Muslim women tackle family violence in their communities
In a first-in-Australia approach to family violence, a task force of 20 Muslim women will help raise awareness of the issue in their communities and connect women to legal services.
Eila Pourasgheri, program manager at Women’s Legal Service Victoria, said not many migrant and refugee women were accessing their service even though there was a need for legal advice within the community. “We aim to assist those most disadvantaged, but how do you engage with the groups that are the most isolated?”
Delivered through a partnership between Women’s Legal Service Victoria and the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre, and funded by the Scanlon Foundation, the program selected 20 community leaders and trained them in family violence issues and women’s rights. As Muslim women are typically highly engaged in their communities, the aim is to reach women early when there’s a legal issue, rather than later when the situation may have escalated to a crisis.
Zufaidah Juri and Sajda Yakub are two of the women in the task force, and they illustrate the diversity of the group. Zufaidah has worked in education for 17 years and is an involved member of her Point Cook community. She is Singaporean of Dutch, Indian, Chinese and Malaysian descent. Sajda is a 20-year-old arts, commerce and law student who wants to do more to help her community. She is Melbourne-born with Indian-Fijian heritage.
“I think this is a great model, because people are more comfortable speaking to people who understand them at their level – when they don’t feel they need to justify or explain themselves. I can then direct them to the right services for them,” she said. “A woman can come to a completely stress-free environment, can talk and be empowered.”Zufaidah said the program combined her passions of education and helping the community.
Sajda has already collaborated with legal services on how they can become more culturally sensitive and accessible to Muslim groups using her knowledge of family violence.
She said often problems in the home were mimicked outside the home.
“If they see that at home, people can come to expect bad treatment, racism or bullying, and then they can mimic those actions. We can try to fix that in society, but we need to also fix the root of the cause which might be at home.”
Now equipped with knowledge on family law and violence, the task force will roll out a strategy to engage with their communities and build their profiles as points of contact.
Ms Pourasgheri said Women’s Legal Service Victoria now planned to look at how this legal outreach model could be applied to engage other isolated communities.