As an organisation established to connect and empower migrant women though our conversation workshops, Xenia works primarily with women who have to fight harder and longer for basic rights to this day. In solidarity with these women, Xenia has pledged our support to the #AllWomenCount lobby on parliament.
At Xenia, we encourage all our participants to use their voice and share their stories, which is why we have held sessions on themes such as ‘Politics and Political Dissent’ and ‘Making Our Voices Heard’. During one workshop, English-speaking participants helped those learning English to write to their local MPs about issues that affect them as migrant women. ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision was an issue that many of the women spoke out about.
Since 2010, there has been a 60% real terms cut to ESOL provision in the UK, which particularly affects migrant women with children in accessing ESOL classes. These cuts have led to class shortages, with waiting lists that mean people can wait months or even years to sign up to classes. Having to live for months in a new country without knowing the language makes it difficult to secure a job or volunteer work, make friends, and integrate into their local communities and wider society as a whole.
We provide childcare at all Xenia sessions to ensure that women caring for children are still able to access our workshops, giving them the chance to practice their English speaking and listening skills, improve their confidence and make new friends. However, whilst regularly attending Xenia workshops does improve participants’ English, they are only designed to complement ESOL classes, and are not a substitute for formal lessons.
We have seen the effects of these cuts on Xenia participants’ lives; some have to travel far from where they live to access free ESOL classes; a lack of ESOL qualifications makes it difficult for some to secure stable employment; and others have found themselves isolated and lonely without the ability to confidently speak to others in English. That is why we have supported Refugees Action’s “Let Refugees Learn” campaign and have taken part in their research with the Jo Cox Loneliness Commission on the isolation that refugees face due to language barriers.
Please support these campaigns for better access to ESOL classes for refugees, by emailing your MP here.
You can find out more about Xenia by visiting our website.