Who We Are ?
Women Asylum Seekers Together in Greater Manchester.
We share our experiences, empower and support one another whilst fighting for our rights and raising awareness about the issues that force women to seek international protection and the effects of the injustices experienced through the UK immigration system.
We are women of all ages, nationalities, ethnicities, sexual orientation and disability. We speak many languages, practice many religions and accommodate for all.
Some of us have children and spouses or partners with us, others face our families being split up by deportation and many of us are alone.
As woman seeking asylum we can often feel vulnerable due to isolation, trauma, ill health, facing destitution, homelessness, or deportation. At WAST we have safe space where we can feel ourselves.
YOU ARE WELCOME TO JOIN WAST - Come and see us at the WAST drop in on a Friday (see our CONTACT page)
“Because of some of our cultures women are pushed to the background - we’re not used to talking, but at WAST we do all the talking. We can encourage women to talk if they want to and have courage to confront issues.”
What do we do to get our voices heard ?
WAST Campaigning for the rights of women seeking asylum.
We get together to tell people in the UK about what it is like to be a woman in the asylum system , we talk to our Members of Parliament ( MPs) . We make speeches at meetings and conferences, and run our own public events
The WAST choir go into the community to reach out to people who have never met any who is in the asylum system and think we are given homes and free mobiles and don't know how we suffer and also that we are women just like them, who care about our kids and just want to be safe and free.
WAST has a roadshow which many different members of the group have been part of over the years. In the WAST Roadshow "Still WE Rise" we use our talents singing, drama, poetry and dance to communicate the issues we face. Problems such a destitution, poverty, racism, poor housing, exploitation and abuse from men and sometimes from our families, physical and mental ill health through stress...……….BUT also to show that together we work out how to survive, support each other and get stronger and stay hopeful and happy for one another in WAST.
The National Women’s Refugee conference .WAST hosted the event in partnership with Women For Refuge Women. 35 members of WAST were involved in volunteering on the day and ran two of the workshops, made speeches and performed the WAST roadshow in the middle and dance in the conclusion of the event. The themes of this solidarity and awareness raising event was destitution and detention. The event also linked up with Refugee women’s’ groups across the country, (from Birmingham, London and Coventry.) and who drew inspiration from the confidence and skills of the WAST women at the conference.
MARCH 8th International Women’s day Celebrations The year 2017 ended in a trip for 6 of the members of the management group down to London to speak and perform the Still We Rise roadshow in the house of commons alongside many other women’s groups for International Women’s day and to highlight Migrant women’s place in this celebration. On the same day 10 WAST women went along as invited guests to a popular night club who were running a special International Women’s day Fundraiser for WAST
Over the past 5 years WAST has been part of the nationwide campaign to SHUT DOWN YARLS WOOD detention centre where the Home Office detains asylum seeker women indefinitely. On February 21st 2018,120 women in this “immigration prison” went on hunger strike to highlight the dehumanising conditions and to call for an end to detention. Many WAST women have experienced detention, and so as a symbol of our solidarity with the hunger strikers, WAST women wore purple armbands. The armbands helped raise awareness and support for our sisters on strike and were sold across Manchester and at The Safety4sisters conference on Migrant Women’s Rights at The Pankhurst centre. The strike ended on March 21st 2018 but the campaign goes on.
What practical things do we do to support one another?
We run a weekly drop in/ support group ( see the Drop In page) , sharing information and inviting other specialists to come explain their work and supporting our member to ensure we have equal access and knowledge about all the public and voluntary services across Greater Manchester. We support members to link in with Refugee Action services and domestic violence agencies, local food banks, legal aid solicitors, asylum housing mangers and more. WAST also is able to offer members a monthly immigration advice session run in the drop in by GMIAU (Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit) and also at times , one to one support for women who have experienced FGM with NESTAC (New Step for African Community) . We also run a fortnightly an anti deportation group, a weekly food bank , a choir, a domestic violence self help group ( when we have the funding), a basic English group and more. As members we bring our own ideas to WAST for activities .
When our members go to sign at Dallas Court we have a phone tree and so we can ring another as we go in and out of signing to reduce the stress and to support any woman who is detained and taken to Yarls Wood detention centre from there.
When members have been detained (at Yarls Wood Detention centre ) we support them to keep contact with their solicitors a or give information on how to get immigration advice inside. We make sure someone looks after their flat/ room and belongings. We do collections for their mobile and help keep their spirits up with regular phone calls.
At WAST we have opportunities to learn new skills as well. A group of WAST members are currently working with Manchester University, learning research skills and taking part in their research on how we survive and the reality of our lives in the asylum system. When we have had funding and support over the past years we have also worked with NESTAC - New Step for African Community-( training as peer mentors and community advocates on issues around Female Genital Mutilation- FGM) with Community Arts North West and Afro Cats ( producing plays, drama and dances ), Safety4Sisters (supporting one-another in group work around domestic violence) with and with many other organizations.
Who Supports WAST?
We are in an increasingly harsh and hostile political climate and as WAST members austerity hit us hard, with cuts to legal aid and public services, and the continual monitoring and regulation of our lives and movements by the Home Office and then some public services as well. The support we give one another, and being part of the WAST family/ community is an even more important life line, as is the support we get from other groups, both national and local. WAST continues working together with Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, Safety4sisters, BOAZ, ASHA, Cheetham Hill Advice centre, Southall Black Sisters, Women For Refugee Women, African Rainbow Family , Asylum Aid, Migrants Organise, Lesbian Immigration Support Group, Rights Of Women, Right To Remain and many more new links this year including The University of Manchester (Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute) NESTAC (New Step for the African Community) and The Greater Manchester Law Centre.
Whose in charge?
WE ARE! Us the members of WAST vote for which members ( at our annual general meeting -once a year) we want to manage the group. At the moment we have 8 women who are all still seeking asylum, who meet every 2 weeks and organize the running of WAST. The WAST trustees are women who have been WAST members and now have their Leave to Remain in the UK, and women volunteers who have experience of supporting women or other relevant skills. the trustees have overall responsibility for WAST but are there to support the management group to do what they want to do within the budget available and to help sort out any problems that come up..
Where do we get our money from?
WAST has had many years of funding from The Tudor Trust and other smaller funders, ( such as LUSH, The Arts Council, Ben & Jerry , The Co Op, The ROSA fund, The NHS Health & Well being fund ). We also have many supporters who donate regularly and those who fund us through our PayPal account. We also do our own fund raising when the choir , the roadshow and in past our WAST play go out to perform, when we sell our Publications such as the book "Are we Safe Now" and our latest book launching on June 20 the 2018 " Listen To Our Voices".
DO we get out for fun ?