Farah Nazeer: “We all have a responsibility to call out sexism and misogyny”

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Farah Nazeer has dedicated almost all of her career to women’s rights and gender issues. Here, as part of our collaboration with YSL Beauty and Women’s Aid, we profile the charity’s CEO…

    Women’s Aid has been working to end violence against women and girls for nearly 50 years. And now, due to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the charity’s work is more fundamental than ever.

    In fact, 61% of women living with their abuser during lockdown said the abuse had worsened and the number of reported abuse-related incidents increased by 80,000 between 2020 and 2021. 

    Back in November 2020, when the virus was becoming increasingly prevalent, YSL Beauty launched its Abuse is Not Love campaign with Women’s Aid. The collaboration aims to combat intimate partner violence (IPV) via academic funding and education on the ‘9 signs’ of domestic abuse. 

    Then, whilst the Covid restrictions were easing in March 2021, Farah Nazeer stepped up as chief executive of the domestic abuse charity. Both the collaboration and Nazeer’s appointment have been fundamental to raising awareness of IPV in young people. 

    “Ever since I joined Women’s Aid, I’ve been proud to work for an organisation that keeps survivors’ voices at the heart of its work,” explains Nazeer. “I am a feminist, passionate about women’s rights; I’ve worked on women’s rights and gender issues for most of my career, with over 20 years in the voluntary sector.”

    Nazeer continues: “At a time when increasing numbers of women are experiencing domestic abuse, the work of Women’s Aid and the need to champion women’s rights is as urgent as ever, and I’m privileged to be a part of that.”

    To highlight the work of YSL Beauty and Women’s Aid, we are working with three of the charity’s ambassadors and supporters to spotlight signs of IPV. Alive Liveing, Phoenix Brown and Michelle Griffith-Robinson all share their experiences in our most recent digital cover to educate you on the red flags. 

    Here we speak to Farah Nazeer about her work at Women’s Aid, women’s safety and advice for those living through situations of IPV and toxic relationships

    What do you do as CEO of Women’s Aid?

    I lead a national federation of just under 170 local domestic abuse organisations in England, which means no day looks the same in my job. My role at Women’s Aid is to highlight and represent the charity’s lifesaving domestic abuse services and campaign on behalf of survivors of abusive relationships. It is a role I take incredibly seriously, and feel privileged to do.

    What is your main priority? 

    I want to move society from a place where abuse is tolerated to a place where it is utterly intolerable. At the moment, thanks to a culture of victim-blaming, gender inequalities and a lack of understanding of domestic abuse, survivors do not receive enough support, understanding or see justice served. This must change. 

    We all have a responsibility to call out sexism, misogyny and gender-based violence – it affects ourselves, friends, family, colleagues. The government must ensure that police, the judiciary and other public services take up regular training in domestic abuse and coercive control to truly understand the nature of abuse.

    What is your best advice for someone who finds themselves in situations of IPV?

    I want to note here that every case is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all route to safety. However, here are my recommendations:

    • Reach out to specialist services, such as Women’s Aid’s live chat or the National Helpline. These are both really good starting points for many women, though individual circumstances must be considered and women need to do what’s safest for them.
    • Our website contains a wealth of information and support. Women’s Aid is here for anyone who wants to talk about their relationship – or that of a loved one- and get confidential, non-judgemental advice and support.
    • Lots of women find support and advice via health services, such as their GP or midwife, while others go straight to the police. The main thing is to get help as quickly as possible, in the safest way possible.

    What will you never compromise on? 

    Prioritising women’s safety. An average of three women a fortnight are dying at the hands of current or former partners. We cannot stand by, we must do more. We will not stop campaigning, lobbying the government, challenging sexism and misogyny, and doing all we can to amplify survivors’ voices- until every woman and child is safe.

    How is Women’s Aid leading the way in protecting women and girls?

    We are keeping survivors’ voices at the heart of everything we do and supporting them everyday. Our current campaign, Deserve To Be Heard, aims to ensure that the mental health needs of women are heard and responded to effectively – particularly those led by and for Black and minority groups. 

    Key to our work is educating people on healthy relationships, how to spot the red flags of abuse and how to reach out for support. The Expect Respect Toolkit was developed with YSL Beauty, and it aims to create the foundations for healthy relationships for life, and challenges assumptions about gender, power and equality.

    When have you been most proud?

    I am proud every day to be part of a feminist organisation dedicated to serving and supporting survivors of domestic abuse. I continue to be amazed by the power of our federation to work together to achieve real change for women and children survivors. I’m also a proud mum. I want to do all I can to ensure the world is a safer place for all of our children to grow up in.

    What is your best advice for friends and family of people experiencing IPV? 

    The key thing to do is to listen to her without judgement. When she is comfortable enough to confide in you, let her guide the conversation and don’t push too much. Tell her she is not alone and that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. At this stage, encourage her to visit Women’s Aid when she is ready. Although it’s great to make sure your loved one is safe, make sure to look after yourself too. Intimate partner violence affects friends and family in different ways.

    Why is the Abuse is Not Love collaboration so important?

    It’s not always easy for women and girls to understand they are being abused. That’s why the campaign is so key to building awareness and showing what an unhealthy relationship looks like. By promoting healthy relationships, we hope to give women and girls the confidence to seek happy, healthy relationships, and know how to get help if they are in an unhealthy one.

    Women’s Aid is dedicated to supporting survivors of IPV. If you need help make use of the charity’s Live Chat and the Survivors’ Forum. You might also find the No Woman Turned Away Project and the Survivor’s Handbook helpful. Expect Respect is a prevention toolkit used to teach children and young people aged 4-18 about healthy relationships.

    Reading now

    Popular