Project to empower women and tackle forced marriage, dowry abuse

A PROJECT focusing on empowering African, Asian and Middle Eastern women in cases such as forced marriage, immigration or honour-based violence could expand into Hume.

Shakti Migrant and Refugee Women’s Support Group, which already runs a drop-in centre and outreach and youth services in Rowville, is exploring the possibility of expanding into Hume.

The organisation began in New Zealand and advocates for positive change through culturally suitable services that raise awareness and help prevent issues affecting women and children.

Youth and women’s advocate Rubie Nhongo, of Craigieburn, said the group hoped to decipher what Hume women wanted and needed and whether it was possible to start up a refuge.

Ms Nhongo said there weren’t enough resources for migrants in the area, with a project under way to develop a needs analysis for women and children and suggest ways to boost access to services.

According to Ms Nhongo, cultural-specific issues included domestic/family violence, immigration, forced marriage, honour-based violence and abuse, such as dowry abuse.

“It is a very big problem,” she said.

“It’s under our noses and we don’t really pay attention to it. (People) feel like services won’t help them or they feel like services won’t understand.”

They now hope to come up with a service plan to better advocate for funding and support.

“We want to interview women — go directly to the women from African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities and ask what they want, what they need; really be honest about what they’re not getting in Hume,” Ms Nhongo said.

“In our community it’s controversial just going out there and seeking help and actually trying to stop this violence.”

In many African, Asian and Middle Eastern communities, women are made to feel “weak” if they speak out against violence in the home, but need to know their rights, Ms Nhongo said.

“If I’m hearing a woman’s story, I can see it in my culture too; we have similarities and we have understandings of what goes on,” she said.

“We want women to speak up and we want women to stand up for what they believe (in).

“We want women to be independent and empowered, we want them to be strong and we want women to be educated.”

The project is funded by Hume Council and ends on June 30.

To take part, call 9639 3131, email melbourne@shaktiaustralia.org.au

Culled from HeraldSun.Com.AU

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