Am so sorry it’s taken so long to get this done! Here is a recap of our most recent meeting in January on the lived experience of migrant women in Ireland. (I have already uploaded a list of resources which were discussed at the meeting here). I think one of the reasons I’ve been putting it off is because I don’t think I can do justice to the meeting itself. It was one of those moments for me where I stopped still to look at myself and my own views and realised my own privilege in being a white Irish woman. Any summary I type is going to fail miserably to live up to the open, informative space that the speakers created on the night which brought me to those realisations. But as a few of you asked for a record of the meeting – so here goes!
First up we had Tabi Rose, Chairperson of the Cork African Women’s Group. Tabi spoke of her own background, how she came from Cameroon to Ireland amid fears for her safety. She was speaking out against the abuse of children in Cameroon which led to her leaving. She spoke of how women in her community were very resourceful and had micro-economies and how she had a successful business herself as well as being a single mother from the age of 22. Her passionate plea for migrant women to be involved in activities in a meaningful way, still resonates in my ears. ‘We like to be partners not spectators.’
Nilmini Fernando, a long time Cork Feminista supporter and PhD Candidate at UCC spoke next. Originally from Sri Lanka, Nilmini has migrated to many different countries and her talk combined her own personal experience along with her academic research. I’m uncomfortable summarising someone else’s lived experience, so I’ll leave that for Nilmini to write about if she wishes (hint, hint guest post Nilmini!) Her story was powerful and she uttered many uncomfortable truths such as rights are often conditional depending on who is exercising them. One of the phrases I have written down was a realisation she had about one of her own experience ‘It’s not me, its the way other are boxing me in.’ A phrase many of us I’m sure could identify with. She went on to talk about the importance of discussing the intersection between different identities, the diversity of migrant women and the use of feminism as a critique of power and oppression. I really feel like I’m failing miserably to capture the breadth of her talk so I’ll stop here and hope Nilmini is reading this and wants to turn her notes from the night into a guest post for us! We (Jen & I) also owe Nilmini a massive thank you for all her help in organising this event.
Fiona Finn & Claire Cumiskey of NASC spoke next. I already said on the night – there would be no way I could summarise or even attempt to summarise Claires legal knowledge so I’ll combine these two segments into one. Both focused on the issue of Domestic Violence and how the current legal system is perpetuating it for women. They talked about how the burden of proof on migrant women to prove they are being abused is huge. This has a big impact as women’s residency status is often linked to their husbands so if they are no longer with the husband, they face deportation. And this threat is frequently made against them by abusive partners. There is also huge problems for women when they do try to leave partners due to the type of visa stamp they have and an subsequent inability to access any emergency social welfare payments. NASC is doing a huge body of work in trying to navigate govt depts for these women. Also true is the fact that domestic violence is not just a migrant women’s issue and so NASC are trying to build cross community support for the issue. It became so apparent that the lack of any legal framework for migrant women suffering abuse at the hands of a partner is utterly appalling. It is something we all need to know more about.
I’ll freely admit this is really a pretty poor representation of the night – I’m still thinking about the affect each individuals talk, as well as the contributions from the floor, had on me and my thinking about racism, stereotypes, feminism and privilege. It was one of those meetings, where I was glad I was in the room.