Back to index of Nerve 19 - Winter 2011

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.

By Tracey Dunn and Val Walsh

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
Oh my gosh! This article has just made me burst into tears as I'm so glad that Refuge pulled out and the funding has been given to Amadudu instead. I believe that this is how it should have been all along. Why destroy a long established organisation who specialise in offering refuge and support to BMR women in favour for one that is new to the area and doesn't specialise, when there are already several other facilities like that in the city? Despite being a white woman, I organisations such as Amadudu, as I understand that BMR women have even greater challenges to overcome when leaving thier abusive partners/families, due to the shame and honour that their family believes it brings upon them and cultural differences. This can cause further blocks to victims escaping from their situations as ther eis the added fear of honour based retaliation crimes. Some of these women have hardly ever mixed with women from other races before and therefore may find it difficult to feel safe and comfortable in the company of women from outside their own community, especially if language is a further barrier. So I think it is right to have specialist organisations such as this in the city. I have been in abusive relationships before, so I understand what it is like to want to leave the situation, but not know how to do that realistically. I wish that I'd turned to someone for help rather than endure it for ten years of my life, but I didn't even think about contacting any organisations at the time. I've also seen a heavily pregnant Somalie woman being shouted at, pushed to her feet and almost beaten with a piece of the railings, attached to a lump of concrete, that was pull off the top of the wall outside the house I was living in at the time, by what the police later told me was her husband. Thankfully, I shouted at him as soon as he pushed her over and stopped him from doing anything more. I took her inside whilst I called the police, as I won't tolerate that kind of behaviour from any man anymore. I was shocked however, that despite the woman not being able to speak English at all, so she wasn't able to explain her side of the story to any of us, the police took her husbands word on the matter and believed his story that him and his family were concerned for her, as she was having mental health problems and was refusing to go home and look after her other children. As there were previous reports on record of her huband trying to ask to get her sectioned, they believe him and sent her home with him, despite her begging and pleeding with me to let her stay with me. I felt aweful. I didn't want to send her home to what could result in even more violence behind closed doors, but the police weren't making provisions for her either. It wasn't my job to put this stranger up in my home and I felt that I was potentially putting myself and maybe even my personal belongings at risk, by doing that, as I didn't know her or her background, so I didn't know what to do. I felt that the only option being offered was to either let her stay or let the police take her home again. In hindsight, I wish I'd expressed my concerns to them and insisted on getting someone who could speak her language involved to investigate further, but sometimes the police are intimidating and the situation was awkward so I wasn't thinking straight. Afterwards I felt angry that they didn't take her to the police station for further questioning away from my home and where adequate resources could be provided. I felt sucked into her drama, when all I wanted was her safety, not to be her carer. I tell you, I worried about her safety for days. I prayed that her husband and family didn't hurt her for her actions. I felt guilty for not standing up for her more and I feared the worst. I will never forget how he ripped that railing and concrete off my wall and how he looked as he held it in his arm ready to hit her with it. Does that sound like the kind of guy who was just concerned for his wife's mental problems health to you? No! That is why this news has touched me so markedly anyway and I am truly happy and relieved that Amadudu will remain in service to the EMR women of Liverpool for a few more years yet. Congratulations and happy belated International Womens Day/Amadudu's birthday. Keep up the good work and I wish you many more years of helping women in need here in Liverpool. All the best, Louise.

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