According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Despite being illegal in the UK, FGM remains a significant concern, with an estimated new case being recorded every 92 minutes in England. Alongside this issue, there is limited awareness among the general public regarding the challenges faced by Black and Minoritised women.
The Halo Project, a specialist charity based in Middlesborough, aims to address these issues by supporting women experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse, sexual violence, and hidden harms. In this interview, Shannon Hodge, Communications and Fundraising Lead at the Halo Project, discusses her work and the challenges faced by charities working for and with marginalized communities.
Hi Shannon, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. I was wondering what led you to work for the Halo Project?
I was doing a master’s degree at the University of Sunderland in Inequality and Society. During that academic year, Libby Khan from the Halo Charity and lead organiser of the Halo Hubs came into the university to conduct a training session about hidden harms faced by Black and minoritised women. That’s when I came across the opportunity to set up the first ever Halo Hub at the University.
I have always been interested in women’s rights and had extensive experience in volunteering for charities such as Rape crisis, Circle NGO and Bloody Good Period. When I heard that I could be trained on topics of forced marriage, FGM, motivated abuse, I was really invested as not many are aware of these issues. After working for the Halo Hub at university, I decided to volunteer in the Halo office to gain more insight into the workings of the charity. I was later offered a full time position at Halo.
What is the most rewarding thing about working at a charity such as the Halo project? Are there any milestones or contribution that you’re most proud of?
I think the most rewarding thing is that it’s a job with purpose. It is always lovely to wake up every morning knowing that you are going make a difference, no matter how seemingly small. The actions you make each day have that wider impact within communities, whether that be educating other people through raising awareness or through fundraising for vulnerable women we have in our survivor refuge.
In terms of achievement, I created a toolkit on honour based abuse for the police. There is little exisitng awareness among the police force on how to handle related situations. The toolkit I compiled informs the police on how to best help victims effectively.
What is the biggest challenge that the Halo Project is currently facing?
As we are a specialist charity that supports black minorities, victims and survivors of honour based abuse, we areone of the most effective services for people from black minoritized communities. According to the Patchwork of Provision report by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, 67% of black minoritised survivors of abuse would rather go to a service that understands their experiences and culture. However, support services like ours are really underrepresented and underfunded. Remarkably, it is very hard to get government grants for our projects in comparison to mainstream womens’ organizations. It is the constantly having to apply for funding and different grants that poses a massive challenge to our services’ effectiveness and efficiency. Therefore it is doubly important that we ensure our voices are heard.
Would you say the reason why the Halo Project or similar charities remain so underfunded is rooted in the systemic lack of concern for the wellbeing of ethnic minorities?
I definitely agree. One of my biggest challenges in communications and fundraising is not making people aware — that’s easy enough to do. Making people care is another story. As awful as it sounds, it is really hard for people to care about the work of by-and-for charities. Most cannot relate to those at risk or their specific experiences.
What is the biggest change you would like to see in the charity sector that would benefit by-and-for charities such as the Halo project?
I think it is important to increase awareness. Like I said, it is easier to raise awareness than it is to receive active support for our by-and-for work. The awareness significant helps in getting us extra funding. Trusts and foundations had previosuly approached us to say that they love the work that we are doing and would like to provide financial support. This has proven to be really helpful. I also think it is crucial that government and local authorities distribute bigger fundings to charities like us, but we have to first grab the government’s attention and capture their interest in by-and-for services.
Generally speaking, working in a charity might not sound the most appealing due to its non-profit nature. Is there anything you would like to say to get more people interested in this particular sector?
Working in Halo has been extremely rewarding. I personally can’t imagine not being in the charity sector and making such significant differences. It is true that the money is not amazing. However, if you are not driven by money, charity work remains one of the most fulfiling jobs out there.
Find out more about the Halo Project on their website.
Interested in student involvement? Follow Durham’s student Halo Hub on instagram for regular updates and information @durhamstudenthalo