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  • Suzanne

Influencing at Sisters not Strangers Liverpool Conference Feb 2024

My name is Suzanne, and I am an advocate and influencer working with Baobab Women’s Project. I started as a volunteer when I was still in the asylum system, which has been very hostile to migrants for more than 10 years. I remember being destitute because I was refused asylum, and the experience was unspeakable; I thought I was to die, and the world wascoming to an end. I was introduced to a drop-in session at Baobab. From this day, my story became my stepping stone to start raising my voice. The system doesn’t take into account the wellbeing or mental state of those seeking sanctuary, all it claims is that it follows policy and procedure.

I was signposted to partner organisations who helped improve my mental state through counselling. What was amazing was that many people I came across were not aware of the asylum hostile environment especially the fact that I was living on £5 a day then. I learnt from then that the more people know my plight, the more support I can get, and the more porous the system becomes.

So I have been an advocate for more than four years. I have supported and coached many women to speak out and join organisations that advocate for change in the hostile environment.

I want to share a really good experience I had recently. I attended a conference in Liverpool organised by Sisters Not Strangers, a grassroots movement led by asylum-seeking and refugee women. I heard about this conference through Baobab. I attended in the capacity of an influencer.

The aims of this conference were:

-continuous raising awareness against the hostile environment women find themselves in;

-encouraging many organisations to join in the fight for system change especially the End Detention Campaign which is open and running.

During the conference I felt fulfilled because the turnout was so great and the women were happy, and sharing their stories confidently. The audience was also so ready to support in whatever strategy the women want to engage in to ensure that we stop the hostile environment policy.

I had one-on-one conversations with some women who had this to say:

“I have been in this situation for 12 years and I am not getting any younger, help us fight this hostile environment”

“Why should my children not have the same opportunity as their classmates, they are not allowed to benefit from some scholarship programmes or obtain higher education just because their parents are asylum seekers”

“Even though we are asylum seekers, we are human beings so we should be treated as such”

I found this conference very important because women are now speaking up for themselves.

I saw how community groups are working together for a common goal. I met and networked with some community groups such as Swansea Women’s Asylum and Refugee Group and Refugee Women Connect based in Liverpool, among others.

The lesson I learnt is that women with lived experience should not be silent, there is power and strength in numbers. Organisations are working together and this has form a strong team.

I would like to attend more of such conferences because as an influencer I like to hear more about the situations of women seeking asylum, and express solidarity together.

Follow Sisters not Strangers on X @SNS_Sisters

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