When Shakti Women’s Aid received an email from Rashida* saying, “I am here alone in this country with no recourse to public funds, no family, friends or support… I am in urgent need for your help,” her story was neither new nor surprising.
As one of the 18 projects working with survivors of domestic abuse awarded £6.5M from the Big Lottery Fund today Shakti Women’s Aid, who specialise in supporting black minority ethnic women dealing with domestic abuse, have been awarded £549,740. This vital funding will allow them to help more women just like Rashida across Scotland. Here Rashida tells why the work Shakti do is so important.
“I am Rashida and I live in Aberdeen. I am from North Africa and moved to Scotland after I married my husband. My husband had sponsored my visa which allowed me to come and live with him. We lived together in our own home. I didn’t work. My husband was emotionally and physically abusive towards me
“One November night, he physically assaulted me and I had a serious head injury. I phoned the police and my husband was arrested and charged. He was removed from the property and there were bail conditions that prevented him from coming home. The next day I discovered that I was pregnant.
“I had only been in the UK for a year. I had no idea of the legal system or any other services that were there for me. I was here alone in this country with no recourse to public funds, no family, friends or support.
“I had been given a list of women’s agencies to contact which I did but Shakti Women’s Aid was the only one that was active and responsive. Despite the distance between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, where Shakti is based, my key worker was able to offer me significant emotional and practical assistance.
“Shakti recognised I needed to see an immigration solicitor immediately as my husband could have written to the home office and revoked my visa. No one had suggested that I do this. I had an appointment the next week and it couldn’t have been better timed as I learnt later that my husband had written to the Home Office to stop my visa. However, in time, my immigration solicitor was able to resolve the matter and help me get residency.
“Prior to contacting Shakti on my own, I had contacted a family solicitor to facilitate a separation and divorce. The solicitor managed to get my husband to agree to pay a monthly maintenance for £200 a month for living expenses and an agreement to pay the mortgage and utilities. A few months later, he stopped paying me the money. He disconnected the phone and I wasn’t able to call anyone in case of an emergency. I was terrified that my husband might stop paying for gas and electricity and the mortgage. I would become homeless! I was alone in this country with nowhere to go and no money.
“It was Shakti who came to the rescue again. My key worker travelled to Aberdeen and met with my solicitor to make him realise the urgency of my situation as all my attempts had failed.
“However, it was not always easy for us. There were times when I had no money to eat and was terrified of what would happen to me.
“Despite the challenges, my key worker at Shakti Women’s Aid was calm, resilient and optimistic even in the most desperate and complicated situations. Shakti Women’s Aid understood and empathised with my experience. Shakti has a deep knowledge of the barriers I faced in accessing services and the shame that prevented me from returning to North Africa as a divorced single mother
“I am settled now. I don’t have any concerns about my immigration status and am financially settled. I cannot reiterate enough the difference the help and support from my key worker made to my life and the life of my daughter. The joy of life I am experiencing with my daughter in this country is attributed to my key worker’s support and Shakti’s commitment.”
*Rashida is not her real name