safe is so important for inclusion. It improves not only women’s wellbeing and their lives but also the lives of their children. It gives stability to the whole family. It is about making sure that the basic human rights are respected and that nobody is violated in their freedom to be and act as they want to."

Cllr Ann-Marie Cousins, Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement 

Ann-Marie has been a local councillor since 2017 and is the Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Enforcement, which includes tackling violence against women and girls. She was also a key member of the Council's Women and Girls Safety Taskforce.

"As a child I did not have the support or the vocabulary to know that my mother was living with domestic violence. Today, for all women and for our children, I stand as a warrior queen against all that is wrong in our strive to stop all aspects of violence against women and girls and to ensure justice and equality for all."

Vlora Purchase, Royal Greenwich Midwife, the Best Beginnings Midwifery Team 

Vlora is a midwife who founded the Best Beginnings Midwivery Team in 2006. The award-winning organisation provides vital ante and post natal support for vulnerable and/or disadvantaged women. Every year since 2006, the team has provided care to approximately 450-500 pregnant women. Thirty-five per cent of these mothers suffer from domestic abuse. 

"I would love to see more local support centres available for women and girls from different ethnic backgrounds; ideally located in local children centres, where mothers and pregnant women can access help more easily and discreetly, without putting themselves at risk.

"Violence against women and girls can have profound long-term effects on survivors and the people close to them, especially to children. It is vital that this issue is dealt with at highest priority, so no woman or girl experiences any form of violence, and if they do, there should be help available to meet the needs of all involved."

Dawn Coble, Royal Greenwich Midwife, the Best Beginnings Midwifery Team 

Dawn is a midwife working in the Best Beginnings Midwifery Team and looks after vunerable and/or disadvantaged pregnant women. Dawn has worked in the maternity department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for the past 20 years.

"I am passionate about the care of women and supporting them throughout their pregnancy journey. Tackling violence against women and girls is so important. Women and girls should be able to live free from harassment and fear."

Isatu Momoh, youth ambassador for Amour Destiné, care leaver & author 

Isatu is an author and youth ambassador for local charity Amour Destiné, who has bravely and movingly shared her experiences of growing up in care. 

Rav Dhillon, Development Officer, METRO Charity 

Rav works for METRO Charity and has lived in Royal Greenwich her whole life. She supports local community groups in Greenwich and Lewisham that work with young people to tackle youth violence and violence against women and girls.

"For me, the biggest challenge in tackling gender-based violence is for people to call it out where and when they see it, and to keep this issue at the top of everyone's agenda.

"Women and girls are vital to the entire community in every sense. The positive impact women have is endless - families, mental health and wellbeing, education, finances... the list goes on. Women are the centre point of our community and their rights to safety must be championed."

Hawa Haragakiza, member of the Sunflower Circle 

Hawa is a member of the women's reference group set up by the Sunflower Circle, which works with the Council on tackling violence against women and girls. She also founded Tamim's Legacy, in memory of her son Tamim who was killed in Woolwich last year and works with communities to educate youth on the dangers of knife crime, and provide holistic support for victims of crime. 

"As a woman, I believe it’s important we all work together to tackle this. I feel powerful that we are raising our voices together. The time is now. We all have to stand together to end violence against women and girls - enough is enough."

Julia Ssengooba, Development Officer at the HER Centre 

Julia works for the HER Centre, a local organisation which supports women who've experienced domestic and sexual abuse.

“I would like to see men educated on abuse and violence, and be aware of the impact it has on women. Support does not always reach where it needs to. For our own services, we have to fight for every bit of funding – there needs to be more investment made into tackling gender-based violence.”

Annie Gibbs, Founder of Amour Destiné   

Annie founded Amour Destiné, a wonderful grass roots community, in honour of her late mum's life initially to unite, inspire and empower black women to overcome trauma including domestic abuse and sexual violence. They now focus support on bridging the gap for black African, Carribean care-experienced survivors of trauma. Amour Destiné also established the Sunflower Circle, a new women's reference group which works with the Council on tackling violence against women and girls by acting as the community voice.

