In the words of Marai Larasi: “If we are to end violence against women and girls, we need to create seismic shifts across our social norms.”

Date: Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Marai Larasi is the Executive Director of Imkaan, a black and minority ethnic women’s organization working to respond to and prevent violence against marginalized women and girls in Europe. Imkaan is now a partner in the EU/UN Women regional programme, ‘Implementing Norms, Changing Minds’, which aims to end violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Recently, Ms. Larasi has been supporting the preparation of a guidance note on intersectional issues for UN Women.

Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan. Photo: UN Women
Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan. Photo: UN Women
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I have been working on ending violence against women for 23 years. Black and minority ethnic women have always been central to my practice. Even before I had the language to describe ‘intersectionality’, I somehow understood that the journeys of black and minority ethnic women and girls were being shaped by exclusion and marginalization in different ways to our counterparts. I joined Imkaan in 2009, and this has provided me with the opportunity to focus my work primarily on black and minority ethnic women and girls. However, even before I joined Imkaan, I worked with colleagues to develop specialist services for black and minority ethnic women – for example, shelter accommodation for refugee women who had experienced violence.

My work has also allowed me to connect with ‘minoritized’ women in many different places. As such, I think of myself as living in the UK but working as part of a global community of BME women and girls, working to end violence against women and girls.

Minoritized women are often spoken about, but we are often prevented (in a number of ways) from speaking for ourselves. Imkaan’s very existence is a challenge to that way of operating. For example, we work with our members to ensure that minoritized women and girls are on the policy agenda in ways that do not further stigmatize and marginalize us. We also work to support the sustainability of critical life-saving services that are led by BME women for BME women.

If we are to end violence against women and girls, and create a truly equal world, we need to start to create seismic shifts across our social norms. This is not just about transforming belief systems and behaviours in terms of gender; it also means addressing other norms – for example, around ethnicity, class and disability – all of which contribute to holding other oppressive systems in place.”

Read the full story on UN Women's regional website for Europe and Central Asia