Listen to the women: Refugee women demand to be heard

By: 
CARE

We are asking you to listen to these stories, because too often refugees are dehumanised and not seen as individuals.

These were the words of Helen Pankhurst, a Senior Advisor at CARE and descendant of suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst, introducing the Listen to the Women event in London (13 September) organised and co-hosted by CARE and Women for Refugee Women.

Before a sell-out audience, actors Anne-Marie Duff, Tanya Moodie and Juliet Stevenson read testimonies of women’s experiences of fleeing from conflict to seek safety. A group of four refugee women performed their poem Set Her Free, based on their experience of coming to the UK to seek asylum “and being locked up”. The performance featured the refrain: 

Anyone can be a refugee anywhere.

Fatima, a woman recently arrived in the UK and being supported by Women for Refugee Women, spoke movingly of the lack of safety in the refugee ‘prison’ in Calais, of problems and conflict between people trapped there, and of sexual harassment of women and even children.

The testimonies moved many in the audience to tears - such as the words of Zeina, a Syrian refugee now volunteering with CARE as a translator in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan:

Just because I’m a refugee, I’m not allowed to express myself – but I didn’t want to stay silent. We are not animals from the desert, we are humans like you. We just want to be treated like humans, not animals in a cage.

The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring the MPs Heidi Allen and Yvette Cooper, who are vocal advocates for the rights of refugee women and children; Howard Mollett, CARE Senior Policy Advisor; and Ghadah Al-Naseri, who sought asylum in the UK from Iraq, and now works with the London Refugee Women’s Forum and with Women for Refugee Women. Yvette Cooper summed up the mood of the event when she said:

The way that we make things happen is to tell these stories. It reminds us of the common humanity we share ... and that it is possible to change things if we stand together.

Photos above © CARE / Chandra Prasad 2016

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.