Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

Women for Refugee Women: Empowering those who have fled across borders

As our 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth, Women for Refugee Women write for us about the work that they do to help refugee women rebuild their lives. 

Women for Refugee Women works in the belief that every woman who crosses borders in search of safety deserves a fair hearing and a chance to rebuild her life. Each week, over 100 refugee and asylum-seeking women come to us for English lessons, therapeutic activities such as drama and yoga, advice and nutritious lunches.

The women involved say:

“Women for Refugee Women helps me to understand my potential; who I am, what I can accomplish. They allow me to be in my element with people around me who are likeminded.”

Coming here makes me feel empowered. Before I was in darkness. Now I have learnt so much. Women for Refugee Women is like family to me. Here we can get ideas from each other about how to improve our situations.”

The asylum system in the UK is set up in a way that means many vulnerable women are detained in immigration detention centres like Yarl’s Wood or end up living destitute. Women seeking safety are dehumanised: disbelieved, locked up, plunged into poverty and isolated. Our #SetHerFree campaign calls for an end to the routine use of indefinite detention, which is deeply traumatic and distressing.

We enable asylum-seeking women, who are so often unseen and unheard, to build their confidence and communication skills in order to tell their own stories. They have used their voices to inform a range of audiences, including urging policy makers to build a fairer asylum system.

We’ve had some major breakthroughs, for example there is now a 72-hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women. But detention is still a routine administrative process in this country and we need your support to change this!

You can help by:

  • Giving or fundraising – we rely on the generous donations of our supporters to run these activities for refugee women. Please donate here or contact admin@refugeewomen.co.uk if you’d like to take part in a sponsored challenge for us!
  • Spreading the word:  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to share refugee and asylum-seeking women’s stories, or why not host an event? We can provide flyers, films and even speakers.
  • Volunteer: We are often looking for people to help out with our English lessons, social media or on creative projects.
  • Stay in touch: Sign up to our mailing list here.

The 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth. Check out their Facebook event page here for more information about what’s on this week.

 

Jen Carey, creater of new board game Rampunctious, talks entrepreneurship and sexism in the gaming industry

Jen Carey, creater of new board game Rampunctious, talks entrepreneurship and sexism in the gaming industry

Jen Carey has always been interested in games, ever since she got a Playstation One as a child. Jen went on to study game development in college, and after working in games companies and games middleware, Jen has switched the screens for boards with her new board game creation Rampunctious. Jen had time to chat with us recently about her entrepreneurial venture and what it’s like as a woman in the gaming industry.

 

1. Hi Jen. So tell us, what is Rampunctious?
Rampunctious is the game of terrible puns. Rampunctious came about from wanting to make a game that I’d like to play. I’ve always enjoyed making bad jokes and I’m that friend who loves to make a bad pun, so I decided to come up with a way to inflict that on as many people as possible. It’s a party game for four or more players and whoever makes the best, most or worst puns wins. If someone makes a pun so bad that people physically cringe (and are tempted to disown them) they can be awarded a Cringe card, which is an extra point and a shameful honour. The first person to get 10 points wins.

 

 

 

2. What was your favourite part of creating Rampunctious? 
My favourite part happened after a few scheduled playtests. I went to some game dev events, and people were asking if I’d brought Rampunctious with me and when they could play it again. It’s a really great feeling to find you’ve made something that people enjoy playing and were trying to play again.

 

3. What’s next for you? Any future projects?
My next game is already in the works and it’s called Bragging Rites. We’re at the early playtest stages of creation. The idea is everyone plays as a criminal and they try to come up with the best story possible to claim bragging rights for a crime. The catch is they have to explain the evidence that’s left at the scene, which is revealed piece by piece. This means they have to keep changing their stories to explain how a block of cheese or a bowl of sequins was left there.

 

4. What is it like being a female in the gaming industry?
Being a woman in a male dominated industry is always going to be a bit of a trial, I won’t lie, but there are so many amazing, creative and supportive people here that you can usually avoid the horrible ones. There are a huge amount of people who are working to make the industry better and more inclusive for everyone. The main thing I’ve found is that you need to get comfortable with calling out behaviour. A lot of people don’t recognise that they’ve said something offensive or they think that everyone feels the same way they do. I’ve found it helps to be able to challenge them when it happens. It also feels like you’ve done everything possible in a situation.

 

5. What advice would you give to any young aspiring female innovators?
Creative career choices often have a lot of skepticism associated with them. Some people have the idea that only a certain kind of person is allowed to be creative and that’s simply not true. If you want to make new things, whether it’s games or something completely different, go for it. Someone has to do it, why not you? Often the people making the most interesting advances or products are the ones who look at the topic differently. Everyone’s struggling to find something new and something can’t be new if you only look at it from the same view point and interests as everyone else.

