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Our history


Anawim’s mission is to help women from all backgrounds and communities in and around Birmingham to get the support they deserve. It’s what’s driven us since we started the charity back in 1986 in a terraced house in Balsall Heath. 

Anawim was founded by two pioneering nuns, Sister Magdalene Matthews and Sister Maisie Nevin, who moved into a red light district in Balsall Heath – at the time described as ‘Britain’s busiest cul-de-sac’. They decided to open their home as a drop in centre to women in the local community who were involved in prostitution and vulnerable to exploitation. The Sisters were struck by the difference it made for women to have a safe space, a warm drink and a listening ear. A place they could go without fear of judgement, to meet other women who cared deeply about their wellbeing. Motivated by unconditional love, an appreciation of the value of every woman, and a commitment to helping people to live life to the full, the Sisters’ mission continues to inspire us. 

‘Anawim’ comes from an Aramaic word, referring to the poorest, the outcast, the persecuted – those with no voice

From the beginning, we partnered with Father Hudson’s Society and together we grew Anawim into the charity it is today – an organisation that remains true to our founding ethos and helps hundreds of women every year. And while our roots are founded in the Christian faith, we welcome women from all religions and none, and from every possible background and community. We believe that anyone can find themselves in difficulty or experience trauma – whether that’s living in an abusive relationship, battling addiction, involved in crime or sex work, or simply struggling with day to day life. Our work can make a huge difference in helping women to try to change their lives – step by step.

From listening to thousands of women for over 30 years, we know that every woman’s story is different and that’s why everything we do is informed by individual needs, which means we offer the broadest support. From a place to stay when women are leaving prison, or a place to visit when things are tough, to courses, activities, counselling, help with parenting, care, specialised support, clothes, food and other essentials like access to a phone and the internet – women’s lives can sometimes depend on us. Until women’s needs are fully recognised by society, we will continue to fight for justice and advocate for change.  

Anawim is an independent charity and we also choose to work in close partnership with a number of agencies, including Probation, Social Care, health and education providers, employers, the criminal justice system and the wider community. We also value the contribution of our staff and volunteers and are committed to listening to our women and involving them in our decision making. 

While funding will always be an ongoing challenge, we’ll do everything we can to keep Anawim’s doors open for women. For support, for friendship, for a safe space – for the help they need. Whether women choose to drop in to our centres, contact us online, or use our resources – together, we’re helping women to change their lives for the better.