Gypsy and Traveller women with experience of domestic abuse and discrimination at the hands of social services talked about their experiences at a workshop organised by London Gypsies and Travellers in partnership with the Traveller Movement at the end of February.
The event, held at the LGT office, was part of a series of workshops delivered by the Traveller Movement, centred around a screening of their film about domestic abuse, “Never Going to Beat You”.
This followed the death of a young Traveller woman who had taken her own life after her son had been taken into care by social services. “It raised a lot of upset and anger within the community, and I was approached by a passionate activist called Ann Marie, who asked what we were going to do about it,” says Geraldine Lindsay, LGT’s Skills Co-ordinator, who also runs the Phoenix Arise project, which supports women with experience of domestic abuse.
“I felt this was a prime opportunity to gather the women together who I have been working with through Phoenix Arise and invite Ann Marie along to the screening and then follow it with a round table discussion.”
The event generated lively discussion about the film. In turn, it created a safe place for women to reflect on what was happening in their own lives without having to recount the specifics of their own cases.
“The workshop provided recognition for our Phoenix Arise programme,” says Geraldine. “However, the biggest achievement was giving the women a voice. We could hear their stories and witness the passion and fire. They had to do something to try and change the ongoing discrimination, educate policy makers and make it mandatory that social services workers receive competence training. They need to be more aware of the challenges that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities face daily.”
“The discussion also led to a recognition of the need for GRT community members to support each other. We discussed training women from the community to enter the fields of advocacy and foster care, for example, and having a more recognised role.”
LGT aims to follow this up with more workshops, discussions with other organisations and funding bids to further develop Phoenix Arise and provide a training/mentoring programme for the women.
Two of the women involved in the discussion went on to be on the panel for the launch of the Traveller Movement Domestic Abuse Good Practice Guide on 10th March, pictured above.
As a result of the partnership between the organisations on this issue, LGT, Traveller Movement and Irish in Britain have set up a GRT Advice Workers Forum which was launched at the start of April.