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“What you go through doesn’t have to define you, and you can choose to look at it differently.”

This is the message being driven home to girls and young women between the ages of 14 30 years old by the organisation Daddyless Daughters run by Aliyah Ali. The organisation provides vulnerable girls and young women, who have been affected by family breakdown, abuse and adversity and particularly girls in care and custody settings, with physically and emotionally safe spaces in which to explore their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Daddyless Daughters offers one to one mentoring, weekly therapeutic group sessions, and creative expression projects with a focus on storytelling. They are also working on developing documentaries, short films and writing scripts to share the experiences of these women.

​The aim is to create effective and therapeutic support derived from first-hand lived experiences, so that girls and young women can develop and sustain healthy relationships, not only with their families and communities, but more importantly with themselves, to prevent further exploitation in the future.

As well as direct work, Daddyless Daughters  provides training to professionals, parents and others in the community, with a focus on children’s services and the youth criminal justice system, giving them insights and information to help improve practice and have a greater impact.

“A lot of our training is about reconnecting professional back to why they got into this line of work”.

What sets the organisation apart from others is the lived experience of its leaders, they are relatable.

“We’ve built our own system within the system, which seems to be working”.

This lived experience gives professionals insights into how to understand why young women may be presenting with complex social and emotional needs and how to teach them to communicate effectively and develop the people skills they will need in life. Many of these girls have grown to mistrust adults from their layered experiences of trauma and Daddyless Daughters aims to re-build relationships.

 “When I went into the space of exploring what professionals’ experiences were like working within the system, I was able to identify, you know, these guys are not all demons”.

A major part of the training offered by Daddyless Daughters consists of creative expression, conversations and reflection on personal experiences and professional practice to enable more effective relationships. The aim is to Support professionals to build resilience and encourage open dialogue and a shift into bridge the gaps between lived experience and professional practice.

“Creative expression is kind of rewiring the brain, rewiring how we react to different types of disclosures and how we react to young people telling us certain stories”.

There is a huge focus on the need to be self-aware, as people tend to shut down in response to hearing about trauma, because they are overwhelmed or do not want to cause further harm. This response projects anxiety which then triggers the flight, fight or freeze response in young people and a breakdown of trust.

“Many come into our sessions feeling anxiety, quite fearful about or reserved about what they actually want to share. By the time we get to the end of it, they just say they want more.”

As a multi skilled and experienced entrepreneur, Aliyah came up with empowering clothing designs which she sold online to make money to create these safe spaces. These spaces then bought partnerships and opportunities to the company. Now it is funded by two other organisations, who also work to protect women who are at risk of being abuse and exploitation.

Sadly, many of the girls Aliyah works with have experienced sexual abuse as children and can have complex emotions of shame, guilt and judgement, which is a heavy weight to carry into adulthood. If support is provided at an early stage between 14-17, these feelings can be re-framed and emotional intelligence and self-confidence can be nurtured through this process. Aliyah calls these safe spaces, “brave spaces”; brave spaces are for professionals. Safe spaces for our girls and young women where trauma can be discussed without prejudice or blame.

The organisation is passionate about helping professionals to become trauma informed and skilled in the subtleties of therapeutic engagement with these girls and young women. The training is facilitated to support an empathetic approach and engagement with the real experiences of the young people, for example via therapeutic parenting, for which creative expression is really important.

Aliyah prides herself on knowing most of their referrals come from previous referrals; girls are referring themselves to the organisation; they are becoming more aware of their challenges, needs and solutions to their problems.

“I’m most proud that I’ve been able to create a life that I’m proud of: that feels like freedom to me. I’ve been able to create a space where girls thrive in that trust, that bridge. I’ve also created opportunities for young women in my community to be able to level up, get paid and use their lived experiences as well for the right things.”

You can learn more about Daddyless Daughters and the work they are doing on their website https://www.daddylessdaughters.co.uk, and find them across various social media platforms.  Also look out for their first documentary, filmed at HMP Holloway, where they took a group of girls back to prison to explore their trauma. They also have a national exhibition which will take place early next year displaying the hidden stories of HMP Holloway.

Interview Highlights

What is Daddyless Daughters and what do they do?

Daddyless Daughters is an organisation that provides fatherless girls and young women between the ages of 11-25 years old, physical, and emotional safe spaces. Many of these females are at risk of being groomed or being exploited and these spaces give them an opportunity to explore their thoughts, experiences, and feelings. They offer one to one mentoring, weekly therapeutic group sessions and creative expression projects with a focus on storytelling. They are also working on developing documentaries, short films and writing scripts.

Why is type of training provided?

A trauma informed lived experience training experience that begins with an icebreaker leading onto specific activities. A major part of the training consists of creative expression, conversations, reflecting and exploring personal experiences. There is also focus on the professional practice and how this can all be reframed. Aliyah provides consulting and professional mentoring supporting organisations to reshape their services and project delivery to improve outcomes for girls and young women with complex social and emotional needs due to layered trauma.

What is their main focus?

To empower vulnerable and marginalised young women to build and sustain healthy relationships with themselves, their home lives and their communities, with a focus on children’s services and the criminal justice system.

What makes this organisation different to others?

It is led by people who have lived experiences and realise the importance of self-awareness when dealing with trauma in a hope to re-frame the way it is being dealt with. To remove associated feelings of guilt or shame and empower girls and young women to foster healthy relationships.

Where do their referrals come from?

Most of their referrals come from referrals, girls are referring themselves to the organisation, who are self-aware of their problems.

How are they funded?

The organisation was originally funded by profits from selling their own clothing line of empowering designs online. Now it is funded by two other organisations who also work to protect women that are at risk of being raped and exploited.

How to get in touch with Aliyah Ali

To find out more about the services that Daddyless Daughters provide or to get in touch, you can visit their website for more information, https://www.daddylessdaughters.co.uk.

Care Leavers Middlesbrough Children Matter Youth Voice Bucks The House Project Buckingham Council Department For Education Leeds City Council
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