Community Healing. How two projects support their communities
Photo: Women in Exile e.V.
For more than a year now, we have been able to accompany two of the projects funded by filia’s Empowermet Program for Refugee Women* (EFF): BIWOC* Rising from Berlin and Women in Exile e.V. from Brandenburg are the two strategic funding projects of the program. The funding began in the fall of 2020, in the middle of the Corona lockdown. What have the projects experienced since then? How are they doing today and how do they look to the future?
About the projects:
BIWOC* Rising is an intersectional empowerment project to strengthen the economic, professional, and social participation of marginalized women, trans, intersex, and non-binary people of color. For example, BIWOC* Rising offers an intersectional coworking space and has responded to the great need for safe workplaces. They also offer workshops and have created a mentor* program.
Women in Exile is an initiative founded in Brandenburg by refugee women* fighting for their rights. The decisive factor for the founding of Women in Exile in 2002 was the experience that refugee women* experience double discrimination: They are excluded as asylum seekers by racist laws and are also discriminated against as women*. Women in Exile draw attention to the specific challenges of refugee women*, for example, in public events, they are networked nationwide and do important empowerment work in camps.
Important goal: giving communities a foothold
Looking back at 2020, what were the challenges faced by our funding partners?
“Community Healing. After the uncertainty that 2020 brought – the lockdowns and the associated separations from loved ones, the financial collapses, the increased racism and sexism, and more – the biggest challenge was giving our community a foothold,” BIWOC* Rising responds. “And for us, that’s also an intersectional approach – understanding your own privilege and advocating for others. Self-care is the latest trendy term, but without losing yourself in the process, community-care is much more effective and sustainable.”
Women in Exile e.V. also had to struggle above all with the pandemic and the resulting limited opportunities to meet physically: “Visitors to refugee camps were not allowed for a long time. We weren’t sure whether to plan an online or physical meeting, especially when it came to national networking meetings. For example, this was a challenge when we planned our bus tour to northern Germany. It was difficult to find places to sleep because a lot of it was booked up or because of the restriction by Corona rules.”
And despite these challenges, both organizations have continued to be active and have accomplished much this year. BIWOC Rising were able to fund centrally located spaces for their Safer Space and also send a message against gentrification: “This is a very big success for us […] Our communities are being pushed out of their neighborhoods and for some their livelihood depends on it. We are now providing our community with a safe space for very different community work.” And Women in Exile were also able to realize their bus tour despite the pandemic, visiting women* in camps and opening up networking and empowerment spaces: “All the networking we were able to do during the tour was incredible.” Despite intimidation attempts by the police, they were also able to organize a short demonstration in front of the Schwerin parliament and succeeded in “forming a group of refugee women* in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.”
More reallife meetings next year
Both projects look forward to the next year. “We noticed that despite the Corona pandemic, many refugee women* from different backgrounds joined our group,” said Women in Exile, describing a sense of achievement from the past year. Now, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, the association is planning an international conference in the summer of 2022 for refugee and non-refugee women*. “During the conference, we would like to present our joint book, which is in the works and will hopefully be ready in time. We would also like to present the structure of our archive, which will be an ongoing project for refugee women*’s work.”
The BIWOC* Rising team is looking forward to “more networking nights and exciting collaborations. We also really hope to develop our mentoring program as there is a lot of demand for it. We will also have a regular podcast so that Allies can follow our work as well.”
“Patriarchy has to go”
If they had one wish to make structural change, both projects agree: the patriarchy has to go. “The patriarchy has to go. Once and for all.” say the colleagues* from BIWOC* Rising. “It is the source of all evil. Changing a structure within a system does not mean change for us, only a shift. We would like to see a change in the system. Without patriarchy, we have a chance for intersectional justice that benefits everyone, including men.” Women in Exile also see patriarchy and capitalism as global and systemic problems that need to be changed. In addition, “we would also like to see the education system change, books with racist content be revised or burned, and children be taught from a young age to identify as human beings, by name and not by their sexual orientation, origin, or skin color. In higher educational institutions, history should be taught as it is, and not German-centric.”
We thank both projects for their important and courageous work.