15th May 2020

In December 2019 Refugee Women Connect’s Women’s Advocacy Group was established. Thirteen women from different countries, religions, sexualities and cultures came together to form the team with the purpose of creating change within the hostile asylum system, to make it safer and fairer for women seeking refuge in the UK. Our experts by experience completed a five week training programme covering the topics of campaigning, intersectional feminism, public speaking, sharing your story and self-care. The group was then established.  

 

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the group would meet in person every two weeks to discuss the strategic direction of their work and specific challenges and inequalities women who are seeking refuge in the UK experience. As the crisis reached the UK and social distancing became a necessity, the group moved to virtual meetings to ensure their essential work could continue and that women’s voices are present in all discussions relating to the crisis and the wider asylum sector. The group have chosen to meet every week during the crisis to ensure they stay connected and in touch with each other.

 

The group's work and influence in the crisis has been nothing less than inspiring. In mid-March the group began discussing the core challenges of the crisis and how their lives had changed since it began. Key themes of destitution, social isolation, increased pressure relating to children’s care and education and difficulties obtaining food items emerged as prominent issues that, although persisted pre-crisis, had intensified and deepened. Our group's experiences were collated to present to the Home Affairs Select Committee through their enquiry into Home Office Preparedness for COVID-19 and enquiry into Asylum Support and Accommodation. The group has also been documenting their experiences of the crisis through our newly established blog in order to show the impacts it has had on women in the asylum seeking community.

 

As part of our meetings the group members each created an image that they felt best depicted their experiences of lockdown and their current thoughts. The group present their work below…

'I chose to create these pieces with a rainbow because the rainbow has all the colours of life! It represents the fact that life is beautiful and that right now we need to hope for a better tomorrow. I have drawn round the hands of the children in our house because I wanted to include them in the piece and it represents the love we have for each other during this time. It reflects the quote I have included which states "I could conquer the world with one hand as long as you’re holding the other"'

'I chose to paint the hand prints of all my family members because we are all in same situation with regard to the crisis for the first time. We need each other to give support to the family and understand that everyone has different moods during this time. The colours represent laughter, feeling okay, feeling bad, anger and love'

'I drew this piece with my daughter because it represents the fact that the world is in need right now. People across the world are locked down in their houses to make sure they are safe. We have to protect each other and take care of ourselves. All we need in this moment is just to be safe and healthy. We will always hope for a better future'

'I chose the word ‘peace’ for my work because, in my point of view, it is important to have peace in all situations you find yourself in. For me, peace equals hope'

'I chose this piece because it represents the time I have spent with my children during lockdown. Because they cannot go to school and nursery, I have spent a lot of time reading books with them'

The group continue to meet every Thursday to continue their important work and support each other during this challenging time, offering sisterhood to all members as well as women in the the wider asylum seeking community.

#covidstories