Shama, Hamilton’s Ethnic Women Centre, is co-hosting a national hui for ethnic therapists and ethnic community organisers concerning sexual violence and abuse in the ethnic communities. The development of a National Sexual Violence Response Service for ethnic communities is the first of its kind in New Zealand.

The national hui will be held on July 24 at the Grand Hall in the parliament in Wellington. This event is co-hosted by Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa.

“It’s hard enough to talk about sex, let alone when things go wrong and combine that with small communities and feeling different from the mainstream, and it’s a recipe for silence,” says Silvana Erenchun Perez, manager at Shama in Hamilton.

“It is this silence we want to change by bringing together ethnic communities to talk about sexual violence,” Silvana added.

Despite the stigma associated with sexual violence, social worker Fariya Begum is keen to begin the conversation with the community members.

“Ethnic workers are a source of knowledge and we are aware of the roots, soil and nourishment that our communities need to thrive and this hui is a chance to learn from other ethnic therapists and community organisers to provide improved services,” Ms Begum said.

While there are many ethnic therapists working in both mainstream and ethnic-specific organisations across the country, this is the first time that they have been invited to come together to discuss the treatment and prevention of sexual violence in their own communities.

Diversity Counselling New Zealand, an ethnic service provider in Hamilton, is keen to participate in this new service.

“We’ve hosted meetings of ethnic counsellors working in Hamilton since last year, but this hui will allow us to meet practitioners from across the country and share everyone’s knowledge, wisdom and experience,” manager for the service, e Vani Mills said.

The hui is set to establish a collaborative base for the new national sexual violence response service for ethnic communities.

“This hui is a critical opportunity for ethnic community leaders and champions against violence to come together and collaborate across our various organisations and diverse communities to have the discussions needed for a strong response to sexual violence,” Coordinator - – National Collective of Rape Crisis & Related Groups, Angelo Libeau said.

Angelo further described how ethnicity is one of the factors that impact people's ability to access resources and mentioned that a "collaborative and intersectional approach" is the obvious way to begin the development of this “vital” project.

Anindita Dey-Sinha, an ACC-approved counsellor who has been working with ethnic communities for more than 11 years emphasized on the importance of having a wide range of ethnic counsellors practising in New Zealand.

“Ethnic counsellors expect to be attuned to deeper cultural issues such as the role of faith, gender roles and the impacts of migration. These are all factors that need to be considered when communities act together to prevent sexual violence from occurring,” Anindita added.

Shama has appealed the general public for join hands with them if they have the expertise to counsel someone or just help Shama in this project.

“If you are an ethnic counsellor, therapist or community organiser interested in attending the national hui on July 24, please follow this link to fill in an expression of interest: https://form.jotform.co/91396992289882

For more information contact Shama on info@shama.org.nz or trustee Dr Priya Kurian on Priya.kurian@waikato.ac.nz.