#InspireInclusion: Support for LBTQI asylum-seeking women

Discover how Micro Rainbow’s tailored and inclusive support empowers LBTQI asylum-seeking women.
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International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. 2024’s theme is #InspireInclusion, with the aim of encouraging everyone to recognise the unique perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including those from marginalised communities.

What inclusion means for Micro Rainbow’s community of women

The LBTQI refugee and asylum-seeking women that Micro Rainbow supports are some of the most marginalised in the UK. LBTQI asylum-seeking and refugee women account for a significant proportion of LGBTQI people seeking asylum in the UK. However, they are often invisibilised or left unassisted when services do not support or prioritise their needs.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people and their needs and experiences are often lumped together into one group. However, each identity under this umbrella experiences the world differently. Since 2012, Micro Rainbow has delivered a programme of support for LBTQI refugee and asylum-seeking women that is informed by lived experience experts. It foregrounds inclusivity by recognising that LBTQI asylum-seeking, and refugee women have many intersecting and interconnecting parts of their identity which will have impacted their experiences and will continue to do so in the future.

Inclusion at the heart of Micro Rainbow’s work

Micro Rainbow’s day-to-day work with LBTQI women counters the exclusion of women in mainstream refugee and asylum seeker services. Micro Rainbow employs an LBTQI women’s outreach officer to work closely with the LBTQI women in the asylum seeker community. Micro Rainbow runs monthly Sista Sista support sessions through the social inclusion programme. Sista Sista is for LBTQI women in the Micro Rainbow community. Sista Sista events can vary, from online sessions, to trips to museums and talks. Sista Sista provides a space for LBTQI women to feel safe to discuss their experiences.

Sista Sista events – access and inclusion

The Sista Sista programme is increasingly guided by the group itself. There is a core group of women who regularly attend and suggest ideas for themes and activities. Recent events have included a trip to Hackney City Farm, online meetings – which allow women from around the country to participate in and benefit from the group – and a trip to see the Christmas lights on Regent Street.

Sista Sista events include trips to London’s sights and attractions, such as museums. In December 2023, the group went to see the Christmas lights on Regent Street. In February the group planned a trip to the Vagina Museum for an exhibition about endometriosis. Most of the places visited are free, but even free attractions are out of reach of LBTQI asylum seeking and refugee women. Women living in hotel accommodation live on a weekly allowance of £8.86. Spending money to travel to free attractions would be outside of their budget. Micro Rainbow reimburses the travel costs for the attendees, so they can take part in events.

Countering social isolation, increasing inclusion

The Sista Sista group is welcoming and friendly. Visiting London’s sights and museums is easier when it’s in a group, especially when amongst friends. Sista Sista is a space for LBTQI women in the refugee and asylum-seeking community to find friends, share experiences and find community. Many LBTQI women are extremely isolated; many must hide their LBTQI identity in their accommodation, and many not have access to networks of support.

Sista Sista is an important first step for women in Micro Rainbow’s community to make friends and move towards rebuilding their lives. Feeling part of a community helps women to heal from the traumas they have experienced on their journeys towards acceptance. Inclusion in the group brings stability, allowing women to start making plans for a happier future.

Impact on wellbeing

Akua, a Sista Sista attendee from Ghana – where a new anti-LGBT bill has been introduced that will essentially criminalise any LGBTQI advocacy in Ghana, and increase the maximum penalty (currently three years’ imprisonment) to five years imprisonment – said this about attending:

“Thank you for the session, I learned so much and I feel a lot closer to the community”.

Barbra is from Malawi. In Malawi same-sex sexual activity, for both men and women in punishable with 14 years in prison and corporal punishment. She found that attending Sista Sista helped her feel at peace with herself, and improved her mental health:

“Again, thank you for all you do to the LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers, not only did you and your team help me realise myself but also with my mental health.”

This International Women’s Day – support our work

Help Micro Rainbow’s mission to #InspireInclusion. Support our work with LBTQI women by becoming an ally or sending a one-off donation today.

Help us continue supporting LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers

Help LBTQI women who are forced to flee their home countries because of the persecution they face. Become a Micro Rainbow ally.

Do you have a social inclusion enquiry?

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