My Life under Lockdown

From 25 November to 10 December, the world will celebrate 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. In a context where the world’s population has been forced to retreat into the homes due to the lockdown measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, marking this occasion is particularly significant this year. Unfortunately, the home is not a safe place for countless women who have found themselves locked in with their abusers and locked out of safety. Reports from around the world show an alarming increase in gender-based violence creating what has been described as a double pandemic.

At Southall Black Sisters, we have responded to the UN 2020 Unite campaign theme: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect”, by gathering our own video diaries, published below. In these diaries, you will hear the voices of six survivors of abuse who we have supported during the Covid-19 pandemic. What they tell us is that the lockdown measures have led to increased risks and vulnerabilities and that black and minority women in particular have been disproportionately impacted. Many have faced heightened forms of abuse and destitution and greater isolation and mental health difficulties that have often been exacerbated by their lack of settled immigration status. In each video, women share their individual stories about the challenges they have and continue to face and their journey to recovery, ending with their hopes and dreams for the future. Read more: #16Days My Life Under Lockdown

10th December 2020

Day 16 of #16Days is Farah who is still waiting for the no recourse condition to be lifted. However, despite her current struggles she is looking forward to the future and hopes to secure steady employment and stability with her housing situation.

“At this point I still have no funding from the government because of my no recourse to public funds. With my caseworker, we are trying to appeal that so we are working on an application. I am trying to get my life sorted” #16DaysOfActivism

9th December 2020

Day 15 of #16Days is Beena who is struggling to cope with the prospect of a second lockdown. Despite the challenges to her mental health and levels of anxiety and the further prospect of delays on a decision regarding her immigration status, Beena still holds hope for a positive future, the right to reside in the UK and even a career at SBS!

We wish Beena all the best and will be right by her supporting her till the end. #16DaysOfActivism

8th December 2020

Day 14 of #16Days is Sana who speaks of how with SBS’ help, she is regaining confidence and is able to navigate public spaces after years of being controlled and confined in the home. Despite lockdown restrictions, SBS continues to offer recovery and re-settlement support, whilst following social distancing measures and covid-19 health and safety measures.

“We went for a meal in Wagamama. The food was amazing. I never used to go alone or with my family. My husband didn’t take me anywhere. I used to stay in the home all the time. I planned a lot of things before marriage but it doesn’t happen” #16DaysOfActivism

7th December 2020

Day 13 of #16Days is Farah who highlights the importance of complementary support offered by specialist frontline charities like SBS including therapeutic, interactive group work, day trips and other isolation breaking activities. With the nation in second lockdown and winter approaching, vulnerable women like Farah report heightened sense of loneliness and isolation and have higher support needs- SBS advocates work round-the-clock in emergencies to ensure help and support is always at hand!

“I was feeling quite lonely since I have been here all by myself, not having anyone to talk to on a daily basis. I just kind of felt lonely” #16DaysOfActivism

6th December 2020

Day 12 of #16Days is Sonia who is one of the one-third of critically ill people in the UK from BAME background. BME women are disproportionately impacted by these health inequalities (Imkaan). Persistent illness in single income households like Sonia’s also brings the added worry of debt piling up, which is yet another consequence disproportionately experienced by BME households.

“I had a high temperature; I was very weak and I had persisted cough. I had to pick up my phone and ring all the housing associations, city council, car insurance company, just update them I won’t be able to pay because of the situation where I’ve ended up in” #16DaysOfActivism

5th December 2020

Day 11 of #16Days is Sana who found herself struggling to regularise her immigration status and regain a sense of normalcy due to statutory and systemic delays in processing immigration applications due to covid-19.

The State diverted its attention to other priorities that increased waiting times and delayed appointments. This prolongs the sense of despair and abandonment, alleviated only through intensive, holistic support provided by SBS. #16DaysOfActivism

4th December 2020

Day 10 of #16Days is Sara who escaped an abusive relationship just before lockdown but found that her ‘no recourse to public funds’ status disentitled her to any government support or covid-19 relief measures. There was no suspension of ‘no recourse’, which meant that migrant women who desperately needed protection remained trapped in abuse. SBS’s holistic support allowed Sara to exit from abuse and gave her access to safe housing, subsistence funds and an opportunity to engage in group work and therapeutic workshops to break her isolation.

