By Mirela Sula, Organiser of the Inspiring Migrant Woman Conference
Since moving to London in 2012 to carry out my PhD research on migrant women, I have had the chance to meet thousands of women in this country, migrant and British born, and interview a lot of them.
Through my research, working as a trainer for Solace Women’s Aid and interviewing women for my magazine, Migrant Woman, I discovered one important fact- migrant women are a force of nature.
Despite all the obstacles they face, these women still continue to view themselves as survivors, not victims, and are proud of this. I found them everywhere, working for corporations, charities, communities or themselves, and they demonstrated an ability to leave everything behind, pick themselves up and start anew. I began to realise that migrant women are also great networkers, as many have recognised that the more we connect with each other, the more confident we become and never feel alone. I hope to encourage this with the ‘Migrant Woman’ mission, as I truly believe that just thinking “We” helps “I” feel better. If you ask me “How are you going to build this community?” my answer again will be: “With love, which is the power of connection.”
The power of connection can help improve the lives of women around the world, especially those who challenge themselves by going beyond their borders. What I have discovered in my on-going research is that their tickets to a new world is not a return ticket, emphasising their view that this a new life- one where they fight, they dream and they dare to take risks, not only for themselves, but for the next generation. It is this fighting spirit that makes migrant women such an amazing source of inspiration and entrepreneurialism.
This conclusion on migrant women differs from many of my fellow researchers, who have argued that women are vulnerable, weak and insecure, and I hope through the work I, and countless others, are doing that we can alter this misconception. I want to reveal a new truth, based on real life. The first issue of Migrant Woman Magazine was the test drive for this, conveying an image to the world that migrant women are a source of intelligence, goodness, and, more importantly, can succeed.
The success of this magazine has given me the opportunity to expand my reach and create conferences, such as the Inspiring Migrant Woman Conference, to bring women together for an afternoon or weekend of inspiring success stories, which reminds them that no opportunity is closed to them. These women have a great source of power that society can benefit from and can use it for the social good, viewing it as an investment- a gift to the world.
However, it is important to stress, that moving to a new country is more than overcoming obstacles. We also need to learn to integrate and settle into a new culture, and subsequently let go of some crucial parts of our previous life. We need to accept the separation from the past, which includes places, memories and people. We have to let it go. The fact that some habits have been part of our life for a long time does not mean that we should stick with it. We need to learn how to adjust with new circumstances in a new culture and mind-set. That’s why we need to come together, to discuss issues that are interfering in our growth and bring solutions.
I think that migrant women experience a unique growth while going through this process and develop great skills to integrate in the new world. They learn how to separate and attach at different stages of their life and this makes them be strong and resilient.
The one-day Migrant Woman Conference was at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Kensington, London, on 28 May 2016, featuring the Migrant Woman of the Year Awards, to recognise entrepreneurs and community champions for their great work and achievements. For more information, visit www.migrantwomantalks.com