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Jessica Kennedy of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum celebrates  the legacy of the Women on the Move Awards


On Thursday 6th March, 260 people gathered at the Southbank Centre to celebrate the achievements of inspirational women from refugee and migrant communities. The Women on the Move Awards, part of the WOW Festival and supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust are held to recognise the outstanding contributions that refugee women make to empowering and integrating their communities.  My organisation – The Forum – co-hosts the Awards alongside Migrants Rights Network and UNHCR.


The Awards are more than just a one night event, and aim to make an ongoing and lasting difference to the winners and their communities. The women gain recognition for, and raise the profile of, their work.  In addition, a fellowship provides access to high quality leadership development and help to build a network of exceptional women and the organisations they work with.


A month after the awards, as the dust has settled and the plaudits die down, what has changed?




Lilian Seenoi, who founded the only migrant forum in Derry-Londonderry from her kitchen table, won the Women of the Year Award for her work to ensure migrants and refugees can access support. The North-West Migrants Forum brings together diverse migrant groups and local communities which have suffered years of tension. The Awards have catapulted Lilian onto an international stage – she has just come back from Brussels, where she contributed to a public debate at the European Union on practical steps to challenge the poor treatment of migrants in Greece. She is shortly to fly to Turin, Italy, to take part in a European-wide project to tackle hate speech, before another visit to Brussels. All that before running a festival in June to bring together communities building on Derry-Londonderry’s place as UK City of Culture in 2013.


International attention also followed Tatiana Garavito, winner of the Young Woman of the Year Award for her tireless and determined work with the Latin American community in London. El Espectador, a mainstream newspaper in Colombia, published an article about Tatiana.  A short film commissioned by the Women on the Move Awards about Tatiana’s work will be shown at a documentary film festival in Colombia.  After the Awards Tatiana said they were “an amazing opportunity for us migrant women to show the world what we can achieve given a fair chance”.


Those who attended the Awards also found powerful connections. My personal highlight of the night was seeing, in the crush of the after-party, members of a collective of domestic workers connecting with a woman who works with Lilian and the North-West Migrants Forum and is trying to tackle exploitative labour practices in Northern Ireland. This fledgling relationship is continuing and already leading to mutual support, learning and, ultimately, stronger and more effective organisations.




Although the Awards receive little coverage from major news organisations, the winners and their organisations gain interest from a variety of other sources. Diana Nammi, who founded the Iranian-Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) as a reaction to ‘honour’ killing and violence, was given special recognition for her tireless work. On the night, IKWRO’s twitter followers notably increased.  All our winners have been inundated with requests for interviews and articles.


Films that Women on the Move made about the Award winners have reached 5,561 viewers – spreading these courageous stories even further. As organisers, we are so glad to see how the Awards create a platform for extraordinary women to shout about their own and their organisations’ great work.  Tatiana was able to highlight the invisibility of the Latin American community in London: “with this [attention], the whole community get the recognition that we are campaigning for”.




Perhaps most important, the women tell me, is an improvement in their confidence. Standing on stage as an Award winner, being celebrated for your work and able to share your story from a place of strength, can have a huge personal impact. From what we already know about these courageous and determined women, the only way from here is up.


We also know this is just the start of working relationships that benefit us all. As Diana, one of the award-winners, said after the ceremony, “it has been a huge pleasure – and I hope this will be a start for partnership work for the future”. The Forum hopes the Awards continue to impact throughout the year and look forward to seeing all our supporters – and more extraordinary women – in 2015! There may be only one day to celebrate international women, but Women on the Move are changing lives everyday.


 Julie Jamieson, winner of the SMK Social & Economic Justice Award 2013  talks about how she plans to bring the Post 19 Campaign to the centre stage of the political and social agenda


In 2012 the Northern Ireland NEETS (young people not in education, employment, or training) Strategy was awarded an additional £41 million up to 2015.  Although throwing money at a problem may not always yield the best results, (as it’s the systems and processes behind the investment which are the crucial drivers), it is a step in the right direction for those young people.  What this investment demonstrates is an understanding of the issue and a commitment to “turning the curve”.


However, for young people with severe learning disabilities, life isn’t quite so rosy.  In April 2008 MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) were told that of the 100 young people leaving special schools each year in Northern Ireland, 20% of those with additional complex/profound disabilities would have no choice but to go to a day centre, as there were too few opportunities and support systems to enable them to go on to further education.  Put bluntly the needs of these young people are once more being ignored, despite them coming under the NEETS category.   It was this anomaly that led to the establishment of the Post 19 Campaign in April 2010.


The Post 19 Campaign now numbers 150 parents/carers of young people with severe learning disabilities as well as 21 SLD (Severe Learning Difficulties) Special Schools from across Northern Ireland.  The Campaign questions the lack of post-educational placements for these young people when they leave school at 19.


Equality and disability access issues apply to every creed, class and gender in Northern Ireland.  This is not a green and orange issue.


The Campaign  realises that the Stormont Assembly is accessible in a way in which Government is not in the rest of the UK.  But whilst the campaign can access politicians, and has backed up discussions with its research report ‘The Impact of Transition on Family Life 2012’ the outcome is still sympathy and support not constructive action for change.  So how can we turn this around?


I was fortunate to win the SMK Campaigners Award for Social & Economic Justice in 2013 (sponsored by Barrow Cadbury Trust and Shelter).  As an award winner I received a package of training and mentoring to enable me to drive the campaign forward.  With the assistance of my mentor Dr Michael Wardlow, Equality Commissioner for NI, we moved the focus away from the problems and towards solutions.


In our discussions with Ministers and government departments the Campaign is recommending alternative post educational placements which we identified in our research report.  One of these suggestions was to bring education, not necessarily formal or accredited, into the day centre, where peripatetic learning support teams could be employed to oversee the transfer of Individual Learning Plans from the special school sector.  This would ensure that young people with severe learning and additional complex and/or profound disabilities are no longer written off at 19 years as incapable of learning.  Radical? Not really. Practical? Absolutely!


To our delight the Department of Employment and Learning has included this proposal in its current inquiry due to finish in March 2014.  So progress is underway, but how far this goes is anybody’s guess.  But if all else fails there’s always Plan B – legislation.


Julie Jamieson is the 2013 SMK Social & Economic Justice Award winner







A highlight of the recent publication of the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s official history was the chance to catch up with old friends, and find out about the progress of organisations and projects that the Trust has supported over the decades.


It was particularly thrilling that staff of the Fermanagh Trust made the journey across the Irish Sea to Birmingham for our launch event at the Council House. Director Lauri McCusker and founding trustee Jim Ledwith were present – and a you can read a great account of the reunion on the Fermanagh Trust’s website.


In 1995 the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which had for decades supported projects in Northern Ireland, endowed the Enniskillen-based Fermanagh Trust to independently support community work across rural Fermanagh.


Jim Ledwith, convenor of the Fermanagh Trust board of trustees, said: “the Fermanagh Trust has grown from strength to strength, both financially and in making Fermanagh a much better place. We as trustees and staff in the Fermanagh Trust has set the benchmark for other counties to follow but unfortunately very few have had either the will or foresight to build an independent trust fund for community effort in the county”.


He continued, “In this day and age when there has grown a whole industry and army of salaried people involved in ensuring compliance in funding together with ever increasing complicated processes in making applications for voluntary groups i am sure local people are appreciative of the fact that the Fermanagh trust ethos and working relationships on the ground is truly exceptional in that we value people first before process”.


You can find out more about the work of the Fermanagh Trust today on their website.