For many of us who devote our lives working to promote gender equality, the 8 March has become a day to not only celebrate achievements and continue the struggles for women’s rights, but it is also the perfect time of the year to look back and reflect on everything we have done and learned so far.

Empowering refugee and migrant women as well as rooting out gender-based violence has always been our number one priority. Despite the difficult current socio-political environment in the UK, we have continued working tirelessly with our partners and like-minded organisations to build a fairer and more inclusive society for all of us.

Today, to celebrate the International Women´s Day, we would like to share the main achievements of our Gender and Justice Empowerment Project, which empowers, gives collective voice and protects vulnerable refugee and asylum-seeking women affected by crime. The project is funded by Comic Relief and has started in 2016, being now in its third and final year.

Within the Gender and Justice Empowerment project and by using a participatory approach, together with refugee and migrant women we have advocated to advance access to justice for victims irrespective of their residence status, as enshrined in the EU Victims Directive and Istanbul Convention. Since its start, over 80 refugee and migrant women have been trained by their peers on victim’s rights, we reached over 700 stakeholders and lobbied policy to protect the rights of migrant and refugee women living in the UK.

One of biggest achievements we feel proud of is the consolidation of The Women’s Advisory Board. The so-called WAB consists of a group of refugee women who is in the core of the decision-making and delivery of the project. They were trained as trainers to deliver training on victims´ rights to other refugee and migrant women. The development of training by peers has proven to be the best way to deliver information and for participants, the fact that the training is delivered by women with lived experiences, make them feel connected with each other, helps them build their confidence and gives them hope.   

In the areas of policy development, we have continued lobbying and pressuring the UK government to develop safeguards for women victims of crime irrespective of their legal status in the country. Together with the WAB, we co-produced a Manifesto for the UK ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The manifesto urges MPs to use the convention implementation plan to amend the UK Victims Code, ensuring the safeguarding of the rights of refugee and migrant women. Furthermore, to commemorate 2018 International Women’s´ Day we launched on social media our End Zero Risk Victims Campaign, amplifying the demands of refugee and migrant to make sure they stop becoming easy targets for perpetrators who see them as Zero Risk Victims.

Even though the journey has not been easy, it has certainly been rewarding. When looking back at the work done along these two years we can say it has made a difference in the life of refugee and migrant women involved. Some of the project´s participants have expressed:

  • Overcoming the stigma associated with seeking help
  • Increasing their levels of confidence and emotional resilience
  • Feeling empowered and listened by decision makers and society
  • Tackled social isolation by meeting other women in similar life situations and by helping their peers to do the same
  • Gained a sense of control over their lives by sharing their experience and being listened

Our work does not end here; there is still so much to do. For the rest of the year, we will continue to put pressure on the UK government to fully implement the EU Victims Directive and ratify the Istanbul Convention to protect and prevent ALL women from ALL forms of violence!

“Being in a BME women only environment was really important. The safety of the space allowed women to feel like they could share their sensitive personal stories and be supported emotionally but also in practical ways through learning their rights” (Training participant feedback)

[This Blog post was written by Carolina Luna, Equalities Projects Volunteer]