Join our Young Women’s Advisory Board 2024

Would you like to inspire and unlock your full potential to champion and lead action to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG)?

At LAWRS, we are looking for 12 enthusiastic Latin American Young Women aged 18 to 24, based in London, to join our Young Women’s Advisory Board for one year.

 

What’s it about?

The Young Women’s Advisory Board is an initiative by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and its project for girls and young women: Sin Fronteras. The programme seeks to train Latin American Young Women for collective action at the intersection of migration, age, and gender, amongst others.

 

This programme provides you with theoretical and practical skills in feminist leadership and advocacy that you will be able to apply in your life, your career, and your community.

The program will be held in English and Spanish, and meetings will be in-person in London.

 

Who’s it for?

Latin American Young Women aged 18 to 24*, based in London, are invited to participate in the Young Women’s Advisory Board and will receive a stipend to support their engagement in the programme (at London Living Wage levels).

 

Please note: this also includes first and second-generation of young women with Latin American ethnicity and European/UK nationality.

 

 * Please notice you must be at most 24 years old by the time of submitting the application form.

 

How? 

The one year programme (Apr.2024 - Mar.2025) consists of 8 sessions Leadership and Advocacy training (Saturdays, Jun. Oct and Sep. 2024), 9 Discussion Meetings about tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) as Latin American young migrant women advocates (Apr, Jun, Nov, Dec 2024, Jan, Feb and Mar 2025)  and  3 planned activities (LAWRS’s Annual General Meeting (AGM),  LAWRS’  International Women’s Day (IWD) and the Million Women Rise March). (Nov.2024 and Mar.2025)

 

Programme Timeline

Programme Starts: Saturday 27th April - Opening Session.  (11 am – 3 pm) in-person in London. 

 

Saturday 11th May: Discussion session to set goals for the year. (11 am – 3 pm) in-person in London. 

 

Leadership and Advocacy training sessions:

  • Saturdays 08th and 15th June 2024. (11 am – 4 pm) in-person in London. 
  • Saturdays 07th, 14th, 21st and 28th June 2024. (11 am – 4 pm) in-person in London. 
  • Saturdays 12th and 26th October 2024. (11 am – 4 pm) in-person in London. 

 

Further discussion sessions:

  • 13th and 27th Jul, 9th Nov, 7th Dec. 2024, 25th Jan and 15th Feb 2025. (11 am – 3 pm) in-person in London.  

 

Other activities*:

  • 23rd Nov. 2024 - LAWRS’ AGM
  • 1st Mar. 2025 - LAWRS’ IWD
  • 8th Mar. 2025 - Million Women Rise March

 

* Throughout the year we expect to have participative activities where the YWAB can amplify their network and uptake action. It will be In-person meetings in London, time to be confirmed. These are highly recommended activities, however they are not compulsory and will not be financially  compensated.

 

Program Ends: Saturday 15th March 2025.

 

Benefits

With the Young Women’s Advisory Board, you can gain skills, meet new people, and influence LAWRS’ policy work bringing youth voices to the centre of the organisation and the public debate.

 

Get involved in the work that we do, get paid for your time, gain valuable experience to include in your CV, get trained in leadership and activism, and be invited to LAWRS events and beyond!

This is your chance to create a more equal world for girls and young women, participate in a collective social change actions programme to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), and shape LAWRS’ policy work.

 

Apply Now!

Apply online using our Application Form

 

Applications are open until Monday, 22nd April 2024.

 

Please note that completion of the application form does not guarantee a place in the programme. If your application is accepted, you will be invited to an online interview/call in the following days. If selected, you are expected to attend the PYL’s Leadership and Advocacy training in September.

 

Contact

Taline, the project coordinator, would be happy to talk to you if you have any questions or need support with your application. 

 

Contact her at: sinfronteras@lawrs.org.uk / 07802 645001.

 

We would be grateful if you could also share this information with your network, as we want to ensure many young women know about this opportunity, especially those with a passion for making a difference in the lives of women and girls.

 

Thank you for taking an interest. We can’t wait to hear from you!


VAWG Sector Joint Statement on Social Housing Allocations Consultation

March 2024

The government’s ‘British homes for British people’ proposal raises strong concerns from the VAWG sector, especially for by-and-for organisations that support marginalised groups. The proposed changes to the social housing allocation as a means to tackle a chronic lack of suitable social housing would create further barriers and discrimination towards survivors of domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG), preventing them from accessing safe and affordable housing at a time when local councils are on their knees, facing unprecedented financial difficulties and demand for social housing. Marginalised groups will be greatly disproportionately impacted. Migrant survivors of VAWG, in particular, will be forced to face another barrier in the already existing hostile environment.

