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My message on integration

What are the needs of survivors of gender-based violence who have fled their country and are in Greece? What are they missing? How much do they struggle in their daily lives?

Six women from the empowerment groups of the Diotima Centre recorded their living conditions, they spoke about their desire to integrate into Greek society, themselves and their children.

With their words we created the digital campaign “My message for integration”, the visual curator of which was Despina Terzopoulou. The campaign was made public on World Refugee Day 2020.

Stories of strength

“It all started in the autumn of 2019” explains Natasha Kefallinou, the Diotima Centre’s communications manager. “We worked with the French-speaking empowerment team, a very dynamic and close-knit group. Myself and eight or more women met once a month for six months.”

“The women were encouraged to talk about their lives in Greece and to map out their needs, writing them down. Our aim was to make their voices heard. Many white sheets were filled with difficult, sad stories, but also stories of strength.”

Their demands

When asked what they need to integrate into Greek society, most of them mentioned homelessness, economic and material deprivation, legal documents, the language, their desire to study, to work, to live in a society free of violence and racism.

“I want to have a family reunification. My children are in Congo. I miss them very much.” “I want people to respect me and not look at the colour of my skin.” “I want papers. I want to have an identity card.” “I need a home. I have been in Greece for over a year with my baby. Even though I received refugee status, I remain homeless.” These are some of their messages, isolated through their multi-page narratives.

“When we finished, I felt that despite the trauma of gender-based violence and refugee status they carried, they were the ones who empowered me,” Natasha says. The writing process was followed by a creative workshop. There, the women made coloured signs with their messages, in French and Greek. While holding their signs proudly, we marched together on March 8, International Women’s Rights Day.

Depositing their story

The work done with the group over the months was presented at the event ”Sharing Experiences from the Field”, held under the auspices of the Dutch Embassy in collaboration with the Diotima Centre and the organisations: Children’s Rights Network, Human Rights 360, Melissa Network, Zaatar – non-profit organization.

There, four women from the group read their texts, one of them in Greek. Their statements caused a sensation, and the Dutch ambassador asked them questions. This was followed by representatives of other institutions as well as other beneficiaries, who presented their own experiences, with the aim of raising awareness about human rights and gender-based violence.

The event was implemented on Tuesday 10 December 2019, in the welcoming space of Melissa, on the occasion of Human Rights Day (10/2) and the completion of the campaign “16 days of activism against gender-based violence” (25/11-10/12).

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