Each year, as Christmas approaches, we ask our friends and supporters to kindly donate to an appeal for destitute women from the All African Women’s Group (AAWG), one of the organisations based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. We write now again to ask for your help.
This year our struggle to make visible the extent and devastating impact of poverty on women and children has been helped by a UN Rapporteur whose scathing condemnation of the government’s “‘punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous’ austerity policies” was headline news. He reported that women had been targeted by the cuts and that levels of child poverty were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”. It was as if the welfare cuts had been designed by a “group of misogynists”, he said.
AAWG members gave evidence including Trinity who was quoted in the press telling the Rapporteur that: “A lot of women are forced into poverty and into prostitution. I have been destitute and homeless from one place to another.” She added that she had survived an attempted rape from the husband of a friend she was staying with and “had boiling water poured on her when she resisted.” She and her child eat from food banks and “everything I’m wearing, apart from my hair, is from jumble sales“.
As we prepared this appeal, another member asked for her experience to be included:
“I live on £32 [asylum support payments] which I get from the Post Office each week. My asylum claim was refused but I can’t go back because I will be killed. I now live with a woman who gave me some kind words when she saw me upset at a bus stop. Her children love me and I take care of them. My room in her house is so small it only fits a bed and my bag. I only eat the most basic cornmeal; I haven’t bought clothes for myself for nearly 10 years.”
At the last AAWG meeting women commended Trinity and other women for their bravery in speaking publicly about deeply humiliating experiences and commented that the strength of AAWG was one reason that despite all she recounted Trinity was able to describe herself and others like her as “survivors”.
Each AAWG meeting reveals victories – both large and small. Women also attend work sessions and learn, firstly from each other, how to summarise their case and the injustices they have suffered. They then use that summary to find a lawyer, ask their doctor for assistance or find backing from others to pursue their claim or get it back on track. This is anti-poverty, anti-destitution work.
The loudest cheer is always when women, finally, win their status and can go on to work and/or receive welfare benefits, and/or be reunited with their children. But getting there usually takes years, and during that time many women are denied all support. They are left destitute, dependent on the compassion and indignation of others to survive and pursue their rights.
We understand that the people we are asking for money, are also struggling financially and may also be living in poverty. We ask you to give whatever you can manage to help women get through the holiday period when they can’t come as regularly to the Women’s Centre for food, warmth and support.
Legal Action for Women works closely with the All African Women’s Group to distribute the money. We aim to ensure that women get the equivalent of one week’s mainstream benefits, including the amounts for children where applicable. There are no administration costs. Every penny raised will go to women and children and even a little bit can make an enormous difference.
How to donate:
1. Click here to donate to the Asylum Appeal administered on our behalf by the charity Crossroads Women – please specify “Asylum Appeal” in the message box. All donations can be gift-aided.
2. Money transfer to our account: Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number 50728361, sort code 086001. If possible, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
3. By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the “Asylum Appeal” and send to Crossroads Women’s Centre 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX.
If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated. They can be delivered any weekday before 16 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town.