“I have no immigration status, because of this I didn’t get any financial help. I was very stuck in this pandemic. Only SBS was my hope. They provide me every week necessary food in this risky situation”#16DaysOfActivism

3rd December 2020

Day 9 of #16Days Farah chronicles the real struggle women face if they have no recourse to public funds in trying to access safety and protection from abuse. 30-50% BAME organisations & charities are struggling to find appropriate refuge spaces available for women they support, especially those with No Recourse to Public Funds (Imkaan) 4 out of 5 women with NRPF are turned away from refuges (Women’s Aid)

“I called the council. but obviously they refused me, because I have no recourse to public funds. So I kept on calling loads of organisations and none of them could help me. Finally I got to Southall Black Sisters and they told me they’d take me in” #16DaysOfActivism

2nd December 2020

Day 8 of #16Days is asylum seeker Beena who struggled to afford basic necessities due to the rising cost of groceries and initial stockpiling and profiteering by some local shops.

For women with no recourse to public funds, daily survival becomes a major struggle, as they cannot access benefits and, in some cases, are not allowed to work to support themselves. Many rely on a meagre amount of £37 pounds a week (for those supported by NASS). For Beena and hundreds of other migrant women we support each year, SBS provided food vouchers, care packages and additional subsistence to help alleviate pressures during the lockdown. #16DaysOfActivism

1st December 2020

Day 7 of #16days is Alice who like 40-60% of BME women had no safe access to phones, no credit, and no access to the internet. (Imkaan) Women like her are unable to participate in remotely run outreach groups due to age, disability and other barriers, reinforcing existing digital inequalities that have been further exposed by the lockdown.

Luckily for Alice SBS caseworkers conducted weekly welfare checks and provided additional support sessions by phone for vulnerable users like Alice.

30th November 2020

Day 6 of #16days is single parent Sonia who faced a particularly difficult challenge of coping with childcare arrangements, self-isolation, school closures and home schooling without the support of another adult. At the same time, she was precariously relying on a single income (while working throughout the pandemic as a key worker).

Women disproportionately shoulder childcare responsibilities along with fulltime employment and government regulations rarely make allowance for single parents with care-giving responsibilities.

29th November 2020

Day 5 of #16days is Sara who suffered tremendous setbacks to her recovery and re-settlement process and was left feeling derailed by lockdown restrictions.

Sara highlights how vital specialist services like SBS are for BAME women who often present with multiple, overlapping disadvantages- unfortunately Covid-19 has decimated several specialist frontline charities creating a serious gap in protection for minority women. #16Daysofactivism

28th November 2020

Day 4 of #16Days is Sana who was made additionally vulnerable due to her pregnancy and being trapped in abuse throughout lockdown. #16Daysofactivism

55% of the pregnant women admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are from a BAME background, even though they only make up a quarter of the births in England and Wales (Oxford University).

27th November 2020

Day 3 of #16Days is Alice who like 3.6 million people over the age of 70 were not online (Age UK) and desperately relied on face-to-face social interactions to obtain respite from living alone and caregiving responsibilities.

“For me it feels like what’s going on, what am I going to do next? I was just really lost and didn’t know how to cope”.

26th November 2020

Day 2 of #16Days is Farah, who is among 60% of the users of SBS currently facing abuse and reported that it had become increasingly worse since the lockdown, trapping them in abuse.

“I’m going to have to be stuck at home with my mentally ill dad who gets violent when stressed and trapped in a place. Being home with him 24/7 is very scary”

25th November 2020

This #16DaysofActivism, we take you on a journey with 6 SBS survivors who describe feeling helpless and of struggling without a safety net and without access to food, housing and basic necessities due to the punitive no recourse to public funds rule. Despite these tremendous challenges, they have each survived and carved out productive, dignified and certain futures for themselves- what could be more rewarding!

Day #1 of #16Days is Beena, who like 64% of UK’s BAME population, felt increased anxiety and distress (Ubele) since lockdown was announced.

“Life has started to feel worrying like ground-hog day, I just couldn’t stop myself thinking and worrying”

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