Language Space and Socialisation for Immigrant women

Project location: SPAIN, Barcelona
Project start date: December 2015 - Project end date: August 2016
Project number: 2015-009
Beneficiary: Associació Intercultural Diàlegs de Dona


The main objective of Diàlegs de Dona is to meet the challenges of the reception, socialisation and integration of hundreds of immigrant and refugee women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Syria and Morocco.

By encouraging communication between immigrant women and local people, it is possible to create suitable conditions to overcome the isolation of these women. Diàlegs de Dona works to bring female neighbours in the community closer together, and promotes respect for the differences between them.

The first step towards promoting dialogue and overcoming isolation is to learn the language of the host country. Communication is fundamental in order to break barriers. At the same time, it is important get to know the new society and understand how it works. The aim is to transform a society that seems foreign and strange into something familiar, through:

●    Language and literacy classes (Spanish, Catalan, and English)
●    Talks about getting to know the surroundings (the neighbourhood, city, and country), about how the education, health, and legal systems work, how the public administration works, and new rights and duties.
●    Outreach activities between local women and immigrant and refugee women.
●    Progressive participation in the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood and the city.


Since the year 2000, important changes have taken place in Catalonia which have affected its population. More than a million immigrants have arrived, in recent years some of them refugees, and they make up 17% of the total population. A large part of this population has installed itself in the Raval neighbourhood of Barcelona, one of the poorest in the city. This neighbourhood, where 49% of the inhabitants are of immigrant origin, has become a centre for experimentation, where measures are taken to manage the coexistence between the native population and people coming from very different origins, cultures, beliefs, habits and traditions.

There are two fundamental problems related to the management of this coexistence:

The socialisation and integration of this immigrant population is not easy, as the people come from very traditional and patriarchal societies where the woman is treated like a child, has no autonomy and depends on her husband. The women tend to enter directly into a state of isolation on arrival in Europe.

The local population finds it difficult to adapt to these changes that have taken place in their neighbourhood and city. They often perceive the arrival of this new population as a threat. It is important to work so that they stop  this rejection and learn to accept the changes.

Diàlegs de Dona works with the most vulnerable and isolated part of this immigrant and refugee population; women. Its reception classes are proving to be a good way of helping to solve part of the problem, which is the task of socialising the women; a vital condition for social harmony.

This project received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, Delegació a Catalunya.

The main objectives are to overcome isolation, provide security and socialise a large collective of immigrant women, mostly of Arabic and south-east Asian origins, who have arrived to the Raval through family reunification projects.

The project takes place in the city of Barcelona, in one of the most working-class and poorest neighbourhoods in the city: the Raval (Ciutat Vella).

This project has been fully operational for four years, and has become an important point of reference. The most immediate challenge is the fact that, as a result of family reunification, there is a constant arrival of women, but no space in the reception classes that they apply for. The classes are completely full, and there aren’t enough resources to satisfy the huge demand. The major challenge is, on one hand, to ensure the continuity of the project, as the objectives are ambitious; socialisation and integration takes time, and on the other hand, to increase the number of places on offer in order to accommodate the new requests.

What makes Diàlegs de Dona unique is that it has managed to win the confidence of very closed, mainly muslim collectives. Many men, when their wife comes to Catalonia, already intend for them to join the reception, language and socialisation project that Diàlegs de Dona offers in order to avoid isolation. It is a warm and respectful space where the women will receive the necessary tools to progressively feel better in the country they are living in. Most of the 240 women who take part in the project came through word-of-mouth, without the help of adverts, which is proof of the prestige of the association.

Objectives and goals

●    Spanish and Catalan classes will allow them to communicate in the language of the host country; the first step towards coming together.

●    At the same time, they will also get to know how the new society works in every aspect (new rules relating to society and relationships, how the administration, health, education, and employment systems work, and norms for coexistence between neighbours etc.) as well as their rights and duties.

●    When they master the language, they will become more confident and autonomous. They will leave their husband’s guardianship and will participate with other neighbours in the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood. Points of dialogue will be established and coexistence within the neighbourhood and the city will improve.

●    They will progressively identify more with the host country, and start to feel like citizens in their own right.

This project helps prevent the isolation of immigrant women, breaking the barriers that separate people from different cultures and building bridges of dialogue in order to overcome fear and prejudices. To summarise, it works to achieve a peaceful coexistence between people who share the same land, but have different origins, cultures, traditions and beliefs.

Timeline

The reception, language and socialisation classes form part of a long-term project. Learning the language and socialisation are progressive. It can take four, five, or more years, depending on each person and on their learning conditions. The project is designed for the school year, from September to June.

Conclusion

The isolation of immigrant women from countries with a very traditional and closed culture must end. It is vital to stop the rejection and prejudices of parts of the local population who do not accept the arrival of these groups.

It is important to create favourable conditions for establishing understanding and points of dialogue between the local population and the immigrants; in this case, through the female community.

The project plan of Diàlegs de Dona is for the creation and maintenance of a warm and respectful reception space, where the women can find everything they need  in order to learn the language and learn about the new host society; the starting point for their progressive socialisation.

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