Safe, affordable housing – including social homes – for women and children escaping VAWG is an urgent priority. Our organisations see first hand the devastating cost of the housing crisis on survivors, who are often forced to ‘choose’ between homelessness and housing insecurity or remaining with a perpetrator, leaving them in trapped situations. But the government’s proposals to restrict access to the social housing register based on the number of years households have lived in the UK, or within their local area, will do nothing to tackle this. Instead, survivors will face even greater restrictions to accessing the severe lack of social housing and these policies will contribute further to the already existing hostile environment facing migrant women. It is highly concerning that the changes will remove access or social housing for migrant women who do have recourse to public funds, such as refugees, despite their eligibility being protected by international law.

Migrant survivors of VAWG, once again, will have to desperately try to navigate in a system that already affects them disproportionately. There is little relevance between the policy and the needs of survivors. Children will also be heavily implicated, creating further instability and uncertainty to their safety. Rather than implementing the urgent changes survivors need to exempt them from  restrictive local connection requirements, the Government has chosen to prioritise further consultation on these divisive measures.

LAWRS, along with other organisations in the VAWG sector urge the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to prioritise building more social housing and delivering the reforms that women and children experiencing VAWG desperately need. The Government should urgently publish its response to the local connection restrictions and joint tenancy reform, and deliver its commitment to empower survivors with the ability to decide what is best for them - remaining in their own home or moving to another home - rather than proceeding with harmful changes to social housing allocations. Most importantly, urgent measures should be taken to provide all survivors, namely those with no recourse to public funds, with equal access to life-saving domestic abuse support and safe accommodation.

Read our full statement here

 

 


Supportive pathways

By Mariana (She/her)

Recently, as part of my volunteering with LAWRS, I took part in a Peer Support group for women victim/survivors of gender-based abuse. This is a space designed to offer safety, confidentiality, and, above all, freedom to share our experiences without any judgment. For our participants, the only requirement to join the group was to have lived experience of abuse.

Initially, I admit I didn't know what to expect. The idea of meeting strangers to discuss topics we often avoid even with those closest to us seemed unusual, intimidating, and uncomfortable. How would we address such complex and painful issues? What if no one wanted to share their experiences?

Our meetings were structured around specific themes, from understanding what gender roles are to exploring healthy relationships and the myths surrounding domestic abuse, among others. We prepared materials for each session such as videos, songs, and other types of content, which then became starting points for our group discussions.

Each session was unique, bringing us closer as a group but also closer to ourselves. I learned that understanding our pain became easier and more evident when seeing it reflected in my peers, and the compassion we apply when hearing their stories is the same we ought to apply to ourselves. I discovered new perspectives and found an unexpected sense of solidarity and mutual understanding.

As the sessions progressed, sharing became easier and participation more comfortable; each week felt like gathering with old friends. But undoubtedly, the most unexpected part of my experience was realising that this place, intended to address difficult issues, was filled with laughter and joy. Despite addressing serious matters, we found moments of lightness and camaraderie. Each woman who participated in these sessions gifted me a piece of her story, a piece of wisdom I carry with me.

This group showed me that our experiences as women, although diverse, connect us in the same context. The injustices and violence we face do not discriminate by age, country, education, or socioeconomic status. We are sisters in this common struggle, sharing an understanding that transcends our differences.

It's curious how we find some comfort in realising that we're not alone in our experiences and emotions—feeling validated knowing that other women have faced similar situations. However, this comfort is weighed down by the inevitable question of 'why’.

We ask ourselves: why are our stories so similar? Why do we repeatedly find ourselves in vulnerable situations? Why do we feel unfairly and disproportionately judged? It's unsettling to see how we're constantly in the position of being victims of the same crimes and injustices. It leads us to question why, despite progress and efforts, we still face these barriers, these limitations imposed on us simply because we're women.

We find ourselves needing to take a defensive stance, holding a persistent state of alertness. But there are times when we also become part of this cycle, judging those who attempt to challenge these limitations imposed on us and are so deeply ingrained in us that we often impose them on ourselves.

In this group, I was reminded of the importance of a continuous fight for equality, the need to break free from limiting structures, and the desire to build a more equitable and just world for all women.

It was a pleasure and an honour to share this space with these resilient women, and above all, I discovered that mutual support and open, respectful discussion are a refuge and a space for growth and healing.


Empowering Voices: LAWRS’ Young Women's Advisory Board Launch their first campaign

In a world where diverse voices are increasingly recognised through making their way to be heard, a group of remarkable young Latin American women based in London is stepping onto the political stage with a vision of social change. These young women are not only challenging stereotypes but also working towards contributing to reshaping the political landscape in the UK. 

In commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we will spotlight the work our YWAB has developed in the last months.

The campaign includes 12 images that portray their work on identifying the barriers to support that young Latin American Migrant Women encounter when facing violence against women and girls (VAWG).

