Sarbjit Ganger is Director of the Asian Women’s Resource Centre, a specialist women’s organisation based in the London Borough of Brent which provides holistic, independent, specialist and dedicated support services to Black, Minority, Ethnic and Refugee (BMER) women and children experiencing abuse. Sarbjit has over 20 years' experience working to end violence against women and girls.
What made you decide to work with victims and survivors of domestic abuse?
I am passionate about supporting Black Minority, Ethnic (BME) women who have experienced domestic abuse. I have seen the impact that domestic abuse can have on the lives of women and children and I wanted to make a difference.
Asian women who leave a violent situation and speak out about domestic abuse are often stigmatised by their community and extended families, and as separated or divorced women, they face social isolation. Consequently many women remain in abusive relationships, putting their physical safety at risk and damaging their self-esteem and confidence which often leads to self-harm and attempted suicide. South Asian women, particularly those who are more isolated, are not aware of their rights and entitlements consequently experience difficulties accessing services.
How have things changed during your time at the AWRC?
In the 1980s, around the time the AWRC was set up, we had a thriving and vibrant women’s sector. If a woman rang up saying that she had experienced domestic abuse and needed refuge accommodation, we could ring the helpline and get a space immediately. Now, it can take up to two weeks to find refuge space (if we are lucky) and if women have no recourse to public funds it’s becomes even more difficult.
This is a sign of the way that things have changed. Declining resources have been hard hitting on both the voluntary and statutory sectors. This has in turn has impacted on the lives of women and children.
What keeps you going when the work gets tough?
The smile on a women’s face when she tells you that the AWRC has given her a new lease of life, and that if it was not for the AWRC that they would still be living in a violent situation.
What are you most proud of in your work so far?
The fact that the organisation has supported hundreds of thousands of BME women and children to live free from domestic abuse.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone considering this career, what would it be?
Sadly, there is still a lot of work to do because there are many women who are still suffering in silence, unaware of available services and who to turn to for support. It is an absolute privilege and honour to work with these women and if you want to give vulnerable and disadvantaged women a voice and address inequality, I would say go for it.
Zarreen, a caseworker at the AWRC, says: 'Sarbjit inspires me daily to strive to help women who have suffered any sort of abuse and violence. Her passion is infectious and her determination is undeniable, as she not only encourages us to do our best to help empower women and children but to also engage in community education and awareness, through which change in attitudes can be brought about.'
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