"I feel safe in this country"
We're pleased to have received funding from Awards for All to work with Bassajamba CIC to design a powerful digital project that looks at the development of different skills from social activities refugees participate in and the informal learning it entails. This was one of Jordan's first projects to work on, here she tells us about the experience.
"It was really exciting to get started on my first ‘big’ project I’m producing with Afrocats! Arriving at Cross Street Chapel, I met with Janet who is our contact for the venue and headed into the lovely space.
There were already four women in the space, it was nice to see how eager they were to get going. I immediately got onto brewing the tea and coffee and setting up the space for the comfort of the women.
As we started the session we had eight of the ten Iranian women invited to participate in the project. Edel had a pre-existing relationship with most of the women and got us started with some small icebreaker to get particularly me, more acquainted with the group!
We started by going around, saying your name and a small move, you’d often see their faces light up with a smile after moving. Zari used the hand gesture for making a love heart, which I thought was a lovely way to establish the space in wanting to create a supportive environment with these sessions. We then followed this with the human knot, where everyone stood in a circle and had to connect both hands to other people who weren’t standing next to them. We then had to unravel ourselves so we were a long chain, without letting go of any hands!
The women laughed as they tried to navigate getting out, some more eager than others to spin, turn and duck out of it.
We introduced the project to the group with the overarching question for the session - How can we make life better for them in the UK?
We tried to emphasise how this project wasn’t just for them but their friends, family and the wider community to support them in staying connected with each other as well as wider society.
Working in groups, we started by getting the women to think about the culture shocks they experienced when first arriving in the UK. We then broke this down into further subcategories of Physical Health, Mental Health and Community to look at the main barriers they faced and are still facing, fleshing out these subcategories before feeding them back to the group. We encouraged participants to write in whatever language they felt most confident articulating themselves in, as we were lucky to have a participant who is confident in both languages translate for us.
There was some talk on freedom of expression here in the UK and the current oppression of women in Iran. One woman told us:
‘As a woman I feel safe in this country…in Iran everything about women rights; education, culture, marriage, hijab’.
After a short break, we started with the collaging task. A lot of the women focused on building images that reflected a future they saw for themselves rather than building an image that communicated something that supported them or a message they would pass on to someone who just arrived in the UK.
Whilst working on this task, Edel played the ‘Persian Essentials’ playlist on Spotify and it was met with the women singing along! At the end of the session, we then shared our collage images with each other and the woman spoke about what the different images represented to them.
Through this first consultancy session, we were successfully able to identify three focused topics of research based on the women’s experiences of the biggest barriers they faced as they came to the UK and explore these in more detail in the coming sessions:
Access to healthcare and the GP. The ‘rules’ or procedures for doing things.
Cultural shocks and the differences particularly how we celebrate events, holidays and rituals in the UK in comparison to Iran.
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