"I wanted to make a difference in the lives of women and girls affected by trauma because of my own lived experience of being affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence. I felt if I could be part of some kind of solution it would prevent others experiencing things that I have.

We live in a society where so many harmful behaviours including misogyny are normalised. Although we have seen a shift in recent years towards understanding what abuse looks like, and how men can also be part of creating a solution by calling out and challenging bad behaviours, we still have a long way to go. It's not ok for us to keep living in a society where women cannot walk the streets alone without the fear of being harassed, or the possibility they may not make it home."

Kelly Jordan, Young MumsAid Advice and Advocacy Worker 

Kelly is an Advocacy worker for Young MumsAid, which supports young mums aged 21 and under, having previously worked in children's centres aross the borough. 

"I feel the right support, a friendly face, listening ear, and most importantly, kindness, can make all the difference to a family. Feeling they can trust you, are supported, empowered and have the strength to make changes for them and their children. I know from my own personal experience having all of the above empowered me to leave a very toxic and unhealthy relationship as a young mum. It's so important that we break the cycles of what is deemed acceptable behavior and raising a generation of woman and men who have an increased knowledge around healthy and unhealthy relationships."

Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald, Chair of the Women and Girls Safety Taskforce 

Denise is the Chair of the Council's Women and Girls Safety Taskforce and oversaw our new Women's Safety Plan, launched on White Ribbon Day 2022. She is also the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult's Social Care.

“For too long women have been expected to change their behaviour to reduce personal risk, shifting responsibility away from the decisions and actions of men. Enough is enough.”

Louise Savage-Knight, Police Constable leading Royal Greenwich’s walk and talk for women  

Louise is part of a crucial local police team who run Royal Greenwich's 'walk & talks'. Walk & talks are open to women aged 18 and above who would like to go for a walk with an officer in their local area and discuss their views on women’s safety.

Cheryl Spruce, Chair of Greenwich Neighbourhood Watch 

Cheryl works full time for Neighbourhood Watch Network, the umbrella charity for England and Wales, as their Head of Membership and Community Engagement. She is also a proud mother and grandmother, a survivor of heart surgery and member of the Zipper Club.

"An epidemic of violent behaviour and not addressing it in society as a societal issue that affects us all, has allowed perpetrators to thrive and victims to live with the consequences and fear. We have to change the narrative in our community. We have to say no more to violence against women and girls."

Sandra, Refuge worker, Housing For Women 

Sandra works for Greenwich's domestic violence services under Housing for Women. She is a mother and a grandmother, and has supported women and children fleeing from domestic abuse for 18 years.

"When I meet a new resident, she's still processing her experience and adjusting to sudden change, whist still being the good mother that she is. Seeing the look on her face as she comes  to the point of re-settlement into her own safe accommodation, that's a powerful thing to be a part of. It inspires me to continue.

"It's so important that we we facilitate any change. We must try and we must never stop. I want my grandchildren to not have to look over their shoulders, and be free to go where they choose without threat or fear or violence and abuse."

Carly Methley, Methley and Daughters 

Carly established Methley and Daughters, an award-winning commercial cleaning company which employs over 40 local women, many of whom have experienced domestic abuse.

"For me, it’s the fear of becoming a statistic. That one time you don’t send a text or make a call to check in. That sits so heavy on my conscience. That's why it's so important to tackle violence against women and girls - creating community, creates a voice."

Jebina Islam, Campaigner to end violence against women & girls 

After Jebina's sister, Sabina Nessa, was murdered in Kidbrooke last year, Jebina began to campaign for a change in the law to better support the victims of violence against women and girls, and is also a co-founder of the Sunflower Circle.

“We should all unite together to put a stop to violence against women and girls. Because enough is enough. We need more unity, solidarity and love on this issue. My biggest heart’s desire is for Sabina’s voice, and the voices of other families affected by violence against women and girls, to be heard. There needs to be change and actions taken. How Sabina died in the hands of her perpetrator, no more families should go through what we went through with the trial and court.” 

Read our new Women's Safety Plan.