here’s what you can do to support refugee women
On International Women’s Day, it's more important than ever to listen to those who rarely get heard.
Photography Ro Murphy
Right now, women detained indefinitely at Yarl’s Wood (the UK being the only European country which allows that) are taking the desperate measure of a hunger strike, in order to try to get the British government to listen to them. Vulnerable women, many of whom are victims of torture, rape and trafficking are being detained in dire conditions in this very country. An end to being held without limit is among the key demands they are making to the Home Office, as well as a plea for the government to abide by the European Convention on Human Rights, as they refuse all food.
Today, on a day in which we celebrate all that women have achieved, and -- crucially -- demand more progress in the fight for an end to racist and sexist oppression, we must focus on those who are. Women for Refugee Women, a grassroots activism and support group, went to parliament today to fight for the rights of those still being silenced. They have joined with 40 other organisations to promote the All Women Count campaign, and are calling for refugee and migrant women to have the basic rights that we all expect -- safety, dignity and liberty.
Women for Refugee Women are using IWD to give awareness to the most marginalised in our society. As the organisation’s Grassroots Director, Marchu Girma says, "2018 is 100 years on from some women getting the vote in the UK but there are still some women's voices not being heard in our society -- mainly migrant and refugee women's voices -- so we wanted to highlight that this is the time to give a platform to those most marginalised and disenfranchised.”
Today they are lobbying parliament -- asking parliamentarians to make a simple pledge, “to listen to refugee and migrant women and support their rights to safety, dignity and liberty".
So, what can the rest of us do to help? On the All Women Count site is a link to help you find your local MP. You can then download the handy template letter created by Women for Refugee Women, add your name to it and send it off to your MP to help ensure these most vulnerable women are listened to.
By doing that you can make a real difference. As Marchu explains, this kind of action has worked before and can work again. “MPs always want to be remain in their seats. If there is enough pressure, this is something that works. We’ve made policy changes before by engaging with MPs. One the things we have focussed on over the past five years in particular is ending the detention of pregnant women. We have managed to change the policy -- before it used to be that pregnant women were detained indefinitely, however now there is a time limit in place, it's 72 hours now.”
And if you want to do more, get friends and family involved. ”Organising in your local community, raising awareness is the best way that people can support refugee and migrant women, using their voice to amplify and give platform to those voices we don't hear much from.”