Updated: Nov 2, 2019
Baobab Women’s Project beneficiaries are like a Phoenix, women wither and it feels like death in a system that discriminates, but eventually, once recognised as human they rise from the ashes and live beautiful lives.
Baobab’s most useful inanimate object is the mobile telephone, it connects us, facilitates women supporting each other, allows us to report heating or fridge break downs, lets us know if someone has won an appeal, or if they have been detained, it allows us to act fast and network with solicitors, MP’s and activists.
Right now, Baobab is growing, it’s an infant, learning, developing, making mistakes, changing, from its inception we have evolved into a team of volunteer advocates, volunteers, an acupuncturist, a counsellor, a self help facilitator, one about to be appointed full time worker, a part time worker, directors and a management team.
Women walk through dull grey monotonous seas, waiting, waiting, waiting, numbed by past pain, unable to move into their futures.
Most have been raped or suffered sexual violence, some use sex to survive as workers, wives; or to get get a child to love and give purpose to existence or help them get status.
Agnes, Talha, Bridget and Malka came together in 2015 to decide what we wanted to do, all experts by experience, they brought wisdom and understanding to our core.
Asylum Support and Section 17 have many problems, recently Gail and her 4 year old daughter, in a SERCO house had the electric turn off, the boiler stopped working, she reported it took the accommodation providers, it took 11 days to mend, they lived in darkness, losing the fridge and freezer contents. They forgot to move them to a hotel after saying they would. Farro housed by Wolverhampton Social services is cold, the concrete floors never warm up, she dot have enough funds to pay for heating, she’s moving to a Asylum Support hostel this week, away from the cold, but to a new city where her children lose access to their education.
The system is dreams and nightmares, the promise of Cinderella changes, being sheep living in a shop eating ice cream, the reality of Jerry mice running around your kitchen, to the devil dragging you shackled and screaming to be burnt on a stake.
Our space changes, we current exist at Elmwood church Monday’s, we have a welcome space, confidential office, open advocate space, den for groups and the kitchen for creating our tasty lunches.
We have a habit of being late, having only one day to see women this is problematic, when we arrive on time at 10am expenses are sorted, our morning planning meeting sets the jobs for the day, we talk about events attended, we start at 11, and unless we get more than 20 women coming for advice, the day is smooth. Advocates set their own rules to say coming after 10.15 isn’t allowed. It’s positive when we address bad habits together making good habits the norm.
I lead the team, I don’t like managers, or hierarchy, my way is to teach advocates casework knowledge, enable the skills they have have and encourage them to take responsibility for there work as part of a team.
Our project flows like water, it’s full of twists and turns, has deep parts entering souls, and shallow waters rippling over the rocky stones of destitution, ptsd and denied residence and protection.
It’s bound together with love, we are a family.
How will we be in 3 years? We need to meet and produce a strategic vision.
Having just got our first full time employee funded, spring is turning to summer, the blossoms will be women in safe houses, more knowledge from training across the sector, advocates with a more gender sensitive approach.
I want the project to end, when there’s no more death in the Mediterranean from sunken boats, when there is no destitution in the UK, no more displacement of people due to conflict, no more slavery and trafficking. Women will have risen together getting the rights and livelihoods by working with others across the UK, and the wider world. It’s been a long time coming, and there are many amazing women whose footsteps are to be followed.
There is always hope.