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Sisters Not Strangers Newsletter: Issue 1



As the lockdown eases and we are enjoying the summer holidays, we are delighted to share with you the first edition of our Newsletter which will be published once every two months. We will be sharing with you amazing stories, poems, updates on our coalition activities and the voices of refugee women.


Who we are


Sisters not Strangers is a UK-based coalition of groups that support asylum-seeking and refugee women.


Our coalition was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic hit the most vulnerable people in society the hardest, asylum-seeking and refugee women were amongst them. It also highlighted that there was no advocacy space that was devoted to issues that affect asylum-seeking and refugee women specifically.


Our aim as a coalition is to campaign against hostile asylum policies, we have women with lived-experience at the heart of our leadership. Our coalition is based on hope; a space where we encourage others to stay hopeful. We seek to change the asylum system that has dehumanising and discriminatory attitudes that have been around for far too long. We seek to speak out for women who live in destitution and are in desperate need of refuge.


We encourage asylum-seeking and refugee women to be involved in shaping government policies. We also recognise that the power to change things comes from collective action as a group. We are committed to being inclusive; we listen to the interests and needs of refugee and asylum-seeking women, so that we can involve as many as possible in our campaigns to make a difference.


As Tandrima, one of our sisters, stated in our manifesto, ‘I want a space where my contribution will make an impact- where I can challenge, and not feel compelled to just accept decisions that are made or suggestions that are proposed by others.’


We dream of a world where all women who seek asylum are seen as women, as neighbours, as mothers, as colleagues, as activists – as sisters, not strangers.




Elsie’s story


It was a cold and snowy February day when I arrived in the UK. I had never seen snow in my life, and it took a lot of getting used to.


I came here from South Africa. When I was younger, I had many dreams. I wanted to marry a good husband and I dreamt that we would live in a beautiful house with six children. All of those dreams are fading now. I still do not have a husband or a big family, but I do have a group of sisters from all around the world who are my family.


I now reside in a women’s migrant house in Coventry and I appreciate that so much. Sharing a house with four other women who are in a similar situation to me is comforting. Our collective dream is to have our papers one day and start living our full lives.


Participating in different women’s groups such as Baobab, Women for Refugee Women, CARAG, Women with Hope and Sisters not Strangers has helped me to accept things as they are. Not having a secure immigration status is frustrating. I have made a few applications with the Home Office but nothing positive has come out of it.


The support I am getting from other women with lived experience of seeking asylum is amazing. Sharing experiences and ideas and lifting each other up helps me to not give up. We are working together to campaign for governmental change and acceptance in the UK for asylum seekers and refugees.


My name is Elsie Mlambo, I am 50 years of age. I am the mother of one daughter and a grandmother of one grandchild.


And I hope that one day we can make a change.



FREEDOM


A conversation between two people. One is seeking protection in the UK, the other is a British born of migrant descent.


A poem by Mariam Yusuf


Hey, what’s your name, I see you come here every day

I have more than one, it depends on which one suits the occasion

An illegal immigrant, asylum seeker, scrounger, my name does not matter

Not many people remember my given name

Anyway, to answer your question, I come here to make friends

I come here to get advice and support, learn something new

Because I have a lot of time to spend, I am very free

Tell me, you speak good English, what does freedom mean to you

I checked with Cambridge dictionary it says the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited

Exactly, that does not apply to a person with many names as myself, coz am considered a fraud

Dispersed, displaced, destroyed and depressed, a lot of Ds in my way of life

I wonder what the society thinks of me with all these D’s tagging behind me

Its very confusing, isn’t it.

You may not know this, I am not free but I am well-travelled my friend

I started from the south, stopped over at midlands and settled in the north

Not sure how long I will stay here.

This week we celebrate refugee week, yes, I am free to do so

The contributions that refugees have made over the years meant they were free to

achieve their goals and realise their dreams, ambitions you name it.

With freedom, I can dream on, with freedom I can have a name

With freedom I can have a permanent post code,

with freedom I can integrate in the community

Hold on a second, you just described the meaning of freedom to me, sorry my friend I am none of the above, I am a nobody, I am nowhere and everywhere

This is me, a person with many names

But I am an individual, yes, and individuals make up a society, WE ARE HERE AND WE

DESERVE THE DIGNITY OF A PLACE IN SOCIETY

I am an individual, individuals make up a society,

Society cannot exist without individuals; I work with my community as we cannot walk alone.

My quest for freedom continues……


Thank you for reading and please keep up with our other activities by clicking the hashtag below.


#SistersNotStrangers


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