Above: Taking a moment to enjoy the countryside on our leadership retreat
My name is Rebecca and I joined Women for Refugee Women’s network less than two years ago. In that time, my confidence has really grown. This is my story.
Before joining Women for Refugee Women I was very shy and I had lost all hope of living a normal life. I was very lonely and hopeless. I had been waiting for a decision on my asylum claim for a long time and I felt that everyone in this country had rejected me. I had no friends, no one to turn to for help. Nothing was working out the right way for me and it was very hard for me to fit in with society.
This all changed for me when I met Women for Refugee Women because I have had opportunities and training.
I was introduced by a friend to one of the drop in sessions. I joined the English language class and came back every week. There is a lot I have learnt about the history and culture of the UK. These classes have opened me up further to be able to feel included in society. I have excelled in that class and I even got an award for being the Star Pupil.
After three months of joining the group, I was so was lucky to be invited to attend a leadership training retreat with seven other refugee women. By the end of this training, I felt much more confident. I felt accepted.
After that I was invited to join the drama group. One of the ladies running the leadership course was the drama facilitator and she made me feel that I had lots to contribute. Every Friday we have drama sessions at the Southbank Centre, where we write poetry about our experiences and create performances together. This has improved my mental wellbeing tremendously.
I started to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity and soon joined a sewing and handcrafts course that took place at the Breakfast Club. This was so relaxing and fun! I also joined a five-week course called ‘Telling Your Story with a Purpose’ that was run by Ginger Public Speaking. I was inspired to listen to other women’s stories and it made me feel that I am not alone.
Because of all these new skills that I was developing, I started to go and visit other refugee women’s groups and universities to co-facilitate drama workshops. As part of a group of four women, I was invited by Trust for London to facilitate a workshop for people working in different charities about how to enable people with lived experience to lead campaigns. We attended a comprehensive facilitation course along with people from two other charities: On Road Media and Revolving Doors. On 10 July 2018, we ran a big workshop called ‘Making Space for Us’. I enjoyed using my experience to help other organisations to think about how they can empower the people they work with.
From all this training I have got new skills and my self-confidence has improved tremendously. I now feel bold enough to share my experience and represent other refugee and asylum-seeking women on different platforms.
Now I feel that I am not just a number but a valued person who can contribute and share my experience with wide audiences to increase understanding about the experiences of refugees. It is important that people can speak from their own experience, because if you have gone through it personally you can portray a better picture of what it is like to seek safety.
I am so grateful for the total support of Women for Refugee Women. I would not have been able to achieve any of this without the travel expenses that they always provide. I know that when I come, I am assured of a warm meal or snacks. It’s not just about creating opportunities but also enabling women to take part. We are now a family and we support one another when we meet.
Of course there have been challenges along the way. For me, the biggest challenge has been destitution. It has been a very big problem for me. I’m still waiting for my decision from the Home Office but at the moment I’m waiting from a different perspective. Before I joined Women for Refugee Women I had lost all hope but now I have regained my confidence and I have learnt more information concerning my rights. Now I know where to go and what to do.
My highlight on this journey is when the drama group performed our poetry at an event and afterwards we had to step up and go on the panel for the question and answer session. I really felt powerful and in control, and confident that I could come up with good answers that everyone was ready to listen to.
To other refugee women in my situation I would say, don’t hide away, there are opportunities available and you have so much potential. We refugee women are capable of sharing our stories and leading campaigns for a fairer world, we just need to be given the chance!
*Rebecca is a pseudonym
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