A safe, just and equal world for women

Looking to the future

This blog entry was written in collaboration with staff across Advance and reflects on this years Black History Month theme, 'Action, not words'. Black History Month helps us protect spaces for Black people, spaces where we can centre Black voices and validate Black experiences to drive actions, and not just words
Every October, organisations across the UK celebrate Black History Month. It is important to use this time to reflect, to learn and to create open dialogue about black history, heritage and culture and how systemic and institutional racism works to compound inequality. We must understand that the marginalisation of any person affects us all. We must commit to Action not Words, and moreover, continue to discuss and consider all year round, not just for one month at year.
Time for Change: Action Not Words

Advance has made a long-standing commitment to facilitating open dialogue and education, even when the subject might seem difficult. This month, as part of Black History Month Margaret Ochieng from the Inclusive Village spoke to us in workshops designed to make us think and sometimes feel a little uncomfortable (she said that this is progress and important!) including:

  • A deeper awareness around Black anti-racism, progress, and emerging issues which highlight how racism may still be experienced in workplaces across the UK
  • How such experiences may impact staff, service users or stakeholders
  • Identifying, releasing and committing to actions that may still remain “trapped inside words, catch-phrases and performative undertakings” at individual and systemic levels
  • Micro-representation
Margaret Ochieng said:
Where there is very little anti-racism awareness and overall low self-awareness, people avoid creating or engaging in spaces where they can have productive, truthful, unreduced anti-racism conversations. Black History Month helps us protect spaces for Black people, spaces where we can centre Black voices and validate Black experiences to drive actions, and not just words.

As a women’s charity whose purpose is to support women and girls who experience domestic abuse, and those who are, or are at risk of contact with the criminal justice system, we know that women’s intersecting identities can impact their ability to access support across public and charitable services. We know that inequalities in the criminal justice system mean that black, Asian, minoritised and migrant women are affected disproportionately. We know that women can experience re-victimisation from systems built to support ALL of us and structures of oppression based on race and ethnicity can compound this experience further.

Women and girls must have access to support services which understand and meet their needs and it is because of this that we partner with specialist ‘by and for’ organisations across all our services, to improve access to support for all women and children who face additional barriers and institutional racism.

It is vital that ALL women’s voices are at the centre of everything we do, and therefore we need to  dedicate space, resources, and power to centring the experiences of the women we support from every race, ethnicity, religion, age group, physical ability, sexual orientation and status to improve Advance’s response to staff and services users.

Advance Engagement Officer said:
“As Advance’s Engagement Officer, I aim to involve and engage all women we support in our business operations, through service design and set-up, on policy development, service monitoring and evaluation. We ensure to include, that all women’s views from a range of diverse backgrounds are the focus when working with services.  Our plans are to promote the importance of respecting people with different perspectives of their lived experience and challenges within the service & externally

By coproducing with women affected by the criminal justice system and those facing domestic abuse and working jointly with a range of partners from statutory, voluntary, and private sectors we aim to develop and deliver high quality and person-centred support services in the community.”

We believe and understand that diverse voices, inclusivity and centring employee wellbeing is key to Advance’s success in its mission of providing life saving and life-changing services to thousands of women and girls. It is also vital in dismantling a society which systemically discriminates and promotes violence against women and girls.

We have taken steps towards creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive organisation. We have created Diversity Network groups to support staff from different backgrounds. The aim is to create a safe space for feedback and to raise issues to and from every team within Advance.

We regularly carry out People Engagement Survey’s which gives staff the opportunity to share their experiences of working together, celebrate our success/stories and highlight positives and areas we may need to improve within the organisation. The external affairs team continues to work across the organisation to highlight the views and experiences of staff, stakeholders and service users across the organisation including this Black History month:

We asked What does the BHM theme of “actions not words” mean to you?
  1.  “Doing more and talking less: How about extending the theme to  “Black History Throughout the Year”
  2.  “I would love to see ethnic minority women within the coming year all feel that they are able to approach agencies without feeling that there are so many barriers that they have to face and without the fear of being treated differently. I would also love to see that they feel seen and heard and not pre-judged. By knowing that there is women that can identify with them I hope that they feel more able to approach all services that they need .”

As well as a commitment to improved equality, diversity and inclusivity (EDI) within our organisation, we are committed to providing an environment where staff can learn and build skills, so that they can flourish, grow and develop within Advance via routes such as secondments, transfers and promotion.

Director of People and Organisational Development, Shade Odupelu:
“Black History Month has given us time and space to reflect on this important issue but  we understand that Advance still has a long way to go to ensure that we create the right environment to attract and retain the right talent into our organisation.  We have developed our EDI strategy that will help us deliver on this priority and creating safe spaces for people to have open and meaningful discussion, education and challenge each other for the greater good of our organisation. We believe by learning and respecting each other we will bring innovation, collaboration, reduce mistakes and bring people from different backgrounds working together, to serve  women and girls.

We will continue to prioritise intersectionality, equity, equality, and diversity in our organisation, as we implement our annual plans and will continue to co-design with the employees, volunteers, trustees and service users. We are committed to standing with movements for racial and social justice and to fighting for our vision of a safe, violence-free and equal world for every one of us.”

More info:

Donate to racial and social justice groups: Consider our partners:

Educate yourself and others

About Advance
  • Advance’s vision is a world in which women and children lead safe, equal, violence-free lives so that they can flourish and actively contribute to society. The charity works with women who experience domestic abuse to be safe and take control of their lives, and women who have committed crime or are at risk of offending to break the cycle.
  • As well as providing direct support, Advance works with statutory services, government agencies and other women’s charities to ensure a holistic approach to the issues these women face.
  • Women must be referred to Advance, via statutory services or the charity’s self-referral scheme. For more information about who Advance is able to support, please visit Contact us 
  • For facts and statistics about domestic abuse and women in the criminal justice system, as well as Advance’s work, please visit our Research page
  • To read more about Advance’s Criminal Justice services, Domestic abuse service and Young Women and Girls please see What we do
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