managed by K. Bulambo (Communication)
Women Across Borders started in 2008 as response to the xenophobic attacks targeted towards refugees and foreign nationals in South Africa in May of that year. 62 people died in these attacks, the majority of whom were women and children. One of the main reasons why refugees were affected by xenophobia was the lack of communication in English and Zulu and the perception that they were taking locals jobs.
Women Across Borders responded to this by establishing an adult literacy programme that is aimed at teaching refugee women how to read, write and speak English to address xenophobia and give refugee women the ability to integrate more easily in their community. Language is one of the crucial factor in a refugee’s life determining how integrated they will be in the community and what resources they can access. Refugee women not only face language difficulties, but unlike their male partners who are presented with more opportunities to socialize and learn English and find employment; refugee women often face unemployment, poverty, homelessness, trauma and limitations on their freedom of movement.
Who We Work With
Women Across Borders works with refugee women who are living in the central Durban area; our public is mainly from the KwaZulu Natal region in South Africa. The region is inhabited by a large numbers of refugees from different countries that aim to survive through unskilled and badly paid jobs. Most of these jobs are mainly available to men.
Most refugee women are unemployed and illiterate or did not finish their high school education. Their employability is very low, even lower than the employability of refugee men, and their social and economic conditions are critical. In order to escape absolute poverty and deprivation, they get married and hope that a family situation can improve their status. Their education level is so low that sometimes for them it is difficult to understand what possibilities they have.
Most women we work with experience abuse – emotional and/or physical. They are at a very high risk of contracting HIV because of their lack of knowledge of the disease and because their husbands often have multiple partners without adequate protection.
Refugee women do not have the necessary life, professional and communication skills to get jobs and make a sustainable living for themselves Very often refugee women do not speak the communication languages used in South Africa. Without communication skills they cannot access educational programs or the job market. “Women Across Borders” answers this need through its literacy program. Once women have gone through the literacy program and can communicate and read, they have the possibility to access other training programs as well as health and personal development workshops. Language skills alone may not be enough to find a job or build a micro business, but learning new skills enlarge the spectrum of employability opportunities.
The goals of Women Across Borders projects are to (1) provide a platform where refugee women can access social, economic and educational resources (2) to increase the economic empowerment and development of refugee women and (3) increase gender equality and promote self-help work as a means to eradicate poverty.
Adult English literacy which is aimed at teaching refugee women how to read, write and speak English. Language is one of the crucial factors in a refugee’s life. It often determines how integrated a person will be in their newly found community.
Skills development programme aimed at teaching refugee women how to acquire skills that will enable them to become self-sufficient. In this programme we run sewing and knitting training, entrepreneurship training and business development training.
For women who have already establish their businesses, we provide mentoring support (i.e opening a bank account, marketing, networking, and customer relations, connecting their businesses to prospective clients)
Advocacy and capacity building programme, where we provide training on advocacy focusing on key human rights events around the world and in South Africa. After the training women organize awareness activities and seminars on key dates such as World Refugee Day, Human Rights Day, Women’s Day and the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.