It should go without saying that Black lives matter. As a charity focused on transforming women’s lives through education, WONDER works with migrants and minorities in Europe and those with few opportunities in developing countries.
At every juncture our partners try to work to make the women and girls they work with realise their own value through the way they are treated. They work with them to recognise their own talents and strengths. The unique gifts that they have as a unique person. Why is this important? Because systemic inequalities make us feel ashamed of being poor, of being black, of being dark-skinned, of being a woman. Structural inequality steals our self-belief and self-confidence.
It should go without saying that we treat every person as we would like to be treated. At WONDER Foundation this has always been our mission and something we strive to improve all the time. Our original founding members came from all over the world. Our current staff are majority migrant women. Our board members are all migrants and/or minorities. Most of our volunteers are migrants. Our partner projects are all led by women who are firmly rooted in their local communities.
When we talk about social integration in our projects with migrants, like the FATIMA Project, it is with this in mind. With our own experiences, and the experiences of the women with work with, of being migrants and feeling excluded. With our own experiences of being minorities and being made to feel welcomed, heard and valued.
Demonstrating that Black Lives Matter is about all of this and more. It’s about taking the time, not to find simple solutions – superficial solutions – to inequity and injustice, but in finding ways to build solutions owned by local people. In giving them the resources to achieve this, building the capacity of local organisations. In dialogue which recognises local knowledge and expertise and isn’t just tokenistic.
It’s in being reflective and always seeking to do this better, recognising that we are all the product of systems which are inherently unjust. And it’s in recognising that when we ask our Black friends and colleagues who are to help us to achieve this, and they graciously agree, we are giving them an additional burden to reverse the wrongs of systems that have been designed to subjugate them.
We all have biases. When we delivered our “Knowing me, Knowing you” programme on social integration for young people, social psychiatrist Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington reminded us that categorising people is an evolutionary safety response. It’s easy to categorise people, by race, social background, or football affiliation, into familiar and unfamiliar, good and bad.
We have to aspire to be more than this, to overcome these instincts to be lazy and to stereotype. We must realise that we have the power to see everyone as an equal, unique, precious human being if we want to, and to show others that they can too. Can we focus on building solidarity, creating this better world together, encouraging each other to use our freedom and talents for the good, rather than seeking to further divide society into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
We are grateful to all our colleagues in the UK and internationally who take the time to listen, correct and challenge us. We all hold some prejudice, but we work hard to address it, and hope that WONDER is showing that Black Lives Matter in everything that we do.
This isn’t about self-congratulation. This is about accountability. We can always do better.