Roses and childcare: refugee women prepare for tough UK world of work

 

Bread and Roses is a social enterprise based in the east London borough of Hackney, which aims to help female refugees get ready for work, be it with flowers or not. Their mantra: helping refugee women to flourish through employment.

The company, founded in 2016, runs training programmes where women learn how to make bouquets and care for a range of flowers, as well as how to write CVs. During workshops, they practice speaking English and make new friends in the capital.

There were about 117,000 refugees and 35,000 asylum seekers in Britain in June 2016, according to the United Nations.

Even if migrants are granted refugee status in Britain and given access to regular benefits and the right to work, limited job opportunities and growing anti-immigration sentiment mean they are not always able to find work.

For women, the path to employment is paved with further obstacles: many lack the skills or confidence of their male peers, while others struggle to find jobs that would cover the high cost of childcare.

Reem used to teach in Syria but could not find education or work opportunities in London that would take into account her two children – until she started training with Bread and Roses.

She can now bring them along while she gains workplace experience and achieves a level of English that will allow her to train to become a nurse – her ultimate goal.

“Because of childcare and health issues, it’s very difficult for even part-time work – 15 to 20 hours a week is quite a big ask,” said Sneh Jani, co-founder of Bread and Roses.

 

BREAKING BARRIERS

Many refugee women come from countries such as Syria, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where education and work opportunities are more limited for women than for men.

“They are less skilled and haven’t had the career or employment history that their male counterparts have,” Matthew Powell, director of employment charity Breaking Barriers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“They have transferable skills that they can apply but don’t know how to articulate them,” he added.

For example, women might have cared for elderly relatives back home, but do not recognise this experience as relevant to a next step in healthcare, Powell said.

The Middle East and North Africa have the lowest rates of women in paid work and most jobs were confined to education, social work and agriculture, a United Nations report said last week.

 

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