The Sadi Awaz Suno (Listen to our Voices) conference which took place on March 14 and was organised in partnership by Kent Equality Cohesion Council and Rethink Mental Illness proved to be a great success.

The aim of the women only event was to explore important issues which are not often discussed openly including domestic violence, child abduction and honour based crime. The audience of around 200 women was addressed by the Kent Police Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes and the Chief Constable of Kent Police Alan Pughsley who spoke about their commitment to tackling these issues and supporting victims. (Link to Ann Barnes Blog)

They were followed by Gurjit Chahal from Charles and Co Solicitors from the West Midlands who spoke about Child Abduction where children are taken abroad often as a result of a marriage breakdown. She explained that on average 2 children a day are taken out of the UK against a court order without the consent of one parent.

The final speaker was Naz Shah who had travelled from Bradford to tell a powerful story about her mother Zoora Shah who had been a victim of domestic and honour based abuse for many years and the impact it had on her and the family. She talked about the sense of helplessness and the lack of support the family received in the 1980’s and 1990’s when this was going on.

Following the key note speakers there was a panel session which was chaired by the CEO of Kent Equality Cohesion Council Gurvinder Sandher which included Kent Police, Rethink Mental Illness and the guest speakers. The key message coming out of the panel was the fact that there was support available locally and that if anyone needed any help or support they should not hesitate to ask for it.

Gurvinder Sandher the CEO of the Kent Equality Cohesion Council commented after the event “The conference proved to be a great success and was very powerful and at times emotional. To hear stories of how families’ lives have been affected by domestic violence and honour brought home to me why it is important for events like this to take place. Gravesham has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Kent and we need to be discussing these issues and raising awareness of what support is available locally. This was an excellent way for us to complete our Promoting Cohesion and Engagement Project which we have been delivering over the past year”