 

Rampunctious is officially launching in October. There will be a launch party in The Square Ball on 24th October, check out the Facebook event page here. At the launch you can grab a copy of the game, or you can order it from the website ficklegames.com. The game costs €20 excluding postage. We don’t know about you, but we’ll be practising our puns for the next few weeks!
Want to take action? Check out our semester one events round up

Want to take action? Check out our semester one events round up

Want to take action and make this college year count? We’ve got you covered with a wide range of events for every month of semester one, so jump in and get involved.

September – March for Choice.This year’s 6th Annual March for choice takes place on Saturday 30th September. The March begins at the Garden of Remembrance at 1.30pm, before culminating at the Dáil at 2pm.

October – IAmIrish – Exhibition and Conversation.This celebration of mixed race Irish identity takes place on Wednesday 25th October in Axis Ballymun at 7pm.

November – Dublin Run in the Dark.This year’s run takes place on Tuesday 14th November to raise money in the hopes of fast tracking a cure for paralysis. The multi location event begins at Custom House at 8pm.

December – Santa Dash Dublin. Raise money for a good cause and have fun too. Santa Dash Dublin takes place on Sunday December 3rd at the beach on North Bull Island in Clontarf from 2-5pm. Everyone who takes part gets a Santa suit, with kids getting a free present from Santa in his igloo!

January – DSPCA Volunteer Oreintation. On Saturday 6th January 2018 the DSPCA are holding an orientation for new and potential volunteers at the DSPCA Rescue Centre in Rathfarnham at 11:00am. But don’t worry if you miss this one, they hold orientations on the first Saturday of every month.

Photo Credit: DSPCA

How can we inspire future female leaders?

How can we inspire future female leaders?

November 8th, 2016 will forever be remembered as the day America chose to elect the least qualified presidential candidate in history. While there were many reasons the American electorate turned from Hilary Clinton to Donald Trump, it is undeniable that gender played in role in Clinton’s defeat.

Although it’s easy to shake our heads and tut at America’s lack of progress, let’s examine women’s political leadership in Ireland. Like America, Ireland has never had a female Taoiseach. As it stands, 32 women were elected to the Dail in 2016, a new record. However in July 2017, out of these representatives, only three women were chosen as Ministers for a Cabinet consisting of 19.

In a world that is strikingly unequal and unfair, how do we encourage and prepare young girls to overcome the barriers and take on leadership roles?

Encouragement

From an early age, we need to encourage young girls to be confident and to not shy away from hobbies or activities that ‘are for boys’. Subjects in school like engineering, coding, and science that are historically male-dominated should be inclusive to any young girl who has a passion and interest in them. Make it clear to them that education and careers are just as important as relationships. When it comes to sport, encourage them not to give up as they enter teenage years. Partaking in sports can teach girls leadership skills, provide them with the ability to work as a team and boost their mental health. More than anything, we need to teach young women that they deserve to take up the same amount of space as men.

Embracing Feminism and Intersectionality

Feminism has gotten a bad rap the last decade. Conservatives and traditionalists label modern feminism or ‘third-wave’ feminists as ‘man-haters’ and angry women. While the message of feminism may have gotten muddled with the rise of ‘white feminism’ and ‘feminist lite’, the essence of feminism lies in its definition: the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. Feminism is a champion of both sexes and encourages people to eschew traditional roles and be their most authentic selves. But a valid criticism in recent years has been that feminism is exclusively for white, middle-class women who fail to recognise the discrimination of women of colour, LGBT women, working-class women and women with disabilities. To truly reach gender equality, we need to ensure everyone has a share of the pot and to do this, intersectionality must be embraced and spread far and wide. The most common definition of intersectionality is; ‘The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” We must continue to listen to voices from every background to ensure that our workplaces are not just full of women who fit the mold of ‘privilaged white girl’.

Representation

While diversity is the buzz word for the media and organisation’s, the real sign of progress is representation. In a 2016 study, Fortune report revealed that out of 1,000 companies in America, only 7% had female Chief Executives. This points to the harsh reality: women are underrepresented in levels of leadership. For example, If women do not have a say in political decisions; it means that the voices of 51% of the population are not being heard. This results in several socio-economic problems being ignored by male leaders and branded as ‘women’s issues’. To combat this; many global companies and governments have introduced gender quotas. While these quotas have been met with apprehension, from both men and women, they have proven successful in accelerating women’s progression in the corporate and political world. To enforce that women are represented at the top level, countries such as Norway have introduced sanctions for any company that doesn’t meet its quota requirements. In an article about gender quotas in the Scandinavian country, researcher Siri Terjesen explains that ‘if a company breaks the gender quota rules in Norway it will be denied registration as a business enterprise in the Brønnøysund Register Centre and be subject to forced dissolution by the courts. So far, no company has been sanctioned.’

