Learning Visits: A Rich Experience for all
Learning visits give Funding Managers and Committee Members an opportunity to meet community leaders and see the organisations that they support, in action. All the while giving organisations a chance to reflect, share learnings and give feedback.
At CBT, Funding Managers look after a large portfolio of organisations and have a target number of learning visits they need to attend. Recently Funding Manager Kate Halahan was fortunate enough to visit Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse (STADA), with our Deputy Chair Nighat Qureishi.
As a funder, we want to form a connection with our funded organisations so we can better support and understand them. Without these visits, it can be difficult to know what else we can be doing as a funder to better support our funded organisations in financial and non-financial ways. It’s a great opportunity for us to collect data and insights from people that know the most. All the while giving the funded organisations a chance to step back from their day-to-day to reflect on what’s working well.
We’re challenging the funder and organisation power imbalance, so instead of it being a formal check-up it’s more like a conversation between respected colleaguesRuth Feder – Head of Impact and Learning at CBT.
In the spirit of sharing our learnings, let’s take a closer look at Kate and Nighat’s most recent visit to Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse (STADA).
STADA is a national charity working to end domestic abuse. In 2020 they received a three-year grant of £180,000 from City Bridge Trust to build on the work of SAFE Communities (Safety Across Faith and Ethnic Communities) in London. A project initiated by STADA to tackle the limited engagement between faith-based organisations and domestic abuse specialists.
Sadly, many survivors from faith backgrounds have reported that secular specialist services are not able to understand their experiences of abuse and the barriers they face in accessing support, due to a lack of understanding of their religious identity and experiences of harmful practices unique to faith such as; honour-based abuse, forced marriage, and spiritual abuse. So STADA alongside Respect, Restored, Jewish Women’s Aid, FORWARD, Muslim Youth Helpline, and Latin American Women’s Rights Service and individual activists within the VAWG sector called for faith- informed Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) services which conceived the idea of the Faith and VAWG Coalition.
Over the past three years, The Faith and VAWG Coalition has been working to bring together organisations, service providers, faith-leaders and activists working at the intersections of faith, race, ethnicity and VAWG, to support dialogue, develop understanding, awareness, and actions to better support women of faith.
I should say here that STADA recognises that men can also experience domestic abuse, but that the vast majority of survivors are women, although it also recognises that members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly those from Black and minorities communities, are also at particular riskKate Halahan Funding Manager
STADA’s biggest achievements so far:
Coordinating and building a Faith and VAWG Coalition, which now has 34 members from faith-based bodies and leading specialist domestic abuse agencies as well as individual activists and academics. Traditionally relationships between some feminist women’s organisations and faith-based groups have been hard to establish, but this Coalition is modelling cross-sector working across multiple faiths and VAWG organisations including; Respect, The Traveller Movement, Sikh Women’s Aid, Jewish Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid, Muslim Women’s Network, and Black Churches Domestic Abuse Forum.
The work has also improved data gathered on survivors of faith, including harmful practices which weren’t being collected in a consistent way, and ensuring questions around faith are included in risk assessments.
STADA feels that the project has begun to gain a trusted and credible reputation amongst the VAWG and faith-based sectors and with local authorities in London, as well as nationally. More recently they’ve had invites to speak at significant VAWG sector events, which is a breakthrough in how faith is really starting to be talked about and considered.
Challenges faced by STADA:
The first challenge was launching the Coalition just before the pandemic, which brought an array of unforeseeable difficulties.
Another challenge it reflects on is how there is good engagement from Abrahamic faith organisations (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) but the Coalition would also like more representation from non-Abrahamic religions such as; Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism (predominantly religions in India, Iran, and East Asia).
Equally, it has been a challenge balancing the various different needs and approaches of the wide range of stakeholders they work with, and ensuring they are championing an organisation’s cause without speaking for them and ensuring they have their own voice.
A final significant challenge is funders not always understanding how slow-paced, sensitive, and skilled work this is and how much time it takes to build relationships and trust with faith-based organisations and communities.
City Bridge Trust is pleased to be funding an important piece of work here, which is ensuring that professionals working within VAWG are better able to respond to survivors from faith backgrounds and provide earlier interventions, as well as women of faith being better supported within their own faith communities.