WASSUP women Speak up

Last week we were privileged to be invited to see WASSUP showcasing the work they do to combat sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

With the support of Tonia Wilson at Volunteering Matters, a group of young women from black and ethnic minorities (BME) came together in 2012 to form a peer support group for women affected by sexual exploitation, honour-based violence or domestic abuse. They identified a need to break down cultural barriers that prevent young women from accessing support.

Since then, the group has developed and grown, winning Lottery funding, awards and the backing of professional agencies.

As one of their achievements, WASSUP have created a toolkit which they use to deliver workshops in schools to teach children who are affected by these issues how to get help. Their dream is to see a WASSUP mentor in every school.

They have also worked to raise awareness of the effects of domestic violence with flashmobs, performances and twitter campaigns using their own art work and writings.

To give you a better insight into the group’s activities, we’ll let them speak up for themselves — it’s what they do best. Here’s a testimonial from Raven, one of the women in the group:

I found out about WASSUP (Women Against Sexual exploitation and violence Speak UP) through a family friend..…
I was nervous at first and wasn’t sure if it was the right thing for me as I seemed to think I was too shy to be involved with a whole new group of people, but on my first day there, meeting those beautiful and inspiring young women, I knew that is what I wanted to do.
As I walked into the room I immediately felt accepted. No one was judging me for the way I looked, the way I spoke or my opinions. It was just like talking to old friends I had known for years and on top of that we were raising awareness for a good cause.
I have only been involved with WASSUP for about six months now and already I feel like I have gained more confidence, am able to speak up about things that matter to me and have found some new, (hopefully) life long friends.
The first project I really experienced was our online campaign for White Ribbon Day.
We had asked numerous men to stand up against male violence against women by sending pictures of themselves with their hands held like stop signs, which we then sent out on twitter.
That was the first time I really saw how important our project is. Over one hundred men from all over the world took part, and it went viral.
Volunteering, to me, is one of the best things I have got involved with in my life so far. It immediately became a passion of mine. It is like having a brilliant hobby, where I am not only benefiting myself but other people as well. I am able to use my writing skills in ways I had never really thought of before: Writing poems, spoken verses and short stories for school projects and events. I am able to spend time with friends whilst doing something good at the same time and I can talk about my concerns and opinions to a group who understand.
In the six months of being involved I have learnt so much and I feel like the longer and the more I am involved I will be growing as an individual (and hopefully help other people around me grow too).
Our current project we are working on is an online campaign for International Women’s Day on the 8th of March: ‘Post a woman who has inspired you.’
With this, we are asking people as many people as possible to send us a picture of a woman who has inspired them throughout their life, with a sentence as to how and why. These will then be posted on twitter and hopefully (again) go viral.
I am so happy to be involved with WASSUP and I am so proud of all the girls for what they have achieved in the past and how far we have come. I can only hope that our projects keep raising awareness and that people are able to speak up without feeling scared and that I am able to be involved with this group for years to come.

WASSUP have grown into a well respected group of young women who are truly making a difference to their own community and beyond. As William Kendall, the outgoing High Sheriff of Suffolk said:

“WASSUP is an astonishing project bringing previously marginalised, young victims of crime into the heart of Suffolk’s crime education and prevention strategy. It is genuinely innovative and should provide inspiration for other areas.”

For more information about the group, or if you want to find out about becoming a volunteer, go to:

https://volunteeringmatters.org.uk/