UK Creative Art Workshop Explores Integration and Britishness
The UN Migration Agency (IOM) in the United Kingdom, this past weekend (23/09), partnered with renowned artist Salma Zulfiqar and Birmingham-based charity the Amirah Foundation to host a creative art workshop at the Library of Birmingham, on empowering migrant women as part of the Birmingham Weekend Festival, the city’s largest annual community arts festival.
The event recognised that female migrants in the UK face specific challenges and vulnerabilities, and attempts to promote integration of female migrants into British society. The workshop focused on creating better understanding between women from different ethnic backgrounds by exploring perceptions on Britishness.
IOM UK’s participation in the event demonstrates an extension of IOM’s ongoing commitment to community integration of refugees and migrants in the UK. IOM UK works extensively with beneficiaries, local authorities and community groups to aid the successful integration of refugees and migrants into UK society, including through cultural orientation programmes, information sessions, and community engagement.
According to 2015 statistics, women comprise approximately 52 per cent of the UK migrant population. Women face particular obstacles in community integration. IOM’s work in the UK has found that female migrants, including refugees, are less likely than their male counterparts to engage actively with employers, government and civil society actors.
Consequently, female migrants may suffer from additional marginalisation as a result of isolation from society, and reduced opportunities for language learning, education and employment. Events such as this art workshop devised by Salma Zulfiqar demonstrate a crucial step to aid positive experiences in exploring individual and British identity, to the benefit of both migrant women and British society as a whole.
“Integration is key in creating peaceful societies, in preventing hate crimes and ultimately prevents extremism,” Zulfiqar said.
Workshop participant Salaam Al Farrah, a refugee originating from Syria, reflected on her experiences in the UK. “I live in an area where there are Indians, Pakistanis and people originally from Jamaica and I love it! I know it’s important for me to integrate into society. I want to be part of this community and I want to learn more about the English culture so that I can support my family properly and so that we can enjoy our lives in the UK.”
The event is part of Salma Zulfiqar’s ongoing exhibition at the Library of Birmingham, ‘Building Peace through the Oceans’, which aims to promote migrant integration and illustrate the positive contributions that migrants have made.