’Systematic networking is a key to successsful ensuring female migrant and refugee rights’: conclusions from the workshop by WIDE+ members in Sweden

Participants left with many new insights and connections the workshop ‘Women’s Voices: Civil society and migrant women’s rights’, organized by WIDE+ member  GADIP in collaboration with Fisofa held at 29 May, in Gothenburg, Sweden. It has achieved its objectives: to raise and discuss good ideas and experiences; to spread these to other organisations and countries; and thus, to contribute to capacity building as well as empowerment among migrant women and associations.


The meeting demonstrated the useful and innovative projects and programmes carried out by women’s rights associations to support and empower migrant and refugee women. There were many lessons learned, and one key conclusion was that systematic networking should be enhanced between women’s rights organizations, including female migrant and refugee associations. Such organisations that do a lot with the support of volunteers need to cooperate with others in order to spread information, for example on new options becoming available for migrant women.

Exchange between women’s rights associations can build the capacity of organisations to serve (other) migrant women but also help them gain empowerment on individual and at society level. For migrant women who are not properly matched to the labour market, social entrepreneurship is a way to gain empowerment and social belonging. The example from Terrafem that was shared, whom are working on violence against migrant women, showed the success of collaboration and spreading information. They are reaching out to migrant women through more than 60 languages, which they mobilised through voluntary resources, with as purpose that women shall communicate in their own language. Other associations shared how professionals offer training on discrimination&rights and economic literacy and provide free of charge economic and judicial support.

33823369_951902414971235_980498401831419904_nThe presented experiences from different associations crossed borders, by including not only practices from Sweden, but also from Poland and Serbia on how the collective agency of women themselves, mostly undertaken in their free time as volunteers, contribute greatly to the protection and promotion of rights and the empowerment of migrant women. It is important to highlight this kind of work, since in the current political climate the integration of migrants, including asylum procedures, is a hotly debated policy, but framed negatively in a discourse focusing on costs and national security issues. In these debates the social rights of migrant women, children and youngsters are neglected.

What was also unique to this workshop is that it assembled civil, non-profit organisations of migrant women addressing four themes – violence, economic literacy, discrimination and labour opportunities and other stakeholders, such as state bodies.

The Swedish history on women’s movements shows that networking and capacity building form necessary parts for mobilisation to protection of women’s rights. Several activities to promote women’s rights are created within civil society – grassroots organisations, voluntary organisations and NGOS take initiatives for helping migrant women to find their place and to be visible in countries where they want to settle down.

The voluntary women’s organisations act as glue between their way of working and the authorities where rules don’t properly match to the problems faced by migrant and refugee women.

The workshop is part of the 2018 international project: “Strengthening Innovative Solutions to Protect Female Migrant and Refugee Rights“, coordinated by WIDE+.

This project is made possible and supported in part by a grant from the Foundation Open Society Institute in cooperation with the Human Rights Initiative of the Open Society Foundations and national partners in Sweden.

The workshop had also brought together WIDE+ members from all over Europe as a meeting was held parallel to the workshop in the context of the two year project ‘promoting gender equality, migration, security and democracy through adult education’ with project partners WIDE Austria (project leader), CEIM (Spain), Le Monde selon les Femmes (Belgium),  GADIP (Sweden) and Karat Coalition (Poland). This project is financially made possible through the EU programme Erasmus+.

33875374_951902074971269_2126004855855120384_nA detailed report from the workshop is being prepared and will be provided at the websites of the organizing associations, including WIDE+. Further information can be provided by Ulla Björnberg, Ulla.Bjornberg[at]socav.gu.se.

Picture with key organizers Ulla Björnberg on the left and Nancy Contreras on the right, with Edmé Dominguez in the middle.

Writer of this article: Ulla Björnberg




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