More than 250 women attended the Women’s only Sadi Awaaz Suno (Listen to our Voices) event held at the Woodville Halls in Gravesend, on Friday 16th March.

The event was organised by Rethink Mental Illness and Kent Equality Cohesion Council.

The aim of the event was to look at issues such as domestic violence, forced marriages, women’s mental health issues and the different support services available to women in Gravesham.  It also provided an opportunity for women to socialise and network.

The main speaker was Jasvinder Sanghera author and advocate for women’s rights and co-founder of Karma Nirvana, a community-based project who have several refuge centres across the United Kingdom which serve as safe-housing for South Asian women fleeing forced marriages.  She spoke about her experiences and the need for there to be more awareness around the issue of honour based crime and forced marriages. She said that it was important for people to speak out and get help if they needed it.  She explained that her organisation was working closely with the government and aimed to get the law changed so that more people could be protected in the future.

There was also a special play which was written and performed by local theatre group Walk Tall around the issues of honour based crime and forced marriages.

The conference was climaxed by a panel session which also included Kent Police who spoke about their work in this area and the support mechanisms which were in place to help women suffering quickly.

Gurvinder Sandher, Director of Kent Equality Cohesion Council, commented: “We have again had a really positive response to our event.  Issues around honour based crime and forced marriage are not often discussed in the open, by us organising events like this we are aiming to raise awareness of these issues and inform people of where to get help and support if they require it.  Only by the whole community working together can we tackle these issues and try to eradicate these practices.  I would like to pay particular thanks to our partners Rethink Mental Health and the Kent People’s Trust.”

Carol Gosal, Rethink Mental Illness Services Manager for West Kent, said: “A lot of hard work went into pulling this event together.  It all proved to be worthwhile with the fantastic attendance we had.  Rethink mental Illness is committed to working in partnership with Kent Equality Cohesion Council and our statutory and community partners to make a positive difference to women who may need help and support with some of the issues which were discussed at the event.”