Micro Rainbow hosts a range of regular groups aimed at providing support and promoting social inclusion for LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers. Among these groups, Sista Sista is dedicated to LBTQI refugee and asylum-seeking women, many of whom have faced violence and abuse related to their sexuality or identity. The primary objective of this group is to alleviate the social isolation many LBTQI asylum seeking women experience, foster connections and help facilitate community integration.
Sista Sista happens monthly, and it is a safe space for women to share their experiences and, most importantly, be listened to. Micro Rainbow hosts a variety of different events through Sista Sista that allow attendees to access places that might normally feel inaccessible. This can range from workshops, trips to art galleries, or outings to museums.
October trip to Hackney City Farm
The Sista Sista group ventured out to Hackney City Farm for October’s meet up. Despite the inclement weather in the lead up to the day, the group was blessed with clear, sunny skies and pleasant temperatures for exploring the garden and grounds.
The beautiful gardens were full of many varieties of plants, and many of the leaves were still turning. As the group walked around the garden, they were able to touch and smell many of the plants. This prompted discussions about what the plants and flowers were called in attendees’ native languages. This also led to discussions about how some of the vegetables in the garden are prepared and served in the national dishes of the attendees. The smells of rosemary and mint brought back memories and thoughts of home for Sandra from Uganda and Hannah from Sri Lanka.
Farmyard animals, smells, and memories
The smells of livestock and manure were particularly evocative for the women in the group. Far from prompting disgust, the smells brought back memories of home and childhood for many. Hackney City Farm has goats, sheep, chickens, two enormous sows, geese, ducks, and donkeys. Some of the women grew up around animals, and seeing, hearing, and smelling them prompted strong memories and reflections. One of the women in attendance was a vet back in her home country – she was able to give up lots of facts and information about the animals at the farm.
Finding serenity and calm in a busy world
Hackney City Farm is a small slice of serenity in east London. The garden provides a calming escape from the frenzy of the city. Many attendees talked about how relaxed and serene they felt after the visit. Hannah, a trans woman from Sri Lanka, had felt stressed by her morning and her journey to the event, found her mood transformed by the end. Sri Lanka criminalises the gender expression of trans people – Hannah would not be able to live openly as a trans woman in her home country. Hannah found that seeing the familiar animals and smelling their smells brought back comforting memories of home. Being able to sit in the garden, walk around and chat with her friends lifted her mood and changed the course of her day.
The women who attend the Sista Sista meet ups and events are from all over the world, and many had very different journeys to the UK. But they are united by the fact that they have all escaped persecution because of their LGBTQI identity. They can relate to each other’s experiences and find understanding and acceptance from their fellow group members.
Micro Rainbow’s LBTQI Women Outreach and Moving On Officer said this about the event and Sista Sista more generally:
“Many of the LBTQI refugee and asylum-seeking women that Micro Rainbow works with are living their lives in limbo while they wait for the outcomes of their asylum claims. As LBTQI women, they are often isolated and lonely, and struggle to access some of the mainstream asylum seeker services because of their LBTQI identity.
“Sista Sista provides a regular, welcoming, and inclusive space where they can come and meet new people, have new experiences, and find support. It’s somewhere where women can come monthly and see many of the same faces and build a friendship network. Over the past year we have really seen this group grow, and attendees have become much more involved in choosing activities for the group to do.”
Learn more about how Micro Rainbow’s supports LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers by visiting the Social Inclusion programme page. If you would like to play a key role in helping LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees attend events like these – become an ally!