It was with a light heart on a sunny summer’s evening that I stepped out into SoHo for the VivaWomen’s event at Razorfish. To be honest, my main motivation for attendance was to see what a “business transformation” agency looks like. And I wasn’t disappointed. With a grand off-street, wooden paneled entrance we were led up to a glass walled reception. Fallon and Heineken are also in the building. In fact a keg of beer joined us in the lift. I was disappointed when it exited onto level 2 and we progressed up to level 5. But not for long. We were greeted with a table of sophisticated snacks with beer and wine prior to the event kicking off – very inviting – also an opportunity to check out the interior of the premises. It was a big open space with wooden floors, white walls and loads of big windows letting in the evening sun. Razorfish has a really cool contemporary feel going on, which was exactly in line with my expectations. After a bit of snooping around, I started to get to the heart of why (mostly women) had assembled for this event. VivaWomen is “a network for women, created by women” we were told. Fact: 55% of employees at Publicis are women but the numbers diminish with more senior ranking. Not surprising really. So VivaWomen is about developing and advancing women within the network. This evening’s session wasn’t directly relevant to the overall objective of the movement but the theme was linked into empowering women in the community.
Karma Nivana was the charity that was addressing the audience tonight, in particular Jasvinder Sanghera, the CEO and founder. Karma Nivana was set up in 1993 to support victims and survivors of forced marriage and honour-based abuse. Jasvinder told us about her personal story that led to her family disowning her and founding the charity. What I found amazing was the number of young women who go missing from UK schools every year with no alarm bells being rung. This is because the people abducting these children are their own family members. Just think about it: if you are a girl and had gone missing at the age of 15 it would be your parents calling the police! Usually nothing is done. These girls simply vanish from society either carted off to India or held prisoner in their own home. If the disappearance is reported it’s generally the school teachers who have raised the alarm. This evening was of particular significance because on this day, 10 June 2015, the first person had been criminally convicted for honour-based violence in Cardiff. About a year ago this law been passed, due to significant campaigning from Karma Nivana, to make this type of violence and forced marriage illegal in the UK. Despite hundreds of cases being investigated, only one conviction. A huge milestone but still small steps. One of the problems is lack of awareness, and this includes within the police force. Hence on 14 July this year the first-ever annual memorial day to remember victims of honour killings will be held. This day marks the birthday of Shafilea Ahmed who sadly lost her life in 2003 aged 17. After suffering years of honour-based violence, including an attempted forced marriage, Shafilea’s parents suffocated her to death in front of her siblings. An estimated 5,000 women across the world are killed each year for bringing “shame” upon their families; at least 12 of these victims are British, but the true number is thought to be far higher. Consequently why they are called Britian’s Lost Women.
My heart wasn’t feeling quite as light as I walked out of Razorfish after the event into the evening’s sunlight. I had been exposed to a shocking violence affecting women I had no idea about – a silence crime going on behind closed doors. To find out more or how you can help, please visit karmanirvana.org.uk
Bridget Christie | Group Account Director