Amica An Nisa, an help for Muslim women victims of violence

Amica An Nisa is a totally self-financed voluntary project, focused on telephone help for Muslim women victims of domestic violence, practically a multilingual red line for Muslim women in six languages ​​(Italian, English, French, Arabic, Urdu and Hindi), who have difficulties  in calling for help due to communication problems. The coordinator of this project  was herself a victim of domestic violence and managed to save herself and her children on her own. In addition, such service, given its enormous usefulness, was officially sponsored by the Municipality of Loano (Savona district, in Liguria Region, Italy).

I have spoken on the web with Khadija and Sara, who, project managers.

The service remained active even during the coronavirus. Being a dedicated line, women who make their time available working from home. Calls in this times have dropped by 15%: as there is a lockdown in Italy, violent husbands are at home with their wives, which is precisely the reason  why they are unable to call the Amica An Nisa line, while requests for information and help via social networks have increased (+25%). From January the 1st until March 10th (lockdown announcement day), service has had 245 calls with an average of 108 calls per month, while in the period from March 10th to April 10th it received 91 calls (-15%).

The main requests for help refer to the law in Italy for the defense from the husband; the bureaucratic procedure in Italy to get separated from the violent husband; women with a regular Italian residence permit, brought back to the country of origin, where the husband has torn the Italian documents; support to women living in Italy, whose husbands have deliberately made the residence permit expired; help in finding a lawyer and support for calls to the police force; request assistance for what to do for the residence permit in case of separation (in most of the cases, the residence permit is linked to the one of their husband); online interpreting during interviews with law enforcement or social services.

Calls also arrive from Italian women who have Muslim partners to ask for clarifications especially on their children, arranged marriages and circumcisions and any second wives of the husband or partner. The overwhelming majority of requests come from Northern Italy (45%), where the foreign community has a greater numerical consistency, especially as Northern Italy has a wealth greater than the rest of the peninsula, while 35% from central Italy and only 20% from the south. Almost all of the calls come from  families with low to medium income, mainly workers employed in factories and companies, where very often women also go to work to financially support their families.

The main language used is Arabic, only the Hindi or Urdu line has been used twice. Muslim women who call for support come, in descending order, from Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

The women involved into the project, as well as Khadija and Sara, project managers, are Mariam, Imen and Sabrina. There is a division of shifts with set times, and given the amount of work on the site there are times for calls, but also a live chat for emergencies. Each of the volunteers tries to organize herself. along with her colleagues, in order to guarantee the service in any case. The lockdown caused many problems, especially from an organizational point of view, as before there was more time available, the children who previously went to school are now 24 hours a day at home, and rightly need due attention. Besides the children, some volunteers also have a husband at home, and this still reduces the possible time available, but each of them acts as she can. The calls come from all over Italy, a very large country; it has happened that the police of the city had to be called and help was requested, also as an interpreter as the woman couldn’t speak the Italian language.

The work in the lockdown has become extremely difficult, because, as mentioned before,  children and husbands at home have taken a lot of time off the line, but it is especially the volunteers who have the children who have greater difficulties, since after a long period at home children are very upset and need to be given more attention.

This Ramadan is a breath of oxygen, it has been waited anxiously. It is especially in this sacred month, locked at home, that people try to revive their spirituality; the corners are made for prayer and garlands, friends won’t be seen, but people will be more at home. While,  for those who have husbands, they will not spend the iftar in the mosque, but at home with their families.

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