Friday, 1 November 2013

Letter to the editor of the Western Mail

letter to the editor
The Echo
The Western Mail
1 November 2013
Dear Sir
I understand that I have been the subject of many pages of newsprint in recent editions of the south Wales papers. I was not contacted, as claimed, by the journalist who wrote the piece so I ask you publish this letter in response. Indeed the first I heard of this was via email at about noon today, Thursday from a concerned friend. I have no message on my phone, or from my offices in London or Cardiff. I write not to challenge or deflect but from a place of humility.
With regards to my past. I make no bones about it. I don't lie about it and I have served my sentence and done my time. My last conviction was in 2008, when I pleaded guilty to allegations for which I was sentenced in 2010. I was not rehabilitated in prison, nice Asian women like me from upper middle class backgrounds and a culture of entitlement are not sympathetic in the eyes of the  tabloid media and women in general are demonised when we commit crimes, because we are the anti - woman.  We don't fit into society's definition of how we should be or how we ought to behave. My crimes and long dissertations by blameless journalists are all in the public domain.  Indeed I wrote a book about my life which doesn't shine a glowing light on my actions. I was a reprehensible, selfish, angry woman, utterly shattered by early life trauma and sexual violence. Fear, anger, addiction and self destruction were the drivers in my life.  I pleaded guilty and I dragged my demons into the light and I deal with them, on a daily basis. I live my life informed by what I have done and who I was. Kazuri, the company which I set up as a direct response to my own experiences, post prison was established in 2010 to provide sustainable housing for women ex offenders or those leaving domestic violence. I do not handle the finances of the company, all our financial controls are transparent and available on the website.  My rehabilitation is my daily life and how I treat others and the tangible difference I know our company makes to the lives of dozens of women.
A report launched by Kazuri in the Houses of Parliament and supported by parties from all sides on G4S and asylum housing led to direct action by the powerful Public Accounts Select Committee inquiry into asylum housing and their damning report on G4S published last week. Another report into women in the criminal justice system directly influenced NOMS and a later ministerial statement on women in prison.  It's because I have been there, I have locus and can articulate what it's really like and address the real issues such as 37% of women leaving prison homeless and 17 500 children being separated from their parents through incarceration.  Before my imprisonment, I didn't care, bad people did bad things and were caught and deserved it. During my prison sentence I came to terms with why I did what I did. I moved on.
I do not wish to run this project. We have an impressive team in south Wales.  I am the ideas and blue sky thinking person on the team. On board are the best specialists in regeneration, fundraising, social investment and construction working on this project.
The issue appears to be some confusion about an employer engagement event at Cardiff castle.  The matter has not been handled by me, but delegated to a member of our team in south Wales. However I take full responsibility.  She has been in contact with the castle directly, NOT Cardiff council. We were not aware until today that Cardiff City Council had anything to do with bookings for the castle so the press spokesman is entirely correct, he knows nothing about the booking. I have shown the emails from my colleague and replayed a phone message to the journalist who wrote the article confirming such a booking exists. This will be raised as a separate complaint to Cardiff City Council about their press policy and dissemination of inaccurate information.  Of course, we have a digital trail of emails and correspondence.
However I find it confusing why, when we are working closely with various ethical investors to bring £5m of social investment to Cardiff's most deprived communities that third sector agencies, especially those in the women's sector and Cardiff Third Sector Council in particular have tried so hard to undermine what we are doing.  Our project is an anti-housing association model, it takes away the dependency culture inflicted on vulnerable and excluded communities through top heavy commissioning and replaces it with local solutions, from the inside out. The program is to regenerate communities by refurbishing empty properties and employing women ex offenders, care leavers and those who have survived trauma and violence to gain an accredited qualification in construction and property maintenance. Personal renewal is mirrored by community regeneration.
Kazuri has been shortlisted for a prestigious Centre for Social Justice award recently and is up for a Women in Housing award next week. instead of attempting character assassinations of me personally, perhaps some of the agencies working with the same women might look inward and find solutions which work for the women we are serving, rather than trying to undermine an important and significant new model to bring social housing to the market. I would invite anyone to come and see the work we are doing in the community with excluded and sometimes very damaged women and judge that in the present, rather than my past failings, which have been many.
I am very grateful for  the support of some of the development agencies particularly Business in Focus and WCVA who have supported our project since the beginning. This project brings much needed development and significant investment to south Wales, with some of the most qualified experts in the field on board. I am not involved in the finances of the Welsh entity and our intention is to leave a thriving community of women who become social connectors, on a model based on love and heart values, creating abundance from the abandoned. This is my reparation, rehabilitation and my daily prayer.
Once again I invite any individual or agency to come and see the work we do, talk to the women we work with and help us to learn to create a new business model, owned by and for the Cardiff community.
Yours sincerely
Farah Damji Director
Coming Home Cardiff Ltd.

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