It's March, and it's international women's month. What does that mean for us 21st century women? We've got the vote, most of us are free to pursue the careers we choose, and marry whom we like.
I recently met with Victoria, a representative from the charity Women for Refugee Women. It's a very small charity based out of Tindlemanor which is a fabulous and unique "women only" building that houses many female organisations. I was struck by how little I knew about the life of refugee women in the UK. I had always assumed that our welfare state would take care of them. After chatting with Victoria I was filled with how my life couldn't stay the same if I was "transplanted" from the UK to another county with no finances, no local language skills, and no access to family or support. All the things I take for granted as an educated middle class woman, would be meaningless. Without speaking the local language, I could no longer work in the industry in which I have extensive education and training. Essentially I'd become a different version of the woman I am here in London.
Here's a little about the charity, and how we as local WI members can help out
Women for Refugee Women challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK. They work to empower women who have sought sanctuary here to speak out about their own experiences to the media, to policy-makers and at public events. They are particularly concerned about women fleeing gender-related persecution, such as rape, forced marriage, honour crimes, threats of female genital mutilation, and trafficking for forced prostitution. Many women who have fled such experiences are turned down for asylum on arriving here. If women are refused asylum they face destitution and detention in the UK, and deportation back to places where they feel they would be in danger. They aim to give a voice to women who are all too often unheard and unseen.
Women for Refugee Women support the group Women Asylum Seekers Together (WAST) London. The WAST London meetings provide a safe welcoming space where these women can share their experiences, and find strength and solidarity in one another. Weekly English classes, advice sessions and lunch are provided to the group at Tindlemanor in Old Street. WAST London also meet on a Saturday each month.
They are currently looking for creative women who are happy to volunteer to share their arts and crafts experience with the group. If you are interested in meeting members of the inspiring WAST London over some sewing and knitting this spring just let us on the Stokey WI Committe know by e mailing on firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's a couple of other things you can do during international Women's month-
3 March: Million Women rise march
9-11 March: Women of the World Festival (WOW)