Cllr Mohammed Seedat is the Cabinet Member for Jobs, Skills and Community Safety (job share), and a councillor in Streatham Wells ward.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2019 is a worldwide UN initiative and takes place on the 25th of November.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a violation of a women’s fundamental human rights and it can take multiple forms, such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, trafficking, sexual exploitation, harassment and other – all types of abuse women and girls are far more likely to face compared to men, and most often perpetrated by men against women
Addressing VAWG remains one of Lambeth Council’s priorities – every year in Lambeth over 1500 women (and their children) require extensive support due to abuse, and a significant factor in violence amongst children is witnessing abuse in the home.
Lambeth Council has maintained funding for VAWG services at 2012 levels, even though government budget cuts have put public services under significant financial pressure. However, having VAWG services is not a legal duty. As a result, funding for refuge beds, emergency services and enforcement activities has required both creative funding solutions and proactive fundraising through grants and partnership working.
The Gaia Centre, established by the council and its partners, is the focal point for women and girls who need support and sometimes escape from violence. A further 52 refuge beds with full support are also funded to ensure no women and her children are left in danger.
The innovative victim-support work by the Gaia Centre has been emulated in other parts of London, and now nominated by the Local Government Chronicle in the ‘Best Service Delivery Model’ category for its 2020 awards.
We have committed to prioritise raising awareness and providing support for victims of female genital mutilation (FGM). To support this we are funding a specialist FGM provider, Africa Advocacy Foundation, to provide training, recruitment of champions, advocacy, casework and counselling. FGM has a profound impact on women, girls, families and their communities. As the borough with the fifth highest rate of FGM in London, we must continue to prioritise tackling this practice and we must work with victims and our communities. This week we are hosting an event in which we will discuss with practitioners and victims of FGM how we could consolidate our efforts and reduce the number of new cases we encounter in the borough. In the last year, medical professionals have identified over 6400 girls and women who had undergone FGM.
We are due to launch our next VAWG strategy in 2020 and are in the process of consulting survivors, practitioners and the community on what areas to prioritise. We are determined to ensure that more residents, especially survivors, get involved in the co-production process. There is so much left for the government to do as well as rape convictions are at their lowest level since records began (1925 out of 58,000 allegations last year) and funding has been dramatically reduced and is not sustainable. One woman suffering from violence is one too many, and we will do all we can eliminate violence against women and girls in our borough.
Cllr Mohammed Seedat