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Voices #12: WOMAN

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 Refugee Exile Stateless - that’s her name here

But really she is Woman Sister to Strength contained in a small room shared with fourty others othered by the life they came here to find

Woman Teacher Traveller travelling further than she thought she would further from the familiarity of warm hands home foods homes bombed left alone with the unrelentless nostalgia of departure

She’s Mother 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 day in day out 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

because she’s Fighter who receives the cruel fist of the world but stands firm in this resolve which holds her family’s lives together sits firm 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 Refugee

Which make her Woman Bearer of Life 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.

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