Centre for reception and socialization of immigrant women in the Raval neighbourhood from Barcelona, Spain – Year II

Project location: SPAIN, Barcelona
Project start date: July 2017 - Project end date: July 2018
Project number: 2017-046
Beneficiary: Associació Intercultural Diàlegs de Dona

This project aims to achieve the sheltering, socialization and integration of hundreds of female immigrants and refugees arriving at Barcelona from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Syria and Morocco, and
to create the conditions to end their isolation, creating bridges for communication between immigrant women and the local population, to work together bring people closer and to get to know and learn to respect the differences between diverse neighbours.
The first step in order to build communication bridges and fight isolation is learning the language of the receiving country. Communication is fundamental to break barriers. At the same time, they need to get to know the new society and how it works. The idea is to turn an unfamiliar society into something familiar. To this end, the project Diàlegs de Dona includes:

· Language and literacy classes (Spanish, Catalan and English) to enable communication.

· In response to an observed need, special classrooms have also been created which allow to train young mothers with children under three years old.
These classrooms, which opened in September 2017, not only offer training in language and awareness of the social environment, but also the human support necessary so that they do not feel alone and they can experience their maternity with confidence and serenity.
The training program includes counselling for the proper raising of their children, that is to say, the association contacts specialists who talk about: nutrition, vaccines, medical examinations, relaxation during the baby's sleep, educating with limits, and other related topics. This has been made possible thanks to the generosity of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation, which has supported this project.

· Talks and cultural outings to get to know the social environment (it is important to know, the neighbourhood, the city and the country in which one lives).

· Talks dealing with how key services work, such as: the education system, healthcare, employment, the administration, information about rights and obligations, and basic rules for a good coexistence with neighbours, and other related topics.

· Cultural and leisure activities which help bring people closer and strengthen the relationship between local neighbours and new ones coming from immigration.

· Progressive participation in the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood and the city, eliminating the fear of being visible and participating in the public space.

Since the year 2000, Catalonia has seen important changes which have affected its population. The number of immigrants has surpassed one million, and lately also refugees, together making up 17% of the population. A large part of this population has settled in the Raval district in Barcelona, one of the poorest in the city. This district, with 49% immigrant population, has become a real laboratory for the adoption of measures to promote the coexistence of newcomers from very diverse origins, cultures, beliefs, customs and traditions, with the native population.
The Raval district faces two fundamental problems in terms of managing coexistence:

A) Socialization and integration of the immigrant population in question is not easy because they come from very particular and traditional societies where women are treated like minors, have no autonomy and depend on their husbands. Their tendency when arriving in Europe is isolation, especially if we take into account that they are far away from the support and protection of their extended family.

B) It is difficult for the native population, the typical neighbours, to assimilate the big changes that take place in their neighbourhood and city. Many times, they see these arrivals as a threat. We need to work towards avoiding rejection and promote acceptance to change, and this is only possible through organizing spaces for meeting, cooperation and learning about each other.

The association Diàlegs de Dona works with the most vulnerable and isolated group within this immigrant and refugee population: women. Their reception classrooms are proving to be a good solution to a part of the problem, to work towards their socialization, offering them the tools they need to develop confidently in a society which works differently to the one they came from. The aim is to fight isolation, give security and socialize a numerous group of immigrant women, primarily from Arab and South-east Asian origins, arriving in the Raval through family regrouping.

The project takes place in the city of Barcelona (Spain), specifically in one of the most popular and poor neighbourhoods of the city: The Raval (Ciutat Vella). This project has been in full swing for almost five years and has become an important reference point. The most immediate challenge is that women continue to arrive through family regrouping who request to join the reception classrooms but find there is no space. Classrooms are collapsed and insufficient resources are available to meet the high demand. The big challenge is, on the one hand, to face the continuity of the project since its objectives are ambitious: socializing and integrating requires time and, on the other, to increase the offer of places to be able to take meet the new applications.
As previously stated, during the current school year 2017-2018, thanks to the support of the Nando & Elsa Peretti Foundation, it has been possible to open two Mother-Son classrooms, expanding the offer of training to young mothers. Until now they were obliged to stay at home and wait for their babies to turn three years old to be able to enrol them. The great achievement of Diàlegs de Dona, its unique contribution is that it has managed to gain the trust of very closed groups with a Muslim majority. Many men, when regrouping their wife, are clear that, in order to prevent their isolation, they must enter into the project of reception, language and socialization offered by Diàlegs de Dona. A warm and respectful space where they will receive the necessary tools to feel better each day in the country where they live.
The vast majority of the 240 women participating in the project have arrived through word of mouth, without having to make any publicity, this is the best example of the prestige of the association. Diàlegs de Dona evidences that it is very aware of the sensitivity, the needs and the challenges of the female population in the groups with which it works.

OBJECTIVES AND GOALS

· The Spanish and Catalan language classes will allow them to communicate in the language of the host country, the first step towards bringing communities closer. Learning of the language and knowledge of the environment is organized according to the current school calendar: from September to June and the students are grouped according to three levels of knowledge and understanding. The recommendations of the European Framework of Reference for the Oral Learning of the Foreign Language for Immigrants are followed.

· At the same time, they will become familiar with the functioning of the new society in all its aspects (new social and relationship codes, functioning of the Administration, Healthcare, Education, Employment, regulations for good coexistence ... etc), as well as their rights and obligations as new citizens. At the same time cultural and informative outings will be organized in order to promote the best possible knowledge of the city where they live.

· By mastering the language, they will gain confidence and autonomy. They will gradually become less dependent on their husband and participate, along with other neighbours, in the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood. Bridges of dialogue will be built between people of different origins and will improve the coexistence in the neighbourhood and the city.

· They will progressively identify with the host country without renouncing their origins or identity and will feel full citizens capable of claiming their rightful place in the new society. This project helps to avoid the isolation of immigrant women, to eliminate the barriers that separate people from different cultures and to build bridges for dialogue that bring an end to fear and prejudice. To sum up, it works to achieve a good coexistence between people who share a territory but who are of different origins, culture, traditions and beliefs.

The classrooms of reception, language and socialization are part of a long-term project. Language learning and socialization are progressive. It may require four, five or more years, depending on each person and whether the conditions of their environment are favourable or not. The project is designed to match school years, from September to June.
It is necessary to end the isolation of immigrant women from countries with a very traditional and closed culture, without leaving aside young mothers with young children. It is necessary to end the rejection and the prejudices of the native population that, in general, does not accept the arrival of these groups. It is necessary to create favourable conditions to establish bridges of dialogue and understanding between the native population and immigrants, in this case through the female collective. The project plan presented by Diàlegs de Dona is the creation, and maintenance over time, of a welcoming, warm and respectful space, where women find everything they to progress properly in their learning of the language and their knowledge of the new host society, a starting point for their progressive socialization.


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