The community grant partnerships is a strategic initiative to help us shift power for grant decision making to local community organisations, the majority of which are led by and for women. Smallwood provides a block grant including overhead costs, an operational toolkit and evaluation support to the partner organisation who then award grants to individual women integrated with their specialist support services.
Our latest community grant project Spotlight article features an interview with Yasmin Khan from the Halo Project Charity.
Please can you introduce the Halo Project Charity?
I am Yasmin Khan, the founder and director of the Halo Project Charity which started over a decade ago as a response to meeting the needs of diverse groups who were very vulnerable and experiencing harm such as honour-based violence, forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). We have been able to be the voice of these victims in challenging services who were not meeting their needs as well as setting up a program and a refuge for them.
What attracted you to the community grant programme?
We felt there was a real synergy in what we are trying to achieve in our communities and the simple approach in terms of what your objectives were for your grants pot. The programme enabled us to work with a provider that really understood what we were about and we didn't have to be the most amazing bid writers or be a national charity. We are a very small and unique charity that is very much focused on supporting communities locally, driven by their involvement, so our identity was embraced and it enabled us to deal with deep rooted issues and to try to embed long lasting change.
How have you found this programme has complemented Halo’s goals in supporting women who have experienced illegal cultural harms?
I think it’s supported them immensely as the abuse they've experienced has made them feel like they are worth nothing, that they have no rights and that their future is going to be one of pain and misery. This grant has been able to give them hope and a purpose to come out the other side by taking small steps.
This grants programme has really enabled us to focus on the individual and let them know how we can support them, not only now but continually. We can tell their story to the other services who should then provide the level of support they need after us, so we’ve been able to give them a transition model and that’s what’s really unique about this programme.
We are really overwhelmed and delighted with the support that Smallwood has given us. It’s given us the opportunity to really focus on meeting more needs of communities as we come out of the pandemic.
Do you find that other services are not meet the needs of the women you support?
Absolutely and we are involved in a serious case review where a family has been failed because organisational systems and processes haven't encountered the kind of abuse with these communities before, so it's about challenging organisations to make the right decisions. Language is not always the problem, there’s an issue around culture and race and it's been really important that we are able to ensure women’s rights are upheld.
Part of your work within this programme goes towards your refuge and crisis service. Can you tell us more about what that is and the role of the individual grants within that project?
There's lots of work going on nationally regarding the lack of support for women with no recourse to public funds. Migrant women, who have come over here on a spousal visa, have experienced horrific abuse from their partner but have been threatened with being deported by the partner and the partner’s family if they make a referral.
The local authorities have a Destitute and Violence Fund but that involves copious amounts of paperwork and the length of time it takes to complete and be awarded is really damaging to the victim. Having a refuge in Middlesbrough that enables women to be safe and not worry about making the disclosure or worry about being deported makes such a difference. They are in a safe environment where our staff can support them straight away.
Without the funding, we wouldn't have been able to provide our dedicated service for victims who don't have any money or, because of their immigration status, are not eligible for certain levels of benefits. The crisis fund has also given us the opportunity to build up quite a good network for refugees and asylum seekers in terms of the resources that they can be building into their overall support plan.
Where do you see the individual grants having the most impact?
Firstly, it has helped us support so many more women than we could have without the grant, but it’s also really helped us challenge organisations. We've been able to speak through the voice of the survivor about decisions that organisations have made, especially those decisions that have been ill-informed and where they haven’t listened to survivors.
We have a project called the Halo Exhale which is a six week program that focuses on supporting issues such as post traumatic stress disorder caused by FGM and providing a deeper understanding of the shame felt through honour-based abuse and sexual abuse. We can listen to survivors through a trauma informed lens and that's been something that's been really pertinent to the grant.
We also have a project called The Circle of Friends that has been invaluable, especially in the refuge, where women who have come into the service have had peer-to-peer support. It’s also been really beneficial to those that have been on our programme for a while too.
What’s the best way people can support you at this time?
We need partners, ambassadors and change-makers to really embed what we see is our vision to make this area one of the safest places for a woman to be in. We want everyone to be involved because it's everybody's business, we can't change this by ourselves. We need male members of society to come along and be leaders and we need women and professionals who are volunteers to come and speak about the benefits of a particular project that’s working to address a specific problem within the community.
We need support from people making policies, decisions and taking actions to improve the lives of our women and for people who are upholding the rule of law to make sure that they understand and listen to our survivors. We also need women in the community to not be bystanders of this abuse.
If you can be that change-maker, if you are not willing to be a bystander and instead challenge that behaviour and want to work with the Halo Project then we want to work with you. If we have a healthy society, then we have a healthy economy and we can't disengage the two so we need everybody to work together to create a society we all want to live in.
It's very important that we have a balance of people from all walks of life and we are a very inclusive organisation that wants to make sure that we get people around with the right kind of skills and passion. We can't train passion but we can certainly train individuals.
To find out more about the Halo Project please visit: https://www.haloproject.org.uk/