The organising committee for Edinburgh’s chapter of 16 days of action against gender-based violence is made up of Angela Voulgari, Nhabeela Rahmatullah, Niharika Puri, and Hannah Lawrence. Below are some short bios of ours which should help give a little context as to how we all ended up here in this beautiful, busy little group helping combat gender-based violence in Edinburgh and beyond.
Angela Voulgari is the Service Team Leader for Bright Choices at Sacro, supporting individuals, families and communities affected by Honour Based Violence. Angela’s interest and involvement in this area of work started very early in life: the child of a migrant family to Greece, she grew up familiar with the impacts of migration on an individual as well as a collective level.
At the age of 15 she started volunteering at the Mother Theresa Foundation in Athens, supporting women and children refugees from the Middle East and the Balkan region through therapeutic and educational activities. It was that experience that consolidated Angela’s passion to work in the area of equality and human rights. At 18 she travelled to Edinburgh to study Psychology, Counselling and Psychotherapy, while volunteering with organisations focusing on disability, mental health and women’s rights. As a psychotherapist specialising on issues around culture, migration, identity and trauma, Angela worked extensively with survivors of forced marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) which led to her ongoing activism in the area of Honour Based Violence.
To date, Angela continues to lead in the area of Honour Based Violence in Edinburgh by supporting individuals with therapeutic interventions while running the SSSC Award winning Bright Choices team. She is involved in a number of networks on Forced Marriage and FGM, while also working closely with Police Scotland, the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government. Angela’s mission is to contribute to creating a world with equality of opportunity for all where discrimination, stigmatisation and violence are things of the past.
Niharika (Nika) Puri made her mark across her home country of India with a broad swathe of successful projects: from developing gender sensitisation initiatives in policy-level government organisations, to personally delivering sensitisation trainings in police hubs, law offices, schools, civic halls, and various statutory organisations. As part of her role in the Gender Training Institute (Centre for Social Research) India, Nika managed four Rape Crisis Intervention Centre for two years, furthering mediation, intervention, and counselling procedures, and contributing to the legal proceedings against perpetrators in some of the most crime-ridden areas of north India. In the south, she curated several projects aimed at human trafficking and violence against women in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs. Around this work, Nika has travelled extensively as a solo backpacker across the Indian subcontinent, engaging in volunteer tourism with a range of charitable organisations.
Moving to the UK has not slowed Nika’s momentum at all; alongside attaining her MSc in Festival and Event Management, she started a project with Edinburgh Napier’s Bright Red Triangle themed on community development and active citizenship, Changing Perceptions, now a well-established entity working collectively with 35 charities and statutory organisations across the UK. She currently works as the Programme Officer at BRT alongside continued involvement in third sector organisations combating honour-based violence and violence against women.
Hannah Lawrence is currently completing her doctorate at the University of St Andrews. Her thesis is on current exclusionary practices in the British heritage industry and the industry’s responsibility to discuss and disseminate BME historical narratives within the British built environment. In this capacity she has worked as a curatorial intern and guest blogger for the National Trust of Scotland.
Outwith academia, Hannah has worked as project coordinator for a project entitled ‘Barriers of Poverty and Inequality’ with the Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (ELREC). In this project she worked with and researched African, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities to Edinburgh in order to better understand their barriers to personal and economic success. Her report served to give a voice to these disenfranchised communities in hopes that they can personally inform change at both the governmental and non-governmental levels. This report can be accessed here: http://www.elrec.org.uk/publications/
Hannah has also consistently been involved in editing and writing academically and professionally. She was an analyst for the St Andrews Foreign Affairs review specialising in women’s rights and the international affairs of the Middle East and Southeast Asia. After this she became an editor of the St Andrews Foreign Affairs Review, again specialising in women’s and human rights articles. She is now currently the editor of the St Andrews Postgraduate Magazine and runs the blog associated with Edinburgh’s 16 days of action against GBV. In the past she has been a volunteer for a project which chronicles immigration stories of BME communities in Edinburgh, and a mapping volunteer through the United Nations for the Tanzania Development Trust, which helps organisations in Tanzania to find and save girls at risk for female genital mutilation (FGM).
Her passion for female empowerment and tackling gender inequality worldwide continues to drive every personal and professional decision she makes.