The Women’s Advisory Board consists of users from our women-focused projects and meets monthly, enabling refugee, asylum-seeking and other marginalised groups of women to scrutinise our projects and take on a responsible role within the organisation.
Currently alongside its advisory and scrutiny role the women are helping to develop an online training course for organisations who may be supporting refugee and asylum seeking women. This training aims to allow organisations that may come into contact with vulnerable women to understand how the past experiences and every day pressures of refugees and asylum seekers are impacting their lives and what are the most effective responses.
The WAB are also developing a project to recognise the achievements of other women who in a similar situation to them through hosting an event to celebrate what people living in adversity can accomplish.
One of the key principles of the WAB is empowerment and over the next year members of the group will be further empowered themselves to go out and train both women and organisations working with women on the best ways to advocate for the rights or refugee and asylum seeking women who have been vicitms of crime.
The WAB currently has 10 members who are committed to making the lives of other refugee and asylum seeking women better.
“At WAB they listen to me and that made me feel like I was worth something, that I could be listened to. Before I thought no one is going to listen to me. It is a really good experience.” M., WAB member
“For me the best thing about WAB has been being able to communicate without being interrupted, I’ve been able to be listened to, and give your opinion freely and that anyone can take into consideration” S., WAB member
As community experts women guide our work, by sharing their experiences such as going through the asylum process in the UK:
“It was very interesting to know that there was an organisation out there that was thinking about our problems and what we can do about it…because there are all organisations out there helping people, practically, helping them to get solicitors etc. but actually they haven’t done anything to help change the situation. So when I came to WAB, I was really excited. It was good to know that there was an organisation out there thinking about us…so I really felt listened to as an asylum-seeker” A., WAB member
We also involve them in strategic discussions about the context of our work and campaigning, so that they can input into every aspect of our work. Recommendations are then submitted to the IARS management committee and Board. This ensures that our female users are involved in a structured way in our strategic development and decision-making procedures. As Panel members and campaigners, the women feel that they have a purpose in their lives, despite ongoing uncertainty and frustration of their life circumstances:
“The WAB has helped me because now I have more confidence. I didn’t know before that I could like speak in between people, I did really not have a voice. Like when we are in the group we are talking about what’s happened to refugee women and you find yourself experiencing the same problems as others. All the women. Before when you didn’t know, you feel like I’m the only one going through this and then when you come to find out that a lot of people are going through the same situation so that gives you courage” D., WAB member
“The best thing about WAB has been able to reach out to other women and getting to know them. We are like sisters here.” Y., WAB member
This approach to lobbying holds out the best chance of influencing the government to develop a more gender-sensitive approach to women seeking international protection.
All our female users get the opportunity to be more involved in IARS projects, by attending workshops, assisting with how the projects are managed, writing in the IARS newsletter, updating the website and setting up events. All members are awarded with a certificate for their active participation.