Welcome to Women for Refugee Women’s newsletter!

This newsletter is to update you on our activities, campaigns, staff and other news. We hope you enjoy!

Our activities

This term, after over two years of suspending our face-to-face activities, we were delighted to welcome women back to our office in Old Street, including lots of new members!

Since late April we have been running a mixed programme of in-person groups (beginners and intermediate English, Rainbow Sisters, drama, radical knitting and creative writing) and online classes (yoga, Rainbow Sisters and intermediate English).

Our talented writers have composed inspiring pieces on themes ranging from water to letters to their childhood selves. One of its members, E.E., performed one of the poems she wrote in the group, ‘Power of Water’, at the Houses of Parliament to celebrate refugee week. And our radical knitters are well on the way to creating a beautiful, big, multi-coloured blanket.

In addition to our core groups and activities, we also ran a successful new digital inclusion workshop series that empowered women to use technology and learn new digital skills. Watch this space for more of this in the new term!

 

Rainbow Sisters

Rainbow Sisters, the group for lesbian, bisexual and trans women asylum-seekers have been very busy this term, gaining lots of new members and planning our Pride activities. 

70 of us marched at London Pride on the 2nd July. It was the 50th anniversary of London Pride and also a very special Pride for Rainbow Sisters, as 50 members have been granted their status since the group was founded in 2018.

We are meeting every Monday on zoom and every Tuesday face to face at Women for Refugee Women. 

 

 

 

Rainbow Sisters: Report

Building on the evidence-gathering done by the Rainbow Sisters last year, we are in the process of finalising a report looking at the experiences of LBT women claiming asylum in the UK.

The report will be published to coincide with Black Pride on the 14th of August and we hope to secure significant media coverage to raise the plight of refugee women who are claiming protection in the UK on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity.

We’ll be in touch to with the network when the report is published with actions you can take to help amplify the message!

 

 

 

Drama

Our Drama group is a welcoming space, inclusive for all women from all corners of the world. Every voice matters and is amplified in a creative way to reach wider audiences.

We have been meeting since 2016, and we are based at the Southbank Centre, London, for our weekly sessions. The activities are very relaxed and enable us to connect, build our confidence and encourage each other. We take part in singing, writing performance poetry, playwriting and video making. We have performed for thousands of people and at many events and we are currently creating a book and audio of our performance poetry.

For many of us, drama is a cherished home.

 

 

 

Detention

We have continued to campaign against the detention of women in Derwentside detention centre, taking part in local demonstrations and speaking at events and gatherings.   

At the end of June our legal challenge against the Home Office’s detention of women without access to in-person legal advice was heard in Court. We gathered outside of the Court to show solidarity with those who have been detained and to call for an end to detention, generating media coverage about the Set Her Free campaign.

We recently learned about a woman in detention who was issued with a notice of intent for her removal to Rwanda, as part of the Government’s cruel plans to send people seeking asylum to Rwanda to have their claims assessed. We are supporting her alongside her solicitor, and broke the story to the media to raise awareness.

Our ‘Detention Group’ of women with lived experience of detention are meeting regularly to build a solidarity network for those experiencing the threat of detention, and to build skills and generate ideas to engage in campaigning against the use of detention.

 

The Nationality and Borders Act

On 28 June, despite our campaigning efforts, the Government passed their cruel anti-refugee ‘Nationality and Borders Act’. This included measures such as treating people differently depending on how they arrive into the UK.

We have signed up to the ‘Fight the Anti-Refugee Laws’ pledge committing to take a stand against these laws that punish refugees.

We also hosted a campaigning workshop in London for women from the network to reflect on our campaigning work around the Nationality and Borders Bill and brainstorm on next steps.

We’re considering all of the feedback received and over summer will be thinking about the next campaigning actions we can take to challenge the anti-refugee laws. Watch this space for ways to get involved!

 

 

Media and Communications

Through our media and communications work, we aim to inform the public about the experiences of refugee women in the UK. A few highlights from the last couple of months include:

  • ‘Marie’ shared her experience of managing her period with Refinery 29 to mark Menstrual Hygiene Day
  • Our Director, Alphonsine Kabagabo, spoke to The No Walls podcast about her experience surviving the genocide in Rwanda and about how we support women who have survived gender-based violence.
  • We continued to share on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Please follow us to keep up-to-date with our social media posts!

 

 

 

 

An update from our Director, Alphonsine

It has been a year and a half since I joined WRW and I have been amazed by the dedication of the staff team, volunteers and the resilience of all of you.

I am so glad that our face to face activities have resumed, as I have now had the chance to meet some of you! Our plan is to increase our face to face activities in the future and create opportunities for you to input into our programmes and activities.

There have been lots of changes in the past couple of years from the departure of Natasha and Marchu last year to the ongoing Covid pandemic. We are excited that our Deputy Director, Andrea Vukovic, joined in April. Andrea is highly experienced and leads our advocacy, influencing and partnership work to build a welcoming asylum process.

Sadly, we are also saying goodbye to Samantha Hudson, our Communications Manager, after more than five years in the role, during which time she helped grow our supporter base and reach new audiences with our welcoming message. We are delighted that Carenza Arnold has stepped in to cover the role in the interim period, bringing a wealth of skills and experience in public messaging and engagement from within WRW and the wider sector.

We are also disappointed to announce that our Grassroots Co-ordinator, Viki Zaphiriou-Zarifi, will also be leaving WRW in September in order to embrace new challenges. We are hugely thankful to her for seeing the grassroots work through the Covid pandemic and back to in-person activities, and wish her all the best for her next steps. Interim cover for her post has been agreed to ensure there are no gaps while we recruit for a permanent successor, and we will announce further updates shortly.

We know change is never easy and requires patience, communication and trust, but please be reassured that Women for Refugee Women remains committed to supporting you and to creating change for a more welcoming society for all women seeking safety.

 

 

Thank you!

As always, we would like to say a massive thank you to our fabulous volunteers who have brought their wonderful energy to all our activities and have continued to provide amazing support throughout the year.

We will be taking a break from activities over the summer. The term ends on 20th July. We look forward to welcoming everyone back in the autumn for an exciting new term of activities and fun!