AkiDwA works to promote equality and justice for migrant women living in Ireland by ensuring equal opportunities and access to resources. Our activities are focused on helping migrants to participate fully in all aspects of social, cultural, economic, civic and political life in Ireland.
As an organisation AkiDwA takes a holistic approach to integration, promoting a migrant and gender-specific approach to public services as well as encouraging migrant women to access mainstream services and initiatives. The organisation works with migrant women to build their capacity to participate in in all public spheres through training, awareness raising, consultation, focus groups discussions, information provision, research and policy development.
AkiDwA’s Strategy 2019-2021
Following our Strategic Plan 2019-2021, AkiDwA has four strategic priorities to guide our work and to advance our organisational goals.
- Voice: to present the voice of migrant women and their families to the political and administrative system, the media and the public.
- Equality: this priority involves the interconnected equality issues that cover integration and social inclusion – embracing diversity, addressing racism, discrimination, FGM and other health issues, domestic violence, and the situation of asylum seekers.
- Community: linking to the community of migrant women and their families, through capacity building, representation, grassroots activities and building social capital.
- Organisational Development: To strengthen the organisation’s capacity and sustainability
These four strategic themes guide and support our substantive work on issues facing migrant women in Ireland today. The three key, priority areas we work on are Integration, Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Health.
Integration is a very broad area which covers a variety of factors that impact on how easily migrants are able to fit in and feel included in the everyday life of the communities where they live.
During the life span of our current strategic plan, AkiDwA will focus on activities that promote employment and entrepreneurship, that encourage civic and democratic participation, and which combat racism and discrimination.
AkiDwA research on migrant employment carried out in 2017 found that while migrant women had higher levels of education than the general Irish population, they were generally living at the margins of society, struggling with unemployment, or working in unregulated jobs like home care. In 2016, 42% of complaints taken to the Workplace Relations Commission under the Equality Acts were because of racial discrimination.
In 2019, our Brain Gain event in Dublin will celebrate ten years of successfully bringing migrant professionals and entrepreneurs together.
AkiDwA sees access to employment and gaining economic independence as being critical to integration for migrant women. In order to achieve positive outcomes for themselves, their families and communities, migrant women need access to meaningful jobs which fully engage their qualifications, skills, education and which allow women to utilise work experience gained in their countries of origin. AkiDwA projects such as our Door to Work Programme promote professional and personal development and bring employers and migrant women together.
Other AkiDwA projects that promote integration,include our Influential Migrant Women group, which has been providing a platform for migrant women leaders from all 26 counties in Ireland to meet regularly. AkiDwA has helped migrant women who are active and influential at local, regional and national level to collaborate on projects and allows members to work together to shape future policy. The objective is to build the capacity of migrant women to represent themselves, their families and communities. Influential Migrant Women meet to discuss current issues such as addressing racism, civic and democratic participation, access to employment and entrepreneurship.
AkiDwA connects migrant women to new opportunities, and supports our members wherever we can, by providing letters of reference and access to training.
AkiDwA advocates for equality of treatment in access to resources and opportunities. Through outreach and networking, AkiDwA conducts research on the experiences of of migrant women around the country focusing in particular on women and families living in Direct Provision. AkiDwA uses our research findings to lobby for change in areas such as in health, employment, housing, and education.
The outcomes of our research are used to formulate policy papers, such as the new standards for Direct Provision (August 2019), that resulted from AkiDwA working with the Department of Justice to improve conditions following the the findings of the McMahon Report in 2014.
Sexual and Gender Based Violence
AkiDwA recognises five types of sexual and gender-based violence, which are sexual violence, physical violence, emotional and psychological violence, harmful traditional practices and socio-economic violence. However, based on our organisation’s expertise, AkiDwA’s work focuses on female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence, forced marriages and trafficking.
AkiDwA focuses on raising awareness of female genital mutilation by working with affected communities, healthcare professionals and front line serviceproviders like schools, Gardaí (police) and with organisations working at policy level. AkiDwA has delivered training to thousands of healthcare professionals and to workers in front line services. We have also developed and published many resources including an online training module on FGM, in collaboration with transnational organisations which aims to educate professionals, people in the media and people working in healthcare and law enforcement.
AkiDwA’s Community Health Ambassador Programme was established in 2011 in order to empower people from migrant communities across Ireland to reach out to migrant families in communities across Ireland.
AkiDwA convenes the National Steering Committee (NSC) on FGM which meets at least four times a year. The NSC on FGM is made up of 15 organisations working on women’s health, gender based violence, child protection and international development – all have the shared goal of ending FGM. AkiDwA sits on the advisory group on sexual and gender based violence overseen by COSC, and the Observatory on Violence Against Women, chaired by the national Women’s Council of Ireland( NWCI.
AkiDwA also conducts research on issues like domestic violence, rape and trafficking which particularly affect women.
In AkiDwA’s work on health, we concentrate on women reproductive health and mental health as our priority. We also work with policy makers to inform policy and to ensure it reflects the diversity of women in Ireland.
In 2017 the organisation undertook-research on migrant women’s health and access to health services. This research found that there are gendered barriers, as well as barriers to migrants when accessing healthcare services, and that migrant woman as a group have specific needs within the healthcare system which are currently not being met. This fact was reiterated by focus group findings which were held with migrant women as part of the research. According to the research findings women born outside Ireland make up almost 39% of maternal deaths. Further, within the healthcare system there is a lack of culturally competent services and health service providers are not aware of culturally sensitive issues. Many women feel there is lack of understanding of their cultural background and country of origin from the healthcare providers, resulting in misunderstandings, negative perceptions and stereotypes, which then in turn hinder equality and integration. There are further health challenges facing refugee women and those in Direct Provision.
AkiDwA provides training in reproductive health to women living in Direct Provision on contraceptives, STIs and sexual health, cervical screening and smear test, crisis pregnancy and fertility. We also have a complementary programme bringing reproductive health training to men living in Direct Provision.
AkiDwA has an ongoing research project on the mental health of refugees and women living in Direct Provision, called Let’s Talk. The research will collect experiences of women on mental health and wellbeing and their experiences with mental health services in Ireland. AkiDwA will then offer psychosocial support to women across the country in the form of Let’s Talk workshops. The Let’s Talk report is forthcoming in 2020.