As awareness over gender abuse grows, the immigrant women network AkiDwA organised a self-defence and abuse awareness seminar in Galway, specifically for women living in direct provision. “Immigrants have a higher risk for domestic abuse and are less likely to seek help,” says Niamh Cooney, the organisation’s support officer for victims of crime. She adds that immigrant women are often misinformed about the negative legal ramifications they might face if they seek help, believing that they “might be refused a permanent residency in Ireland” if they approach authorities.
The seminar detailed different forms of domestic abuse within the verbal, mental, and physical spectrum, taught attendees how to identify early signs, introduced gaslighting as a form of abuse and dispelled widespread myths. The attendees were also encouraged to have open conversations with their friends in similar situations.
Several women in attendance admitted they faced some kind of domestic abuse, and that they did not know how to recognise red flags, and consider them early signs of abuse. One of the attendees says “Some of those things might look normal to you.”
Funke and Yetty, two Nigerian women at the seminar said that they found AkiDwA through Zandile, another direct provision mother whose son studies in the same school as theirs.
The ‘Kid’s Club’, a volunteer group in Galway assisted the event by organising entertainment for the children of the women in attendance. Marie Harris from the Kid’s Club says the volunteers saw that many mothers were unable to partake in events as they could not leave their children. “The group was started by a few school teachers, who wanted to help mothers,” says Marie.
AkiDwA’s work on raising awareness on different themes among immigrant women will lead to more seminars, the next one taking place on the 1st of February.