Venue: Community Development Journal conference Edinburgh,
Time: late afternoon,– 2nd July 2015
I was attending the session on Raising Refugee Women’s Voices facilitated by Fiona Ballantyne in which shared how her organization has tackled key issues around asylum and international protection, and the extent to which ‘institutions’ have responded to the insights and aspirations of refugee and asylum seeking women.
Two women both from Africa shared their experiences- one was a young lady who had an excellent job in Africa but had decided to move first to the US and then to the UK to experience a new culture. The second lady had to seek asylum in the UK due to the political situation in her own country. In the midst of this an issue came up that we need to have specific interventions catering to needs of refugees and migrants.
Responding to this the first African lady responded, “They call me an economic migrant but please don’t label us. We are human beings, treat us like human. We bring a lot of value to the host country. Would you have known how we live, what we wear in my country if I was not living in your country.”
Added the second African lady, “ I agree fully. They put us in boxes, outsiders decide what is good for us. I was told that I was not competent to be a counselor. But through my hard work and determination, saving little by little I was finally able to complete the course in counseling.”
What is your message I can take back to my community in India, I asked the second lady. She said, “Don’t put labels on people, it can erode their confidence and also cause conflicts in the community. When we are talking of countries without borders, why do we categorize people? But the can the world stop this categorization? I suggest you ignore such people. Work on what you are good at and you will succeed like I did.”
My personal takeaway from the session was that we people working in the development sector need to be conscious of the context from which different people come from. However, we need to be careful that we don’t highlight the differences in the community as there can be a danger of creating a rift amongst community members. How would you feel if some external person put you in a category to which you did not relate to? or which instead of bringing others together, created barriers? Why not connect as human beings!
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