Meet Refugee Women’s Association

Yesterday it was International Women’s Day, and we spoke to one of our oldest tenants Refugee Women’s Association to understand more about the important work they have been doing with refugee women over the years.

Refugee Women’s Association (RWA) was founded in 1995 in order to provide support to refugee and migrant women who wanted to pursue higher education in London. The charity has been based at Bootstrap for 25 years, throughout which they have helped tens of thousands of women and families.

“Our mission is to help lift the barriers they face which prevent them from taking charge of their futures by empowering and enabling refugee, migrant and asylum seeking women and their families with the arduous journey to integration in London.”, says Simin Azimi, current Director of RWA. 

They currently provide to refugee, migrant and asylum seeker women information, advice and guidance in confidence, English classes and workshops, immigration advice, employment and volunteering assistance, fundraising for destitute clients, as well as raise awareness to the public and decision-makers about the needs and aspirations of refugee women and their positive contributions to UK society. 

One of Simin’s proudest stories is about Mona, a qualified gynaecologist from the Middle East who had hopes of continuing her profession and building a new life with her husband when she arrived in the UK in 2011. Instead, and not at all uncommon, she suffered horrific domestic abuse and ended up at a refuge for almost 2 years with her newborn baby. During this time, she had to fight for her child’s custody, and couldn’t continue her career as a doctor. RWA supported Mona in every way possible, and encouraged her to continue with her education. 

In July 2019, Simin was diagnosed with cancer and was referred to a local hospital, where the consultant gave her email address because she was impressed with the work she did with women. 

“I then told her about Mona, I said she needed clinical attachment before being able to be employed as a doctor in a hospital and asked if she could help in any way. She said ‘Oh my God, Simin, I can’t believe right after confirming you have cancer, you are asking me to support a client!’ When I was going through chemotherapy, Mona texted me saying she passed her qualification and I asked the consultant if she could help her with the process of clinical attachment, which she did. Mona is now working on it at the local hospital and will soon be able to practice as a doctor within the NHS. She thanked our staff for giving her the confidence and backing in achieving this, and that we never gave up despite the multiple challenges we faced with her case.”, tells Simin. 

Refugee Women’s Association has hundreds of success stories similar to Mona’s, helping women build their confidence throughout their life journey in the UK so they can achieve what they want to be and who they want to be. Their clients face daily challenges that come from inequality, social justice, financial destitution and future uncertainty in regards to immigration status, tough housing climate and welfare benefits, and it is important that they are able to raise enough funds to keep providing their services without interruption. 

All the support they provide is free, and they rely mainly on donations from trusts and foundations as well as individual donors to maintain their independent services. You can support them by donating, volunteering or collaboration. Find out more:

Bootstrap Charity is a workspace and business-led charity that promotes responsible business as a way to address inequality in Hackney.


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