Refugee women often find themselves in a position of having to take up low-paid and undervalued work despite having skills because of a lack of recognised qualifications or English, and since the Refugee Integration and Employment Service was disbanded in 2011, there is no longer an obvious place to go for help. Bread & Roses, a social enterprise training refugee women in the art of floristry, spoke at last year’s event, ‘Intersect’. The floristry training process they provide offers women a space to learn English, develop skills and build their confidence, and ultimately helps them on the pathway to employment.
We have caught up with them in the run-up to this year’s event, ‘Home’, to see what the theme means to them.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
‘In the context of Bread & Roses, a social enterprise supporting refugee and asylum seeking women to develop emotional wellbeing and practical skills, home means a place where you can belong. Through our work, we’ve seen that many women who flee their countries of origin and travel to the UK are not afforded a real home when they arrive. A lack of joined up integration and employment support services which meet the needs of refugees means that even when a woman has been in London for many years, she still often doesn’t feel she truly belongs. We believe that when we offer refugees sanctuary, we have the duty to provide them with a pathway to autonomy and independence. Only this will enable them to rebuild their lives in their new home.’
The story behind their name:
‘Set up in May 2016, Bread & Roses takes its name from a political slogan coined by Rose Schneiderman, a pioneering American socialist and feminist, back in 1912. In a famous speech, Schneiderman argued that women working in low-paid jobs need more than just the basics (the bread) to survive – they deserve dignity, respect and the opportunity to flourish (the roses) too. Since then, ‘bread and roses’ has become symbolic of the struggle of working women to achieve better pay and dignified conditions.’ – Bread & Roses – ‘Our Story’
Founders Olivia Head & Sneh Jani’s incredible talk at last years event: ‘Using floristry to improve the lives of women’. Please do have a watch if you haven’t already!
‘Feeling powerless doesn’t feel like a good enough excuse not to do anything […] we don’t need to feel powerless in the face of systemic injustice. Challenging what we don’t believe in, and challenging what we do doesn’t need a fully formed plan. It can begin with simple gestures of humanity. Simple gestures of solidarity. And that is something we are ALL capable of.’
A huge thank you to Liv and Sneh for their time. To find out more about what they do, have a look at their website and social media: