Latin American Women's Rights Service

London

Latin American Women's Rights Service

“The Transform programme gave us the tools to run a successful campaign. The training and support from Lloyds Bank Foundation helped us develop a strategy and Theory of Change, breaking down what we want to achieve and how to do it.” - Illary Valenzuela Oblitas, Violence Against Women and Girls Coordinator, Latin American Women’s Rights Service

Illary Valenzuela Oblitas is the Violence Against Women and Girls Policy Coordinator at Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS). The charity runs one of 16 projects we’ve helped fund through Transform: our grants programme for strengthening the domestic and sexual abuse sectors.

With the help of our grant and support around influencing, LAWRS were able to develop their campaign, Step Up Migrant Women. Illary says:

“Step Up Migrant Women was born from the need to highlight the experiences of migrant women in the UK who are survivors of abuse and exploitation.

“In November 2017 a migrant woman, a victim of trafficking and rape, went to the NHS for help. They reported her to the police and the Home Office, and she was arrested and interrogated that same day.

“Reporting domestic abuse should not be more dangerous than staying with the perpetrator. Our campaign aims to establish a firewall between support services and immigration control, so no woman is questioned over her immigration status before she can access safety and support.

“The Transform programme gave us the tools to run a successful campaign. The training and support from Lloyds Bank Foundation helped us develop a strategy and Theory of Change, breaking down what we want to achieve and how to do it.

“Lloyds Bank Foundation’s funding meant we could finance research with King’s College London, interviewing 50 survivors of abuse with insecure immigration status. Two thirds felt the police wouldn’t believe them because of their legal status and more than half had been threatened with deportation by their perpetrators if they went to the police.

“We used this evidence to persuade local and national policymakers of the need for better protections for migrant women in policy and practice. For example, in August the Mayor of London asked the Home Secretary to protect migrant victims of crime; in December the National Police Chiefs Council launched a new policy recognising the vulnerability of migrant women reporting to the police.

“We also logged our first ever super-complaint to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, in partnership with Liberty and Southall Black Sisters, based on dozens of cases we collected of women being discriminated against because of data sharing between the police and the Home Office.

“Our campaign has even facilitated migrant women survivors speaking on TV and in Parliament and featured in mainstream newspapers as part of International Women’s Day.

“We’re proud of what Step Up Migrant Women has achieved so far. We know women are not vulnerable, we are made vulnerable by anti-migrant policies and lack of avenues of support, and we’ll keep campaigning until we’ve ensured equal protection for all the migrant and refugee women who are suffering in silence.”