Sanctuary and freedom for women and girls

A new report co-written by Professor Liz Kelly explores the impact and importance of spaces for women and girls who have experienced violence, abuse and other inequalities.

Date: 18 May 2022

Sanctuary and freedom, a new report co-written by London Met's Professor Liz Kelly explores the transformational power of spaces for women and girls, arguing that these spaces are integral to the processes of access, empowerment and rebuilding lives.

Produced as part of The National Lottery Community Fund's Women and Girls Initiative (WGI), the report contains insights and evidence for women and girls' services, commissioners, service providers, funders and other professionals on the importance of creating the right physical and emotional spaces for women and girls. 

It covers how physical spaces are created and experienced, how the emotional aspect provides women and girls spaces to be, to speak, be held, and rebuild their selves and lives, as well as a short reflection on digital and virtual spaces within the pandemic. The material it draws on comes only from the organisations and the women who use them.

The report explains, "Women rarely have access to separate and autonomous spaces and the ones they inhabit are often associated with motherhood, relationships and family. Public spaces are often etched with fear. Abuse occurs in all of these contexts, and for black and minoritised women racism is also an everyday reality across multiple spaces.

"WGI projects create spaces to meet the multiple needs of women and girls who have often experienced violence and abuse, combined with other forms of inequality. Therefore, spaces are specifically designed to offer respite; to create a sense of ease and belonging. They are integral to empowering women and girls, and the holistic support, that so many groups view as vital to their work."

Professor Kelly is the Director of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at the University. She is also a professor of sexualised violence and holds the Roddick Chair on Violence Against Women. 

The WGI was created by The Fund in 2016, using National Lottery funding, in order to invest in services for women and girls across England. Since its founding, it has supported 62 women and girls' projects across England, including work to support young mothers whose children are being removed from their care; specialist domestic support workers to support women in refuges; accommodation, employment and training opportunities for victims of domestic or sexual violence; and many others. Watch a video about their work here. 

A handdrawn image of four women working around a crafts table

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Image: a drawing by a service user at North Devon Against Domestic Abuse, an organisation that has benefitted from WGI funding.