2013/14 has presented a wealth of both challenges and opportunities for Women’s Aid Federation NI and we are delighted to report that we have risen to the challenges and positioned ourselves strategically to avail of opportunities.
It has been a year that has witnessed an unprecedented increase in levels of work across all areas, including in training, policy, campaigning, in our partnership working and of course in our 24 Hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline.
We have maintained and developed our position as the lead agency addressing domestic violence and have extended our service provision through our Helpline expansion to include support provision for victims of sexual violence.
The 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline was officially launched at Stormont Hotel on Wednesday 5 March 2014. This was an exciting development for Women’s Aid in Northern Ireland, having always recognised the interconnectedness of domestic and sexual violence and abuse in all areas of service provision. To support this key development, Women’s Aid Federation NI led on the roll out of accredited training – The Role of the Domestic and Sexual Violence Practitioner, delivering this to 51 Women’s Aid staff members.
We have continued to ensure domestic and sexual violence remain high on the public agenda by utilising all opportunities to keep abreast of, and to influence, all government policy developments. Throughout 2013/14 we responded to 24 government policies. We wholeheartedly welcomed Government’s decision to produce a combined strategy to address both domestic and sexual violence and abuse, Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse in Northern Ireland 2013 – 2020 and were delighted to draw upon our expertise as the lead agency addressing domestic and sexual violence in Northern Ireland to critically analyse the draft document and provide government with a comprehensive and clear response.
We are privileged to have worked in partnership with our nine member groups to achieve our collective vision of eliminating domestic, sexual and all forms of gender-based violence and abuse. As Director of Women’s Aid NI, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our highly skilled Federation staff team and the dedicated staff and volunteers of Women’s Aid groups across Northern Ireland. Thanks are also due to the Federation Management Board for their continued commitment and strategic leadership.
We know there is still much to be done and while it has been a progressive and successful year, we are aware of the challenges that lie ahead, particularly in relation to sustainability. However, we recognise the vital role we play, in creating positive change on a daily basis for thousands of women and children who are experiencing violence and abuse and it is in this knowledge that we move forward with optimism and determination.