A conversation with Sandhya Sharma of Safety 4 Sisters
We’re delighted to announce that we’ve received our first donations to our COVID-19 Collecting project. The donations came from Sandhya Sharma, Group Coordinator at Safety 4 Sisters (S4S).
S4S is based in Manchester but has a global outlook. Established in 2009, the organisation fights for the rights of migrant women who’ve experienced gender-based violence, particularly those with “no recourse to public funds”. They’re a feminist anti-racism organisation that both provides support and services for migrant women as well as campaigning to dismantle the racist and unjust legislation that affects them.
We spoke to Sandhya to find out what made her donate to our collection.
What’s your relationship to the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre & Education Trust (AIU Centre)?
Personally, I have a really long history with the Centre. I remember when the Centre was set up in 1999, it was really exciting to find a place where work around race could be recorded and kept. You don’t feel like a minority in the library, you’re surrounded by books that reflect your experiences. And my partner was at Burnage High School at the time when Ahmed Iqbal Ullah was murdered, so it’s always been important to us.
Safety 4 Sisters has always seen the AIU Centre as an ally, we’ve worked together in the past. The Centre already holds two Safety 4 Sisters resources – we donated our Migrant Women’s Right to Safety Pilot Project report from 2016 and “Our Journey”, the Hostile Environment zine. We’re really proud to have them in the archive. They’re not slick, peer-reviewed publications but they are our authentic experiences in print and are just as important as other types of publication.
What’s important to us is that the AIU Centre understands intersectionalism – we don’t have to separate out gender from race, we don’t have to explain our identities. If you look at the collections, you see intersectional voices coming to life. You see us every day, you don’t pick us up and glamourise our voices, then drop us when we’re not flavour of the month.
It feels like home to the voices of our members and groups like ours.
Why did you decide to donate to the COVID-19 collection?
I speak to the women I work with every week, and they say they feel alone and afraid. COVID-19 has made them even more invisible than ever. One of the women told me:
“If we don’t document what is happening, who will? We know that migrants and people of colour and us marginalised women seeking asylum are written out of the lessons learnt and all policies and responses to disasters…How do we know this? Because if we weren’t we would have been at the top of the government response to COVID-19, not at the bottom.”
From an organisational point of view we also feel invisible. We’ve been ignored for so long and after years of austerity, we’re not sure we’ll exist for much longer. So it’s important to place our voices and records in a place that will hold them with care – we gave them to the AIU Centre because we know our experiences would be valued and cared for.
What did you donate to our COVID-19 collection? Why did you choose these items?
We donated two items. The first, ‘Still a Migrant’, is a piece of prose by a member of our Migrant Women’s online writing group. The women are over-flowing with words and pictures and other ways of documenting their experiences. The donated piece describes the surprise and pain at constantly being defined purely as a migrant, despite her British citizenship and time here.
The other item is an organisational document: our position paper on COVID-19. BME women, migration and abuse ‘Migrant Women: Failed by the State, Locked in Abuse’. We donated this because we’re proud of this position paper and its demands.
These two pieces mean a lot to our organisations and we hope they will be of interest to others.
We’re grateful to Sandhya and the women of Safety for Sisters for their donation, and we hope that reading this inspires you to donate too. Whether you donate as an individual or a group, we welcome your submissions. You can choose what to donate –a piece of art, a recipe, a photo or an email; a link to a blog or newspaper article; a poem or a text to a loved one. You decide.
We look forward to hearing from you!
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