How KMEWO supports and transforms lives of Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women ~ Small Charity Week

The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO) is a charity ‘led by and for’ Black and Minoritised women, which provides advice, support and advocacy for Kurdish, Middle Eastern and North African women. Operating across Islington, Hackney, Haringey, and Camden, KMEWO’s focus is supporting women experiencing domestic violence, harmful practices, and socio-economic challenges. 

“I started with nothing and I’m leaving with everything.” ~ KMEWO member of staff 

Sawsan, Director of KMEWO

The charity was founded in 1999, after the tragic murder of a Kurdish British woman called Subhyia Nadr. This event sparked Founder and Director, Sawsan Salim to respond to the need for an organisation that could provide vital support services for Kurdish women. Since then, KMEWO has expanded to support Middle Eastern women, and demand continues to increase. “She was working in this building (Caxton House) as a caseworker. There was a memorial for her, so I reached out and had the opportunity to be involved and talk against honour killings, criticising the system, I mean enough.” ~ Sawsan Salim, Director, KMEWO

KMEWO’s support is holistic and multifaceted. Supporting more than 1,500 women a year, their services include advice and support, one-to-one advocacy, mental health support, employability training and language courses. KMEWO inspires women to escape cycles of domestic violence and harmful cultural practices, enhance their socio-economic prospects, and offers a lifeline to women who often face isolation and language barriers.

“We were the first women organisation for Kurdish, and Middle Eastern on domestic violence. We provide one to one advocacy and support for survivors of domestic abuse and harmful practices… and we try to raise awareness on the issues that these Middle Eastern and North African women face in the UK.” – Sawsan Salim, Director, KMEWO

Being a small charity is challenging, particularly in securing funding and managing the rising demand for services. The pandemic heightened these challenges for KMEWO, with demand for their services increasing, especially mental health and financial support, as many of their clients lost jobs. The high cost of living in London puts strain on KMEWO staff as well, making it difficult to recruit and retain employees.

Anastasia, Fundraising and Communications Manager, KMEWO

Beyond funding, KWEMO faces the task of addressing complex and various issues their clients face, including housing, legal status, language barriers, navigating digital services, and healthcare access. As a small charity supporting BAME communities, KWEMO must provide specialised, culturally competent services that are often labour-intensive and costly.

Despite this, KWEMO’s strategic partnerships, community ties, and adaptability have enabled them to continue making a significant impact. By collaborating with other organisations and being closely involved in larger campaigns, such as the London VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) consortium, KMEWO amplifies its impact and secures additional resources. In terms of agility, they expanded their services to include digital support and mental health counselling during the pandemic, meeting the emergent needs of their community. Fundraising efforts have also been ramped up, with a focus on proving their unique value and securing core funding to ensure sustainability.

Their story highlights the critical need for sustained funding and support to ensure that vulnerable and marginalised communities receive the care and advocacy they deserve. KWEMO’s ongoing efforts to raise awareness and provide essential services highlights the resilience and importance of small, grassroots charities in creating meaningful social change.

“Fundraising has become very, very hard; the competition is great because services are struggling with a huge influx of people who want support and also have complex needs.” – Anastasia, Fundraising and Communications Manager, KMEWO

LOVE your small charity!

This Small Charity Week, Islington Giving and our parent charity Cripplegate Foundation, will be sharing stories of the incredible small charities we work with in Islington. We invite you to get involved and show your love for small charities this week and beyond.

Here are 3 simple actions you can take:

1. Join us and/or share this story on LinkedIn – use #LoveYourSmallCharity and #SmallCharityWeek so we can find you!

2. Sign up to our e-newsletter for the latest opportunities, events and stories

3. Volunteer, donate or fundraise to support your local community