The Scalabrini team works with migrants and refugees every day. With such deep expertise at hand, we take the opportunity to reflect on migration with them. This month we speak to Julia, the Women’s Platform Livelihood Manager at Scalabrini, whose passion is kept alive by the strength and power she sees in the women around her.
1. An insight into people’s experiences creates understanding
“I need to make sure that my tank is full. When the women in our programme walk in, I need to be their pillar and support. When my tank is full, they can draw from that. “Before being the Women’s Platform Livelihood Manager, Julia was a BASP student while simultaneously working for another NGO. Wanting to serve the marginalised and disenfranchised, Julia took the opportunity to work at the Scalabrini Centre. “Personally – being an asylum seeker – I’ve been there, and I know how daunting it can be.”
Working with people who are discriminated against and who lack opportunities is what makes Julia passionate about her job. What keeps her fire burning is the impact and the change that she sees in the lives of the women. “I work with women every day, and seeing their transformation and the impact it has on their lives and their family’s lives keeps my energy up and my passion going.”
2 . Small actions of support go a long way
“Many women are very lost when they come in. I think it is because of how isolated they are in their communities. When they come to Scalabrini – especially Women’s Platform – they are looking for a connection and looking to find similarities with people.” Women’s Platform and their clients walk a six-month journey together, but they never really leave the platform. A network forms and the community and support continues.
“I am a woman and I know that sometimes you just need that one word to lift you up. You need somebody to be there for you, whether it’s emotional support or skills, you just need to know that somebody is walking there beside you. That gives you strength.”
Being with Women’s Platform has taught Julia how powerful women can be, especially when provided with a space to be themselves – “not just any space, a safe space. The minute you provide that for women they become more powerful…they have a voice, they feel proud, they are confident, and they take their self- esteem back.” Women’s Platform provides this space for women to be themselves and to find their community but also encourages women to use their own initiative. “We want them to take responsibility and say – “I see that there is a problem with my life and in order for me to change that I need to find a space where I can go and make that change.”
3 . We all go through tribulations and celebrations
Working in the migration sector has shifted the way Julia perceives migration. A ‘take-away’ learning has been that we are all humans and our needs are very similar – no matter where we come from. “We go through the same challenges, the same problems, but also the same celebrations. It is just that maybe when one person is celebrating, the other is facing sorrow and hardship.”
Gaining an understanding of the reasons why people migrate is necessary for us to connect on a human level – with understanding comes empathy and relatability. “I think there is a spot for everybody, and we just need to give each other the opportunity in a loving and caring manner. If we are kind to each other and give that space to each other, then we can make South Africa a better country.”