By Carolina Cal 

 ‘After all I have experienced, my mental and physical health are on the floor but I can only keep going’ shared a 62 years old woman from Ecuador who had migrated twice prior to moving to the UK six years ago. 

Unfortunately stories like this are very common within our Latin American community, especially for women, as discussed in the session Understanding my story with resilience and empowerment: “When we migrate, we still need to be the best mum, best partner, best employee…it’s a lot for us and if I fail in one of these, I feel very guilty, it’s an endless guilt cycle”.

Pointed out by a group of women attending Krav Marga/self-defence lessons at LAWRS, the situation has worsened after the pandemic. The economic crisis, exploitation at work, and less government support have put a lot more pressure on women, affecting their mental health with their stress and anxiety increasing. On  top of it al, structural barriers navigating these challenges have also tightened: discrimination, racism, lack of opportunities and isolation are still a reality for many of us. 

How can we organise politically as a community if we are struggling to meet our basic needs? 

According to the artist, abolitionist and writer Patrice Cullors, ‘good community work doesn’t come with exhausted or worn-down community members’. By good she means to organise with love and understanding rather than mirroring a world based on punishment and vengeance that ostracises people who need help. Instead, she encourages us, organisers, to first try to use everything in our arsenal, whether engaging through film, literature, or food sharing events, to care and inspire communities to dream up the possibilities of another, and more equal world.

With the intention of taking care of Latin American migrant women participating in our activities, WARMI, LAWRS Community Activism programme has partnered with the Outreach Team on the delivery of a series of wellbeing sessions funded by Davis Peace Prize project and produced by LAWRS volunteer Nickolle Mahaleth Carrasco. The programme included self-defence lessons, a gong bath and workshops about healthy relationships and our journeys as migrant women. In total there were five sessions with around seventy women attending throughout. Participants received £10 towards transport, had creche available so they could bring their children and were offered lunch in each session. 

‘It helps that we receive £10 every time we come and that we can eat together as transport and food are so expensive at the moment’ 

In order to better understand the current experiences of our community, during lunch time, WARMI Coordinator gave a brief introduction on Community Organising and asked participants key questions around their needs as a community. One of the questions was: If you could dream of a future for our community, what would it look like? Answers were mostly around ‘a future where we can access services without being discriminated against’ and ‘better job opportunities with dignified payment’. 

Analysing their answers and their dynamics in the sessions, we can note that our community is still struggling to lift themselves up, finding difficulty in accessing basic services and opportunities. At LAWRS, we acknowledge the situation as well as understand that fighting for human rights and a more just world can put significant strain on our mental health and wellbeing.

According to the Mayan Q’eqchi’-xinka healer and feminist, Lorena Cabnal, one of the intentions of the patriarchal system is to weaken women’s bodies. With tired, sick, and depressed bodies, we can’t fight against machismo, racism, neoliberalism and the pandemic, she adds. So when attempting to answer the question about how to do community organising in times of a cost of living crisis, we need to first consider the circumstances in which the community is living and how stakeholders and organisations can a) facilitate engagement in activism and b) protect our members from backlashes. 


To facilitate engagement in activism means to meet the community at their needs. If the community can’t afford attending activities, organisations should be able to provide the means for that, recognising their time, knowledge and lived experience. That said, it is crucial that the work of organisations is not only informed by direct experience but also led by it. Power holders and decision makers must acknowledge the impact of one of the UK’s highest inflation rates of all times and therefore avoid participation expectations that are not in line with the communit’sy current vulnerability or lack of resources.

Furthermore, If we want our community and its next generations to stand strong on their own feet, we, organisations, should consistently provide the tools for that. At LAWRS, we provide support that looks at the woman as a whole, considering the barriers faced by migrant women in the UK and providing free and confidential specialist services that range from advice and counselling, including initial legal advice, advice on welfare benefits, housing and employment rights. We believe this to be one of the ways we can protect our community: by providing safe spaces where migrant women can reflect on their own lives, understand their role in society and acquire the practical and emotional tools and skills to make the changes they want to see. 

‘Coming to these sessions was the best thing I could do for myself. I am alone in this country, and have been feeling a bit anxious because I am having to make some difficult decisions in my life at the moment. Here I felt supported, accompanied and listened to.’

 As expressed by a participant in the last day of the programme, safe community spaces can offer solace when the world around us is showing otherwise. So, how can we continue doing community organising in times of a cost of living crisis? Being a by and for organisation, LAWRS are on a learning journey with this and want to ensure we hold ourselves to account. We commit to fostering spaces where we could support our community to engage in activities and to avoid the most common pitfalls of being an activist, while providing the tools for our community to keep striving to make the world a better place in a way that doesn’t drag them down but calibrate their mind, body and soul.

‘In these sessions, I understood that I have the right to be heard and valued for who I am.’