SAWA Women's Space
Sawa is a women and children only space that is held in Quaker Meeting House in Central Belfast 2 days a week. The women who attend decide what services are delivered. Our overall aim for the Sawa women’s project is to create a space where women can come together, share knowledge, assist each other with accessing services, employment, and education, have child-free time, attend training and information sessions, and show solidarity to others through shared struggle. We also want to create a place where women are free to laugh and enjoy time together. We have allowed women to use the space to celebrate cultural and traditional celebrations such as EID, Ramadan, and Easter.
All sessions are child-friendly and public transport costs are refunded to the participants. At the start of the project and every 6 months the group does a brainstorming session about the activities and workshops that they would like to do over the coming months. Here are some of the examples of what we have been up to:
A workshop with an immigration law expert on the Asylum appeals process
A workshop with the North Belfast regional Education officer on the education system in NI
A workshop with a representative from the NHS on the national health service
A trip to the beach in Holywood
A workshop on people’s rights in asylum accommodation
A day out to Glasgow
A visit to Grow’s community garden
A bread making workshop with Love Works Cooperative
A group trip to the Duncairn’s Sunday Sessions event
A trip to Cave Hill Country Park
A workshop on the Open University and Workers Unions with Fidelma from Unison
A workshop with representatives from Women’s Aid
More recently some of the things that have been happening in Sawa include women’s only yoga, Zumba, rowing with Lagan Carraghs, Prism – project connecting refugee women with Belfast born carer group, sewing group, English classes, fundraiser for one of the members who recently passed away, campaigning for childcare in asylum interviews, using the space for cultural celebrations and a wedding.
‘As an asylum seeker my way of life is hindered by everyday challenges such as denial, disbelief and restriction in most important things in life. For me, the women’s group is like a therapy I look forward to every two weeks. Its a place where we share our feelings and difficulties and being heard. Whether there is a professional speaker who enriches us with what is available for us our there or just with our organiser (Elfie), we do have very productive discussions that helps me carry on with life and know that there is other people who does not care about us. Many thanks indeed to Homeplus organisation and their funders.’
‘I cant even begin to talk about the challenges we are faced with as asylum seekers, its jut to much to handle on your own. Thanks Elfie and everyone at Homeplus for your help.
Last week was my first time in the group. I was having some challenges finding a school for my special needs son, but with Elfie and her office’s guidance I’m now at peace knowing everything will be fine for my son.’
‘Well said ladies the name says it all. Its Home+More = Homeplus.
Thank you so much to Homeplus and its funders this has really helped us to know about which doors to knock on when looking for help and who to speak to for whatever problem we face as asylum seekers and refugees in Northern Ireland.’
‘Paying for the bus tickets for the group was very helpful, it enabled me to attend the helpful sessions as they helped us to be more integrated in NI society as asylum seekers. I am always keen not to miss any sessions that Homeplus organise… the health care, education, police force and hate crime advocates, knowing about housing rights and especially the session that an expert explained and gave us more details about the main asylum interview. I appreciate Elfie and Homeplus’ good efforts. Thank you!’
‘The session that Eddie did helped me a lot. In general I appreciate the sessions we have as I get more info about the asylum process mostly from people who have been in it longer than myself. Also to have a place where I can express my feelings about what I am going through, with people who understand. I appreciate it dearly.’