By Rose Barrett
Rafika Kelly, Project Worker for the Southside Partnership Women’s Programme and Women4Women Network knows first-hand the issues facing migrant women coming to Ireland.
Raised in her father Taher’s native Yemen, Rafika was a mature adult when she came to live in Ireland 20 years ago, her mum Patricia being from Paulstown, Co Kilkenny.
Almost four years now working with the SSP Women’s Programme, Rafika returned frequently to her grandparents’ farm for holidays so she knew at least some of the cultural differences.
“Language and culture pose huge issues for incoming migrants – plus the weather,” she told Dublin Gazette. “Even trying to source familiar foods and not knowing the general orientation of your new location.
“Some women we help through the programme are refugees or migrants; they may be here with families or on their own, while others we support are exiting direct provision.”
While racism is not evidenced on a wide scale, Rafika stated the killing of teenager Azzam Raguragui in a Dundrum park last year showed there is still some prejudice lurking under the surface.
His attacker was last month convicted and has been jailed for manslaughter.
“We had a case this year of a young female student sitting her Leaving Certificate who was attacked by another woman, a stranger who tried to pull off her hijab,” said Rafika. “The student was most upset and came to her mother who was attending our sewing class in Furry Hill Community Centre.
“Her mother did not wish to pursue the matter but we encouraged them to. They contacted the gardaí who accessed CCTV footage in the area, identified and reprimanded the perpetrator. That completely restored the family’s faith in our system here”.
Support and events
Rafika told Dublin Gazette: “We try to organise events that encourage integration between the local and migrant community. Women who attend are aged from 20 up to 60 years.
“Our Multiculture Women’s Breakfasts are held every five to six weeks. We did manage to have one each in June and September, before the restrictions were raised to Level 5.”
Throughout the ‘normal’ year, women living in Ireland from India, China, Japan, France, Spain, Morocco, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere take part in programme’s events.
“When it’s in a venue, we are far more restricted with numbers. At the breakfasts, everybody brings a dish from their native country which makes the experience more interesting. We usually a fun 10 minute introduction/icebreaker and then a workshop.
“Workshops are themed around isolation, racism, citizens information citizens, arts and crafts, etc. The events are three hours long with table displays of jewellery, crafts, sewing and art from various countries and then we eat!
“International Women’s Day in March is usually our biggest event, and we’re already planning a festival for next year, when hopefully, we will be able to meet up face to face.
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Southside Partnership’s main office is in Blackrock but the Women’s Programme is based in the Furry Hill Community Centre, just off the Sandyford road in Balally.
“Women continue to contact us during the pandemic for support,” revealed Rafika. “We had English language courses but we did lose some students as they may not have access to laptops or with children at home, they may not have had the freedom to study”
Funding is vital to support the ongoing work of the SSP’s Women’s Programme. Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill (FG) recently welcomed the allocation of €2,000 to the SSP and €5,000 to the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Integration Forum.
Crafters in the SSP women’s group recently made and presented 500 Covid masks to the Sophia Housing project, with materials purchased from a €500 funding grant.
“Migrants4migrants is an extension of the SSP Womens Network,” said Rafika. “We’re planning to have a drop in centre at Furryhill, but the pandemic has delayed it.