#ThisIsWe Book Launch Event at Manchester Central Library, 05/03/2022 by Hafsah Aneela Bashir
Our organization, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre & Education Trust, exists to document the experiences and histories of global majority people and communities. Striving to ensure these are included in the nation’s archives, we work to support communities and their groups to explore and record their experiences in their own voices, their own languages and in ways that work best for them.
Often these narratives are ignored. Women’s voices are often omitted and migrant women’s voices are even more marginalized, suppressed and silenced in unimaginable ways. Work with migrants often, understandably, focuses on the most immediate needs, such as fighting for immigration rights, basic safety, housing, health and language needs. But access to cultural experiences is important too, and creating space and opportunities to develop a creative voice is powerful work.
This is exactly what Birmingham-based writer Amber Lone and Safety4Sisters former Group Coordinator Sandhya Sharma were doing with the Safety4Sisters writing group – an inspiring collective of migrant women with important words to share. A project that originally started as an idea to reconfigure Home Office rejection letters into poetry soon developed into an anthology consisting of prose, poetry and imagery created by the women. The This Is We anthology is a manifesto for migrant women speaking their truth to power, sharing experiences of gender-based violence, migration, racism and the hostile environment they are forced to endure every day, unapologetically stating ‘This is we’.
It was precisely the reason why we at the AIU Centre were delighted to support Safety4Sisters’ International Womens Day 2022 sharing event on Saturday 5 March where we heard from the Chair of Safety4Sisters Lynne Fanthome as well as Amber Lone and Sandhya Sharma about what it means to facilitate projects like this.
We heard the Safety4Sisters writing group perform their pieces, speaking for themselves,s demanding not to be ‘sympathized with but to be heard’. Among the readings were letters to far away fathers, laments for home, calls for lost children and the want to be seen fully but there was also unequivocally an honoring of love, determination, strength and above all community.
A short film screening of This is We created by Jeremiah Quinn was showcased, highlighting how migrant women exist in the violent intersection of their abusers and an increasingly racist environment and punitive immigration legislation. The film can be watched here https://youtu.be/nQuj7pUpqyM and the anthology is available to purchase for £7.99 from [email protected]. Postcards, t-shirts and tote bags are also available, with all proceeds going back into the charity supporting specialist safety work for women survivors of gender-based abuse.
We at the AIU Centre will continue to welcome the women from Safety4Sisters and are proud to have them included in our archives.
‘We know that some women don’t have the courage to speak up or write, maybe they need to see others to inspire them. We hope through our pieces in the book that we can give courage to other women who think they cannot express difficult and painful feelings. There are generations of things unsaid and we want to break that silence. We want change.’ – Safety4Sisters Writing Group