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At the intersection of two pandemics – Paul Blomfield and Ashiana raise awareness of domestic violence for International Women’s Day

Portrait of Paul Blomfield

Sheffield’s BAMER communities have suffered a domestic violence pandemic in the face of COVID-19, sparking a 50 per cent rise in charity referrals in the past year.

This statistic has become the central point of this year’s International Women’s Day event hosted by Sheffield Central MP, Paul Blomfield, in collaboration with the Sheffield-based domestic abuse charity, Ashiana.

Mr Blomfield launched the yearly event in 2010 both to celebrate the achievements of women and to recognise the challenges they face.

The event at 7pm tonight will provide a forum for discussion around the increasing prominence of this issue within BAMER (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) communities.

He said: “It’s a very small contribution to an awareness campaign to enable men to change their behaviour and women to have the confidence to report it when they don’t.”

The BAMER communities have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with the cycle of lockdowns and furloughs trapping many BAMER women in volatile situations.

Nicola Lambe, CEO of Ashiana, said: “BAMER women are actually at the intersection of two pandemics, because they’re facing not only the Coronavirus pandemic, but they’re also facing a violence against women and girls pandemic.”

This is only exacerbated by economic inequalities which mean that many of these women do not have access to the phones, internet and data they need to access support now that COVID-19 has forced many charities to move their operations predominantly online.

Government funding, including a grant from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, have been invaluable in allowing Ashiana to fill this technological void and provide vulnerable women with access to phones, credit and data.

The funds have also allowed them to open another 11 refuge beds.

Mrs Lambe said, unfortunately, the current levels of domestic violence meant these were occupied almost as soon as they opened and have remained full throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

While raising further funds is a crucial part of tonight’s event, Mrs Lambe highlighted the equal importance of creating awareness of the situation and the work the charity is doing.

She said: “The main thing people could do is raise awareness, talk to people about what’s available, look out for each other.”

To anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they need help, she added: “Don’t be scared of coming forward, the support’s there, we’re still open and we’ll do everything we can to support you.”

To sign up for tonight’s event and to help them reach their £1000 target, go to: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1zUcdC1wFx9fYPAFbHCvAU8Y5guQ3JVRYmwxGLGNrjXo/viewform?edit_requested=true

To access help, call Ashiana on 0114 255 5740 or go to: www.ashianasheffield.org

Written by Hannah Richardson

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