The Refugee Women's Centre provides holistic support for migrant women and families living in informal outdoor settlements in Calais and Dunkirk and in accommodation centres in surrounding areas.
We are a women for women organisation, committed to creating safe spaces for women and children. We provide them with the means to live with dignity, advocate for access to shelter and for other human rights to be met.
... a small team of up to 9 female volunteers in northern France with support from remote team members
... the only charity specialised in supporting displaced women on the border between
France and England
... a mobile service, operating from vehicles. We once had a day centre, for more information, read up on our Her-story.
Our aim and purpose is to ensure close and holistic support to displaced women and families. We do so by going on the ground every day, where people are living and staying, to spend time with them, by organising activities (such as arts and crafts and English classes), by fulfilling their material needs on an individual basis, and by connecting them to professional organisations for more specialised needs (medical, legal, or psychological). Recognising that “basic needs” includes mental health and well-being, we serve as a moral support, and create dedicated spaces where women can feel comfortable, whether their wish is to talk to someone or to be left alone.
The options available to displaced people for shelter and accommodation go up and down at different times. Since no adequate housing is provided to displaced communities by state authorities (offering an alternative to informal camps), we advocate for access to shelter. This has been done through paying for hotel nights, creating and managing a network of citizen accommodation, orienting people into state accommodation and continuing to support them there, and working on advocacy projects to better the living conditions and to increase the number of spaces in the state-provided accommodation.
The people we support
We support women and families: this includes parents with their children; unaccompanied women; single parents; and families who have become separated during their journey. They come from many different countries and backgrounds and there are many reasons why they have left their home countries. One thing in common is that they are all still looking for suitable place to build a home and create a secure future.
It is estimated that up to 70% of people arriving to northern France already have unfinished or failed asylum claims in other EU member states, and this is reflected in the families we encounter. Many have experienced long and difficult journeys from their home countries and through the European asylum system. Amongst the displaced populations here, stories of rape, torture, and repeat victimisation at the hands of both states and members of the smuggling network are not uncommon.
The displaced women and families we support experience multiple barriers to education, justice, healthcare and other rights. They live with either limited or no access to adequate shelter, and often rely on NGOs to provide the material means to survive. Many experience regular police evictions of their living sites, a result of a state policy of deterrence and invisibilisation The continued presence of displaced women and families in northern France points to both their own resilience and the futility of this policy.
We commit to respect all those we work with, regardless of differences in experience, views and choices.
We believe that collaboration and convergence of forces is the most effective way to achieve change.
RWC commits to recognising, and fighting against, all forms of oppression during the work that we do. This includes oppression based on sexuality, gender, class, race and legal status.
RWC defines itself as a feminist organisation, learning from movements led by Black feminists, disabled feminists, queer communities and class activists, and tries to implement this in our own approach to our work.
We believe that injustice is most effectively combated by solidarity. This means to support victims rather than lead, and to platform their voices rather than our own as much as possible.