Archway charity for Kurdish and Middle Eastern women: ‘People need our help’

Gona Saed and Sawsan Salim, of the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women Organisation, with Mayor of Isli

Gona Saed and Sawsan Salim, of the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women Organisation, with Mayor of Islington Cllr Kat Fletcher. Picture: Gona Saed - Credit: Archant

Having fled civil war, persecution and violence, the UK should be a safe haven for Kurdish, Middle Eastern and north African women. But it’s not necessarily the case.

That’s why, 17 years after its formation, Archway’s Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women Organisation still performs such a vital function. It supports women in north London who are still suffering, and project manager Gona Saed has been there from the beginning.

“I’m originally from Iraq and came to the UK as an asylum seeker in 1998,” she said.

“It was 1999 when we set up the charity in St John’s Way and we are still there now.

“That year in London, there was a woman who died in an honour killing [when the victim is murdered by a member of their own family, supposedly for bringing shame on the family]. She was Kurdish and it made us think we need to support each other, and especially support those who are at risk.”

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The charity’s “Learning for Living” project has been nominated for best charity scheme in the 2016 National Lottery Awards.

It helps women learn English, IT and employability skills, as well as how to adapt and make the most of British society. A £3,000 cash prize, and recognition on the BBC One Lottery show, is on offer should they win.

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Director Sawsan Salim said it would be a “fantastic reward” for the charity.

And Gona said of the project: “Some have escaped conflict or civil war in their home countries, while others settled here 20 years ago.

“But many women suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, or depression or isolation.

“Others suffer from social and cultural barriers.

“That’s where Learning for Living comes in.

“We have helped hundreds of women who couldn’t access mainstream support or education.

“We take our services to two mosques – Finsbury Park Mosque and the Muslim Welfare House in Seven Sisters Road – and St Mellitus Church in Tollington Park.

“This makes it easier for the women to access us.”

To vote for Learning for Living, which is up against five other projects, visit

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