Following International Women’s Day last month, Frances Timberlake reflects on perceptions and realities of displaced women. The multiple roles they must often come to take on, and which they live with patience and fierce resilience, are a continuous source of inspiration.
They call her
- that’s her name here
But really she is
contained in a small room shared with fourty
by the life they came here to find
travelling further than she thought she would
further from the familiarity of warm hands
left alone with the unrelentless nostalgia of
who sits here with her children bottle-feeding (not breast, that’s dried up since coming here) and scrubbing trousers and stirring rice and watching her husband smoking
and chuckling to her neighbour about the absurdities and injustices of life wondering how long they have stayed here and how long they will stay here
A long time?
No problem. She’ll wash her hair and pin it up and now she’s swept the floor it’s nice and clean in here so she can sit and sew with donated cotton and maybe sneak a cigarette in the bathroom
ready to try the trucks again tonight
who receives the cruel fist of the world but
in this resolve which holds her family’s lives together
in this shelter where her thoughts her words her eccentricities her dislikes her youthful fears her adult hopes
find transient root once again
root that she will carry to the next place
and the next
and which make her infinitely more than
Which make her
lived by stamping feet
on harsh concrete
restlessly seeking a home like the one she left behind.
Frances is a long-term volunteer with the Refugee Women’s Centre in Dunkirk and is carrying out a research project into gendered experiences of displacement in northern France.