Success for Amadudu
Tracey visited the Amadudu Refuge, a house in an ethnically diverse area of Liverpool, where women and their children from Black and Racial Minority (BRM) communities stay, to escape and recover from domestic violence. Amadudu (which means 'of colour') was opened on International Women's Day 1990.
A women's refuge: safety, support, opportunity
Amadudu Refuge provides a peaceful and comfortable environment. The women who run and work at Amadudu Refuge are all black women, skilled in the areas needed to provide quality refuge provision. Residents and ex-residents are encouraged to train for inclusion in the Board of Trustees, or gain work experience with different aspects of running the Refuge, like childcare and administration. In addition, the women are given practical support, including budgeting on a low income, and some women need help coping with the outside world. After many years of being controlled at home, it can be difficult to make decisions in the best interests of the family.
The Amadudu model of practice is holistic and person-centred: to provide not just physical safety, but opportunities for personal development and empowerment.
Women can self refer for a stay or they can have agency referrals from the police, social services or health professionals, like doctors. Sometimes women are unable to access the service, and they may be referred somewhere more suitable to their needs, for example if they are experiencing a mental health crisis or are dependent on alcohol or drugs and are unwilling to take up support for their addiction. Amadudu work with other agencies who provide specialist support for women.
Looking to the future: building on past experience
Despite the cuts imposed by the Tory-led coalition, Labour-led Liverpool City Council has committed funding for the next three years for the provision of refuge for women from BRM communities, and Councillor Joe Anderson is very supportive of the ethos of Amadudu as an organisation.
In 2006/7, Amadudu approached a couple of housing associations with the recognised need to provide purpose-built accommodation. Cosmopolitan took up the offer and applied to the Homes and Communities Agency for funding for the new build. The City Council put the contract to deliver the service out to tender (a European ruling), which meant that whoever was awarded the contract would occupy the new building.
When Amadudu's bid came just behind that of REFUGE, a well established, London-based provider, with a turnover of £10 million, shock, disappointment and fear were felt throughout the community. On 4th October, Amadudu turned to its supporters (service users, former service users and staff, local organisations and individual service providers with whom they had worked, as well as other concerned local women and men) to mount a campaign to challenge the decision. On 17th October, Val attended what had been billed as a campaign meeting for Amadudu supporters at Kuumba Imani. It was an emotional experience.
It became clear that this was no longer a campaign meeting, but a celebration. Kerry Nugent, Amadudu Refuge Manager, and Beverley Williams, Amadudu Chair, announced that they had received a phone call from the City Council only an hour earlier, with the news that REFUGE had pulled out, having decided that to take up this contract in Liverpool would not be financially viable for them. The City Council was therefore very pleased to award the contract to Amadudu for the provision of a women's refuge in the new building. At which point the room erupted in jubilation.
The importance of collective action
It was a privilege to be party to this occasion, celebrating the achievements of women, who believe in themselves and their work, had not accepted defeat, but organised in order to stay in business, in the interests of local women at their most vulnerable. In a meeting at the Refuge the following week, Kerry Nugent and Roni Adams explained how, as a locally based, women-led service, run in and for the community, Amadudu also offers substantial (unfunded) aftercare (outreach). Pertinent to the local community, is the fact that Amadudu provides refuge for women involved in forced marriage and as victims of honour-based violence.
The City Council's decision reinforces the importance of local continuity, of supporting communities to take responsibility for their own needs. The talent, the expertise and the commitment exist inside our local communities. Honouring this involves trust (and good judgement) on the part of local politicians, and an implicit transfer of power into the community itself: these are vital steps in sustaining strong and healthy communities.
As well as being a good outcome for Amadudu and the community, the story of their defeat then success provides lessons for others struggling to defend places, communities and services, at a time of seemingly wholesale demolition and destruction of the post-war welfare settlement (education, housing, health, social care, etc.). It reminds us that it is possible to achieve against the odds. If we give up in the face of overwhelming cuts, vested interests, etc., we lose more than if we link arms to save, protect and develop our services and our communities. The determination, stamina and courage of the women of Amadudu (as service providers and service users) is an inspiration for us all.
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Comment left by Louise Mills on 10th March, 2012 at 10:08
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