We talk to Amira* about escaping domestic violence to give her four children a better life
Amira lives in a nice, unassuming home in South Auckland, with her four children age 10, 7, 2 and 16 months. The sunny house is full of joy, and her cousin is her neighbour. No one would guess that just a year ago, Amira was locked into what she says was a cycle of domestic abuse and depression. She felt she had nowhere to go.
“I left my husband once, but I went back because I couldn’t see how I could look after my children without him,” explains Amira, who emigrated from Fiji with her family when she was just 17-years-old. “The main issue was money. I didn’t know how to handle money because my dad, and then my husband had always done it for me. I had no transport and I didn’t know how to talk to people. I didn’t know how to ask for help.”
Amira was referred to FSM by WINZ, and assigned Maria as her case worker.
“Maria taught me how to stand up for myself. If it wasn’t for Family Start, I wouldn’t be here now.”
Family Start helped Amira get her first bank account, and explained how credit cards work, how to claim benefits and what help she was entitled to. Maria went with Amira to her WINZ meetings and slowly Amira learned that support was available and how to ask for it. FSM also organised counselling.
“I left my husband, but he kept coming back to our flat. Maria helped me with the police, and now there is a protection order against him,” says Amira.
However, taking control of the family finances and leaving her husband wasn’t enough. They were still stuck in a two-bedroom flat, with nowhere for the children to play, and a 25-minute walk to a school the older children didn’t like.
“It was hard to get to school. It was hard to do anything,” Amira says, admitting she was still suffering from depression. But with Maria’s support and the help of counselling, Amira was able to source a new, four-bedroom home close to a mosque, a good school, a shopping centre and her family.
“I felt so alone in the old house, now I have great people close by and my mum comes to stay with me. The children are so much happier – now they’re up at 7.30am and ready to go to school.”
She also enrolled for the Incredible Years parenting course at FSM, and said it changed her whole approach to being a mum.
“Everything seemed too hard before. Then on the course I met women who were only 23 with four or five children,” says Amira. “I thought, if they can parent their children so can I. Now I take all four of them to Pack and Save, and it’s fun.”
Amira, who is planning to learn to drive and take a course to be a pastry chef, urges any woman in a violent relationship to seek help, even if they can’t see where they might turn.
“I say to any woman I meet like me you can’t sit in the house and do nothing. You don’t want sympathy, you’re big enough and you have your own children to look after. You must speak out. Call Family Start and they will support you, they will get the help you need,” she says.
“I was afraid to move on with my life. I was afraid to deal with this stuff. I didn’t know how and I’m not an educated woman. But look, I’m here, and I’m doing it. So can everyone else.”
Need help? You can self-refer to Family Start Manukau. Call us on 0800 326 78 278
*not her real name