Official launch takes place on International Women's Day
Emma Apthorp, Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham (right), at the launch
March 10, 2023
A new women’s centre has been officially opened in Hammersmith this International Women’s Day (8 March).
The Advance Women's Centre aims to offer a safe space for women to come together and share, inspire and empower each other. It is being launched in the same location that the Advance started its journey 25 years ago.
Through its national network of Women’s Centres , Advance delivers specialist support and advocacy, and group interventions for women who have experienced domestic abuse or are in contact with the criminal justice system.
Advance’s now has eight Women's Centres across London, the South and East of England.
Frances Rahman, Head of Criminal Justice Services at Advance, said, “The opening of our new purpose-built Hammersmith Women’s Centre has given us the opportunity to enhance our offer to women, young women and children accessing Advance’s services. In addition to emotional support, our Women’s Centres provide practical help and amenities such as computers, washing machines, showers, and clothes and essentials donations from our pop-up ‘shop’. At Advance we engage with those accessing our services, as well as our volunteers and staff, to provide relevant and meaningful support that meets the needs of the women and girls in our community”.
The charity was joined by Emma Apthorp, Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, who said, “It’s wonderful to see a new purpose-built women’s centre in Hammersmith. The work Advance do is vital, and funding Women’s Centres is essential for facilitating the work. After visiting I’m feeling hopeful for a world where all women have access to safety and support all year round.”
The centre has already seen a production of a new play inspired by the stories of women with experience of the criminal justice system.
Women at the new Advance Centre
Catch was co-commissioned by women’s charity Advance and the Clean Break theatre company and presents a case for the necessity of women’s centre services and highlights how the criminal justice system places impassable barriers in front of women who are trying to rebuild their lives.
The play was written by playwright Sonia Jalaly, following research conducted with women service users of Advance and Clean Break Members, as well as the staff who support them. It is performed by members of the Clean Break programme, who are women with lived experience of the criminal justice system or who are at risk of entering it. The cast are participating in acting traineeship with Clean Break.
The centre in Hammersmith hosted the performance for staff and women using its domestic abuse and community support services on 1 March.
Niki Scordi, CEO of Advance, said, “It’s a privilege to be able to amplify women’s voices with lived experience of the criminal justice system. We need more investment in community support services that advocate for women who have experienced the prison system, especially with regards to their long-term mental health. Often, women’s offending is linked to their own experiences of trauma and abuse, and prosecuting them fails to address these root causes, continuing the cycle of reoffending. Rather than removing a woman from her community – risking the loss of her home, her job, and her children– we offer women the holistic support they need where they live, while reducing their likelihood of re-offending.”
Anna Herrmann, director of Catch and Clean Break’s Artistic Director, said, “We are grateful to have worked with Advance in developing Catch, this partnership has been vital in ensuring the stories we tell have roots in the very real lived experiences of women who use specialist women’s centre services. Both organisations bring a unique perspective and voice to the project, which we are excited to share on stage in professional and educational settings across the country. We believe this piece of theatre will go far in supporting audiences to think differently about women who find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system and better understand what they can do to ensure they are meeting women’s needs.”
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