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Awards highlight work being done to wipe out domestic violence and murder

Our Birds Lilach Bullock (l) and Sarah Arrow (r) with jazz singer Will Young

I was recently delighted to attend the launch event for Women Aid’s Empowering Women Awards 2012 along with fellow Birds Sarah Arrow and Linda Mattacks, hosted by Avon Cosmetics.

The event was held at Soho Hotel in London and it was a real thrill to mix with Alesha Dixon and Will Young. Not to mention the flow of champagne and delicious canapés – and of course let’s not forget the gorgeous goody bags that Avon generously provided.

The annual awards, now in their third year, are designed to recognise the bravery and achievements of women survivors of domestic violence and those who work tirelessly to support women and children affected by abuse. So it was a real honour and privilege to be amongst many incredible women. Whilst the evening was fun it was also very inspirational and humbling. Listening to women who had experienced domestic violence and hearing their stories was very emotional and yet motivational at the same time. Quite a poignant statement that Charlie Webster made was “We aren’t survivors… we’re surviving”.

Alarmingly, one in four women suffers from domestic violence in their lifetime and two women are killed each week by a violent current or former partner.

Sadi Khan, Women Survivor of the Year 2012

I was honoured to get the opportunity to speak with last year’s incredible winner – Sadi Khan, Woman Survivor of the Year. You can read our interview below:

How did it feel winning the award?

“I was absolutely tearful; it was quite hard for me at the beginning. When I first heard it, it was a load of mixed emotions. But as soon as I got up there I was like wow, I can’t believe I’ve been recognised for this, this is really nice and I owe it to my little boy actually. It was a good feeling, it’s been good.”

How has it been afterwards? Has it had a positive or negative effect?

“Massively positive. If I’m honest I’ve done a lot of work in Kashmir before this and always went to communities where there have been problems with the women in there or those being pressured into getting married, so I had always done it locally and in communities or abroad. After the award I thought yes, it’s absolutely true, this is a massive thing in this country and we’ve always assumed it’s a minority and its not. A lot of women go through it. So I was a lot more open in my courses – because I deliver a lot of cultural courses to the workplace. I can talk from my own experience. I’ve been a lot more open because of my award.”

Would you encourage other women and men in similar situations to nominate themselves?

“Oh absolutely. It’s a great event and it’s a positive thing. It’s not a negative thing. OK the negatives are the fact that it’s happened but the fact that you’ve got out of it and survived that story is so fundamental for other people to hear because it sort of sparks them up, and they think oh my God “I can get out of this because look at her or I haven’t got it this bad or they’ve had it worse than me. It’s a different sort of emotion. It’s an empowering emotion so that’s really important.”

What would you say to women who are afraid to speak out, who aren’t telling people at the moment, who maybe reading this blog?

“It’s a difficult one for me when I was in domestic violence, because I’m from an Asian background so in our culture it was things that happened, you don’t speak about it. It was saying this was shameful, embarrassing. It’s a cultural thing. I think it’s important to put it into perspective for those people who are going through it. Definitely speak out. Find a friend that you can confide in. For me, I didn’t do that. I kept it quiet. I didn’t want to leave my family behind so I played it very cleverly. I mean it was the wrong thing to do. I went through violence for a long time. I kept my mouth shut but I got my whole family on board and I stuck it through and said look this is what he’s doing, I can’t live like this and my entire family got me out of it so it was a completely different way of doing it. I don’t recommend that, but you definitely have to talk to somebody.”

“People didn’t understand about Asians; there was a lot of “oh she’s Asian so it’s an arranged marriage…this happens.” In those days it was more acceptable and it’s not now. If I’d have known there is a domestic violence unit near mine where you had culturally trained people I might have gone to them. But I didn’t want an English white person coming to me saying “got to get out” because I would never have done it. It was completely against my thinking and upbringing so it depends on people’s situations. But you have to find a friend, or if you can’t go to an organisation you need to find someone to confide in. If I look back on it, my friend knew about it and even though I wasn’t ready to make that break, he picked up the phone and told my parents and that’s how I got out. It was that friend who had the courage to pick up the phone – and that’s what you need sometimes.”

Lilach (centre) and Sarah (right) with singer Alesha Dixon

If you would like to know more about the valuable work that Women’s Aid does please visit their website here.

To be entered for this year’s awards you can nominate either yourself or someone you know by visiting here up until the 16 July. The finalists will be invited to a ceremony at Claridges in London where their outstanding achievements in the fight against domestic violence will be recognised.