We invited women involved with the FATIMA project to share their experiences of working with migrant women and their thoughts on how to better support them.
Arriving in Europe, migrant women face numerous challenges to integration ranging from language to cultural barriers. The FATIMA project supported these women working in Slovenia, Poland, Spain and England.
Since it was launched, the EU-funded project has exceeded its goals reaching 255 women from 40 third world countries. We invited women who lead the project to share their experiences and to reflect on the context in which they worked and their understanding of how best to support migrant women on their path to integration.
As explained by Olivia Darby, the webinar’s host and Director of Programmes and Policy at WONDER our goal is to develop a safe environment where women are not just existing in a new reality but are thriving in it. For this reason, the project was co-designed with migrants to best understand how to support their political, social, cultural and economic integration.
The Challenges of migrant women’s integration
For panelists Bouchra Somati, ESOL tutor at the Baytree Center in the UK and Gabriela Raga Sanz, former participant and now a coordinator in Slovenia, women prioritise finding a job as soon as they arrive in Europe. Even if educated and qualified to pursue a specific career, not knowing the local language and the obstacles of cultural diversity stops migrant women from developing their own personal career. Feeling insecure in the context they now live in, they often give up job searches or accept working jobs where they are overqualified.
Panelist Katarzyna Ochman is a coordinator of a range of projects for Panorama in Poland. She feels that negative media coverage also presents an obstacle to migrant women’s integration and leads to isolation. In response, we should better understand the complexity of women’s balance between different aspects of their life such as job finding, language learning and family, providing them with a space to grow and be themselves.
What are the benefits from joining the project?
According to panelists, Dr. Nsababera, external evaluator for the project, a surprising finding is the positive impact of FATIMA on psychosocial wellbeing and confidence. The program activities positively contributed to the migrant women’s sense of belonging, reducing isolation and encouraging involvement in community life.
Women appreciated being called by their names and valued the friendships they formed. They enlarged their social networks, feeling a stronger connection to the community they lived in. These psychosocial benefits help immigrants in other areas of their lives too. Following the project, the participants felt more confident applying for jobs and taking initiative.
When dealing with the topic of migrant women integration it is clear that we still have a lot to learn. Listening to the experiences of the women involved with the project can better our understanding of the context and improve the ways in which we support migrant women on their pathway to thriving.