Seventeen years ago, a group of women with a vision came together and evolved into a cohesive group offering a lifeline to women. 

They aimed to assist those women within the community who had silently suffered from all forms of domestic abuse. 

Firoza Mohmed, Chief Executive Officer of Humraaz, which means ‘confidante’, speaks about why there was and still is a need for this type of organisation.

“We realised that there was a real need for a bespoke, culturally sensitive and sustainable support service. Women were approaching the volunteers and asking for help in confidence. They offloaded about their personal circumstances. 

"Some women had already accessed the services of generic refuges. However, due to the nonexistence of language speakers or translators added to the fact that their cultural and religious needs were not catered for, many found they had no alternative than to return to their former homes and abusers. 

“Lack of understanding resulted in the women feeling threatened, discriminated against and more isolated than ever.”

Initially Humraaz’s office was on the top floor of a local church providing the perfect cover for meetings and groups. 

The service outgrew the space and in 2018 relocated to its present site in Unity House, Blackburn. This new space is open to all women of Blackburn with Darwen giving access to Humraaz Support Services along with educational activities and social hub.

Humraaz was very much an ‘underground’ organisation that shunned publicity for the first few years. This was, and to a certain extent still is, due to the need for total anonymity and confidentiality to ensure women and children are safe. Domestic abuse was not openly discussed with the publicised view that it did not exist within the Asian community.

As well as providing support and safe accommodation, Humraaz aims to educate women by offering opportunities that were otherwise unavailable to them.

This would develop their learning, knowledge and employability skills thus empowering women to take charge of their lives and plan their own destiny.

To date Humraaz has supported a total of 420 women and their children. Women often arrive in crisis mode with no money and only the clothes they stand in.

The majority of women arrive with poor literacy, numeracy, life and social skills. They have little experience of life outside the house and family. They don’t possess the skills needed to allow them to live and think independently.

Once a woman and her children are settled into refuge life, Humraaz provide a bespoke holistic service taking into consideration the intersecting needs of the family.

Education and tuition are integral to our support services. Many of the women who turn to Humraaz have previously not encountered day to day practical social skills including money management and budgeting, how to use public transport, how to access public services or make appointments.

Practical and emotional support is provided by Firoza and her team of eight long serving members of staff. 

Firoza said, “To support the healing process, culturally sensitive classes are provided to include health and well-being, confidence and self-esteem, understanding abuse and relationships, positive parenting, mindfulness and relaxation techniques, physical activities and many more.

"Therapy and recovery is encouraged through creativity and art, self-reflection and enabling women to work towards personal goals and aspirations.”

With women and families staying within the service for an average of eight months to a year, Firoza said some women do return to their families, with interventions in place to ensure their future safety and well-being. Others may resettle locally or choose to move out of area. 

“We ensure women gain confidence through increased learning very quickly which helps them to relax and settle into their new surroundings.

Humraaz is a place where women have voices, equal rights and opportunities to contribute to both the service and wider community.”