In our second post about UK charities that are doing brilliant work against forced marriage, we have chosen to focus on IKWRO. IKWRO is a women’s rights organisation that is committed to providing non-judgemental support to Middle Eastern and Afghani women and girls. Founded in 2002 they work with the issues of forced marriage, ‘honour’-based violence, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and Sharia law in the UK.
Through doing this they protect these women’s rights and equality, combat discrimination and violence, and empower women to access and use their rights and entitlements in the UK. They help over 2200 women annually, with the demand continuing to grow as these issues are increasingly reported in the UK.
Importantly they give advice on the above issues without judgement in 7 languages — Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Dari, Pashtu and English! By examining the options open with their clients, they help individuals in difficult situations to make decisions, either in person or over the phone and can also provide confidential clinics. They are a vital step in victims reaching out for help and finding a trustworthy source of unbiased information. IKWRO are also involved in referrals to other services and for services through their translation work or providing expert evidence in court.
IKWRO has a free counselling service that available in four languages — Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic and English which allows clients to discuss their experiences and emotions in a confidential manner to support and guide. They also provide employment opportunities, training to help women and girls understand their rights in the UK, and English language classes so that victims can be independent, especially financially, in the UK. It is also a great way for women and girls to meet others with similar experiences and build their skills and confidence. IKWRO can also provide a refuge, safe accommodation and specialist support, to single women who are at risk.
This training is also available for professionals from the public and voluntary sector too, which helps improve their work if they encounter victims of forced marriage, honour-based abuse and female genital mutilation, and enables the development of strategies to best respond to harmful practices. This is important as victims may be hard to reach and situations can be complicated by circumstances of English level, immigration status and the types of violence one may experience.
IKWRO also campaigning for better laws and policies, not just helping girls directly but also making changes at local and national level. In 2012 they successfully campaigned for the criminalisation of forced marriage (something that they had been campaigning for since 2006), which led to a 66% increase in reporting to the police. In 2010 they prevented local London authorities from cutting funds and successfully challenged the ‘No Recourse To Public Funds Rule’ with a group of 27 women’s and human rights groups, so that women who come into the UK on a spousal visa and experience domestic violence are able to access protection.
Current campaigns include working on an explicit law to ban all child marriage, as no explicit criminal law exists for any age (even under 16). They are also proposing raising the age for registering marriage from 16 to 18, as this would reduce forced ‘legal’ child marriages.
IKWRO is also calling on the UK government to step up its response and implement its commitments by more effectively enforcing existing laws on honour-based abuse and female genital mutilation. Finally, they are running a ‘Right To Know’ campaign, for schools to have the prevention of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation in their safeguarding procedures. They are requesting that school staff are trained to understand and spot the signs, as well as students being educated on their right not to face these issues and be aware that support is available.
It is fortunate that IKWRO, Karma Nirvana and many other great charities are working both with the victims of forced marriage and against it happening in the future. Please lend your support to them and spread awareness about forced marriage and related issues by sharing this article or informing those around you.
If you are in the UK and need assistance by IKWRO please call the confidential helpline:
Mon to Fri 9.30–5.30 0207 920 6460
For out-of-hours emergencies call
Kurdish / Arabic/English: 07846 275246
Farsi / Dari / English: 07846 310157
If you are in immediate danger dial 999