At Women for Refugee Women, we’ve had a busy year empowering refugee and asylum-seeking women and making sure that their voices are heard in the media and by policy makers.
Here’s a whirlwind tour of just some of what we’ve been up to:
The women in our drama group showed just how much they have developed their confidence and creativity, performing their own poetry to over 80,000 people at the Women’s March on London in Trafalger Square.
We launched new research on alternatives to detention, ‘The Way Ahead’, outlining how the UK’s Home Office could move towards a fairer asylum system that doesn’t lock women up. We highlighted further evidence that detention is traumatic, expensive and inefficient. (Photo: Briony Campbell)
We organised the National Refugee Women’s Conference which was attended by over 100 refugee women and over 100 supporters, including Noma Dumezweni, Richard Fuller MP and Kate Green MP. (Photo: Briony Campbell)
Our Grassroots Director, Marchu Girma, visited Hamburg to attend the Democracy Camp 2017. She wrote this great blog about her experience and her visit to Migrantpolitan, a small art space and café run by refugees, where she met with Syrian refugees.
Refugee and asylum-seeking women in our network attended the ‘Surround Yarl’s Wood‘ demonstration.
Esther said, “I protested today to fight for the freedom of women who are detained, to fight for their rights, to fight for hope. I don’t want detention to exist because I have experience of it. Detention must stop. When the women inside Yarl’s Wood hear the protesters outside they feel happy because they hear someone fighting for them.”
We spoke at five events during refugee week, as well as hosting our own…
At our Women’s Great Get Together, we remembered Jo Cox’s message that ‘we have more in common than that which divides us’ and had a tea party for refugee women and other local women to come together, sing, dance and strike up new conversations. Our local Women’s Institute, the Borough Belles, ran a craft activity for everyone. (Photo: Aliya Mirza)
The women in our drama group participated in the Hear Her Singing project with artist Charwei Tsai. The project involved an exchange of song between the women in our network and those detained in Yarl’s Wood. The results were shared in video installations around the Southbank Centre, which kicked off with The Big Sing, a community singing event led by our drama group. (Photo: Tsering Tashi Gyalthang)
Eight women went on a retreat to Micklepage House in West Sussex, to relax, re-energise and work on new poetry and art projects. They produced these stunning screen-prints with the help of Social Fabric.
We collaborated with The Breakfast Club in Hoxton to provide textiles workshops for refugee and asylum-seeking women. We ran another of these course in November.
As our summer term drew to a close, we had a lot of fun at our end of term party for 130 refugee and asylum-seeking women. Our drama group also visited the National Theatre and tested out the costumes (pictured)!
August gave us a moment to regroup and prepare for a very busy Autumn. But we didn’t want the women we work with to feel isolated during this period, especially those with kids on their summer holidays, so we organised a trip for mums and their children to visit the Horniman Museum. We especially loved the Robot Zoo!
Our Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) group returned after the summer. Each week we give a warm welcome to around 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women who come together for English lessons, yoga, a warm lunch and advice. (Photo: Shyamantha Asokan)
Women in our drama group contributed their hopes and dreams to the Wall of Dreams project, with poets Morten Søndergaard, Kayo Chingonyi and Jasmine Cooray. Their dreams were projected across the Royal Festival Hall every evening for two weeks.
Ten women completed our ‘Telling your story with a purpose‘ training course with Ginger Public Speaking, in which they learnt how to share their experiences in a meaningful and empowering way.
We published ‘We are still here‘, research that found that the Home Office is still detaining vulnerable survivors of sexual violence in breach of their own policy. The story was picked up by the BBC, Sky News, The Guardian, The Independent and others. Some of the women who contributed to this research also spoke out in Parliament at an event organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees.
We also hosted another National Refugee Women’s Conference with Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) Manchester. 250 refugee women and supporters attended to share experiences of destitution and detention, and to plan action against them. Regional women’s groups shared moving performences, including WAST Manchester, our drama group, Hope Projects from Birmingham and CARAG from Coventry. (Photo: Elainea Emmott)
We organised a special screening of Suffragette with the Welcome Cinema. Marchu Girma, Monica and Priscille spoke on a panel with the film’s director, Sarah Gavron, about refugee women’s struggles to have their voices heard today. (Photo: Maria Brosnan)
Our year rounded off on a high at our Christmas Party for 130 women. We gave out awards for outstanding contributions over the year, danced, shared food and each woman went home with a huge bag of gorgeous beauty products donated by our wonderful supporters!
We want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us this year and enabled all of this to happen.
If you would like to help us keep this up next year, you can donate at www.tinyurl.com/givetoWRW