In a rare nod to gender equality the 13th Doctor is to be a woman.  As Jodie Whittaker takes up her position in the blue box we have been reflecting on the positive statement this sends out to women and girls across the country.  Not only can women actors be cast in lead roles, but women can become doctors and academics all wrapped up in one short announcement.  Here at IARS we love it.

We have for many years been working on the empowerment of women, helping them to understand and access their rights.  For example our Gender and Justice Empowerment Project is an innovative, 3 year Comic Relief funded programme empowers, gives collective voice and protects vulnerable refugee and asylum-seeking women affected by crime. It builds on our previous Comic Relief funded Abused No More project which empowered nearly 100 refugee and asylum seeking women, reached over 1,000 stakeholders and influenced policy and practice in the area of gender-based violence and asylum.  

Refugee and asylum-seeking women face multiple disadvantage as a result of persistent race and gender inequalities. They are also more susceptible to be victims of hate crimes and violence against women. At the same time, they are less likely to have sufficient knowledge of their rights and the host society’s legal and institutional systems. They usually don’t have the financial resources to bear the cost of remedy proceedings, while legal aid cuts have exacerbated this problem. As a user-led Institute, we have evidence that there is a need to empower these women so that they can directly affect institutional and societal change from the bottom-up. Focusing on those who perceive themselves to be victims, our project gives them an opportunity to assist with the incorporation and implementation of the Victim's Directive. Once the project is completed, refugee and asylum-seeking women will be better protected in law, policy and practice due to their direct actions. Over 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women will be directly supported through training and mentoring to acquire a voice in decisions that affect them, particularly at this critical point of time marked by restrictive legislation, discriminatory policy changes and practice of violence against women.
 
On the 27th of April a bill requiring the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention has received Royal Assent and became law. The bill which certifed the UK rectification of the Istanbul convention, the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Bill 2016-17, passed all its readings in parliament with no amendments.  This law requires the UK government to ratify the Istanbul Convention, and set out a clear timeline providing reasonable steps to enable the UK to successfully become compliant with the Convention. We recognise the Istanbul Convention as an important and progressive law as it will effectively put legal obligations on the state to protect women from all forms of violence against women, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence.  As part of the Gender and Justice Empower project, we have been working to confirm that the UK in fact complies with its obligations under the EU victim’s directive of protecting refugee and migrant women victims of crime.
 
If you want to know more about women's rights you may wish to undertake the free online training that was produced as a part of this project.  The course is  about “Empowering professionals to work with Refugee and Asylum Seeking women, understanding their experiences of fleeing violence and respecting their rights under the EU Victims Directive”. This is a CPD accredited training that uniquely combines the first hand thoughts and experiences of refugee and asylum seeking women in the UK with information about legal and policy chances that relates to the obligations of organisations working with victims of crime.  It can easily be accessed here: http://www.iars.org.uk/content/free-e-course-empowering-professionals-wo... and is well worth a look.
 
For more about our Gender and Justice Empowerment Project have a look here: http://www.iars.org.uk/node/1924