Contributors to this piece: Isata, Pela, Bose, Karen, Mariama, Ruth, Flavy, Afusat, Nanou and other members of the Women’s Group
The Migrants Organise Women’s Group is a peer support group involving 80 migrant and refugee women. The group began before Covid as a solidarity group meeting face to face and continued meeting weekly on Zoom, facilitated by a member of Migrants Organise in partnership with Migrants Organise Community Programme staff and volunteers.
This month, as part of our Resilience Festival, the group met to discuss what resilience means to them and to share stories and experiences. These are some of the things that our women said during our discussion. We hope that you find them inspiring. These women are survivors.
What is resilience?
‘We are dealing with anxiety, fear, trauma and abuse. We are dealing with the Hostile Environment. But we are still here, and that makes us strong women. We are still here fighting for our freedom.’
‘Resilience is about a strong will, setting a goal, pushing forward to achieve what you want to achieve. A force. A strong will, despite the challenges when this country doesn’t want us to have a life. We just want to live our lives.’
‘The ability to stay strong in hard times, challenges or in difficulties.’
What helps you stay resilient?
‘When I think about where I came from, I stay resilient—I think about how I lost so many loved ones, I still have the strength to go on. I have to stay strong and I have to live. If not, who would look after my son? Without him I feel like I could not go on. I look at him and I think about where I came from.’
‘Reading scripture, or remembering the work of my father. Today might be difficult, but tomorrow I will rise again. I will make him proud by fighting for this, and for all the people who need to be free again.’
‘Even though I am facing problems where I am staying, even though I reported the issue and they say they are investigating, I sometimes feel if I die they would not care. But resilience is the way I have been here. ’
‘Through lockdown, I used to show the group photos of what I was growing in my garden—courgettes, potatoes. Every week it helped me to come together as a group. To watch something grow.’
‘For me, reading the Bible, singing and listening to music (Gospel) and praying has helped me to stay focused and persevering.’
How has the Women’s Rights Group played a role in your story?
‘The Women’s group helped a lot with my mental health. We used to meet sitting around a table, but on Zoom it still helps. I am always glad to see when it’s one o clock, because I can see my sisters and talk to them, to share stories and advice.’
‘It’s not easy leaving your family behind, coming to another man’s country and then things turn to the worse. But by joining this group I am gaining my confidence back. That loneliness that I felt before is just gradually disappearing. It’s not easy to talk sometimes, it’s hard to express myself in groups, but I have to say something. I tell my story for women going through the same thing that I went through. Women go through a lot but don’t break easily. Like a tree—when the wind comes, we might bend a bit by the side, but do not fall.’
‘Since I arrived in this country and suffered loss, I kept thinking I was not important to society. But this group brings a lot of hope. I learned how to look at myself, how to think that tomorrow is going to be better.’
‘Since I came to this country, I never joined an organisation because I didn’t know where to start. But with this group, I found a lot of confidence. I know there are people around me. While we are alive, there is hope still—I share it and I thank God for them.’
‘I have been in the group since after lockdown. I didn’t have anyone around, and my daughter was so young at the moment. But [the Migrants Organise caseworker] I worked with makes me feel like I have something to do in the future. She was there for me.’
‘The Women’s Group gives us the courage to move on despite our situation.’
‘With the strong support of Migrants Organise a lot of positive stuff has happened. The Migrants Organise Women’s Group is one of the arms of this charity that is educating, inspirational and friendly. I have gained a lot and still learning. Thank you to all members and supporters of this wonderful and amazing charity.’