Tackling online harassment

Statistically, females receive more abuse than males on social media. A 2016 Guardian study tracked 70 million user’s comments on its website over the course of 10 years. The results were unsurprising; out of the 10 writers who received the most abuse, eight were women. The 10 writers who received the least abuse were all men. News articles and opinion pieces aren’t the only breeding ground for online vitriol. Social media sites like Twitter have become a stomping ground for online trolls to harass women with messages of hate and threats of violence. Twitter has been slow to tackle this sort of abuse; at times they have failed to block users or ban their accounts, resulting in many female users abandoning the site altogether. One recent case acts as an example of how lawmakers did punish two online trolls who targeted a feminist campaigner. In 2014, two people were sentenced to jail for sending death and rape threats on Twitter to Caroline Criado-Perez, a writer campaigning for a woman to be featured on the £10 note, and to Labour MP Stella Creasy, who voiced her support of Criado-Perez. While it is promising to see individuals reprimanded for such acts, it’s worth noting that the pair were allowed to send multiple threats without the website suspending their accounts.

Raising Boys Differently

To inspire future female leaders, we must also change how we bring up young men. Similar to girls, we must encourage them to explore their true selves instead of forcing them into a small box of masculinity for the rest of their lives. Encourage them to see women as their equals in their personal lives and professional lives. This can start by ending gender segregation in primary and secondary school. Single-sex classrooms limit both girls and boys. In a 2011 article from Science.org, it argued that single-sex classes are ‘deeply misguided’ and that ‘There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.” Additionally, we need to raise young men to believe that sharing parenting duties is the norm so that it means that a woman does not automatically give her up a career or take a step back from a career to raise children. Even if paternity leave becomes widely available, culture and attitudes need to change towards shared parental responsibilities. Figures released by the Department of Social Protection revealed that since the introduced changes in Ireland’s paternity leave set-up, only one in fours fathers took the two-week leave. If women are expected to climb the career ladder, men should be expected to do their best to ensure it happens.

For too long women have had no role models to guide them to the top. Men have had the luxury of mentors in every possible sector to help them get to the top of their field. Going back to the 2016 US elections, it wasn’t just Hilary Clinton who lost out. This was a defeat for every woman who deserved to see a woman finally get the opportunity to smash that glass ceiling to pieces.

 

Emily is a journalism graduate from DCU. Her work has appeared in the Irish Independent, Sunday World Online and Hot Press Magazine. She is passionate about equality and a fair society for all citizens.

Take a Stand this month against period poverty

Take a Stand this month against period poverty

Period poverty is a growing problem in Ireland. It can be an off putting topic for some, but the fact is that women and trans men who are homeless or living in hardship cannot afford sanitary products, which can be dangerous to health and take away a person’s sense of dignity. According to CSO statistics from 2015, just under 9% of Ireland’s adult population lives in consistent poverty.

Take a stand against this injustice with Period Poverty Ireland, who have started a gofundme campaign for those with no access to sanitary products, or sign their petition asking our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to provide free supplies to those in need. The Homeless Period Dublin also accept donations of sanitary towels and tampons to provide homeless women or those in direct provision with what is a necessity. Let’s follow Scotland’s example, who recently decided to give out free sanitary products across Aberdeen.

Follow Period Poverty Ireland on Facebook for updates

Book Review: Asking for it

Book Review: Asking for it

I have always been afraid. For women it’s normal. We learn to be afraid of walking alone after dark, afraid of alcohol, afraid of dressing a certain way; just to be afraid.

Louise O’Neill’s book Asking for it explores this fear in horrifying detail as we follow our main character, a young girl called Emma, who is beautiful, popular and enjoys male attention. She wore a revealing dress that night, she was drunk and took drugs, she went off alone with a group of boys, but did she deserve what happened to her?

Emma is not perfect. She’s not a picture of virtue or niceness and at some points I found her to be incredibly unlikeable as a character, but this to me was the greatest aspect of the book. It smashed down the belief that only “good girls” are to be believed and only “good girls” deserve justice. It’s a razor sharp and unforgiving exploration of rape culture, slut shaming and sexism in Ireland.

Emma’s trauma and destroyed life are made worse by the fact that all anyone else, even Emma herself, can think about is how her accusation affects the men involved. “I have ruined their lives. My fault, my fault” Emma repeats over and over, having no one to reassure her that as the victim, her life being ruined is all that matters.

This book is truly excellent and has been such a success that a stage production is planned at the Everyman Theatre in June 2018, and I for one can’t wait to see this hard hitting piece of literature brought to life.

Asking for it is a devastating and disillusioning read that will make you feel like punching a wall and curling up into a ball crying at the same time. I wish everyone in Ireland would read this book and try to understand the stigmas we all unconsciously perpetuate.

You can order a copy online at Easons here.

Credit: Pictured Louise O’Neill, photo by Miki Barlok