The Latin American community in the UK remains invisible and underserved. Young Latin American Women are all too familiar with the stereotypes associated with their heritage, but they are determined to break free from these preconceptions. This campaign focuses on showcasing their unique identities, skills, and visions for a brighter future in the political arena to tackle VAWG.

What sets this campaign apart is the incredible diversity of perspectives and experiences these young women bring to the table. Hailing from different countries across Latin America, they have a profound understanding of the cultural, social, and economic issues affecting their communities and the broader UK society. By drawing on this diversity, the campaign aims to provide key findings and recommendations with a holistic approach and an inclusive vision for a better future for all women.

Launching a political campaign is no small feat, and these young Latin American women understand the challenges that lie ahead. They face the barriers typically encountered by women in policy spaces and the additional structural hurdles that come with being part of a minoritised group. Despite this, their hope and determination shine through as they believe social change is possible through persistence, collaboration and advocacy.

The YWAB spearheading this campaign in the UK represents a beacon of hope for communities that have been marginalised. By focusing on gender equality, prevention of every form of VAWG, representation, fair access to higher education, healthcare, economic empowerment, and cultural exchange, they are working towards a brighter future for all. Their campaign is a testament to the power of diversity, unity, and the resilience of young voices determined to make a difference in the world. As we follow their journey, we can't help but be inspired by their passion and dedication to creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

You can find further details in this report

Contact

Taline, the project coordinator, would be happy to talk to you if you have any questions or if you want to participate in our group activities for Young Latin American Women. Contact her at: sinfronteras@lawrs.org.uk / 07802 645001.


Take action to ensure the Victims and Prisoners Bill protects migrant women

 

https://youtu.be/E_ZjwtDdMv0

Migrant women are disproportionately impacted by serious crime. As recognised by the

government, this vulnerability is linked to the limited avenues for support available due to their insecure immigration status. Moreover, perpetrators and exploiters weaponise women’s status to limit their options further, keeping them trapped in harm. 

Amongst migrant victims of crime, one of the most significant barriers to accessing support and justice is low confidence in approaching the police and other statutory agencies to report crime and ask for help. This lack of trust is not unjustified but fostered by existing data-sharing agreements between statutory services, including the police and the Home Office. Freedom of information requests (FOI) showed that between May 2020 and September 2022, the police shared the details of over 2,000 vulnerable victims with Immigration Enforcement after victims reported the crime. Some of these victims have been served with enforcement papers and are at risk of deportation. Recently, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner revealed that all police forces in England and Wales have shared information with Immigration Enforcement after victims of domestic abuse approached them for support.

In 2020, three independent police watchdogs conducting a super-complaint investigation concluded that these data-sharing agreements between the police and the Home Office are causing significant harm to the public interest because serious crimes are not reported and investigated, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.

We need your support to ensure migrant victims and survivors of crime are not excluded from safety.

Write to your MP 

  • To obtain your MP details, please click here and enter your postcode. We have worked on a template letter to make this easier for you. Click here to download it.

Share this campaign with your contacts.

  • Follow us on our Twitter account for updates about this campaign and our work.

For further information, contact us: 

Elizabeth Jiménez-Yáñez, elizabeth@lawrs.org.uk 

Carolina Caicedo, carolina@lawrs.org.uk


How can we continue doing community organising in times of a cost of living crisis?

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.’


Behind Closed Doors: Experiences of Latin American Domestic Workers in the UK

The Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) has published its latest report, Behind Closed Doors: Experiences of Latin American Domestic Workers in the UK.  

DOWNLOAD REPORT

This research, made possible by funding from Trust for London, draws from 12 in-depth interviews with Latin American victims and survivors of domestic servitude. This study outlines the characteristics of the sector, highlighting the high levels of isolation, exploitation and abuse that are endemic within it, and looks into the specific ways these affect women workers in the Latin American community.

Latin American women are overrepresented in domestic work in the UK, a highly feminised and unregulated sector where work is seen as unproductive and unskilled, and where the workforce is virtually invisible. Many of the women we interviewed were exposed to experiences that amount to domestic servitude.

Some of our key findings were:

  • 83% of women were not provided with written contracts throughout their employment and 92% were not provided with payslips.
  • All women experienced breaches of verbal agreements.
  • 83% were expected to perform different tasks to what was agreed during recruitment. At least 58% were hired as either cleaners/housekeepers or carers but were expected to perform both tasks.
  • All participants experienced an increase to their working hours, leading to little to no time off.
  • 10 out of 12 participants worked at least 12 hours per day, the longest working day being 17 hours per day. 
  • 70% of participants did not have a paid holiday.
  • At least 58% were not registered with a GP.
  • At least one participant experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • 58% experienced mistreatment, including verbal or physical abuse, and threats.
  • At least 25% were tracked or surveilled by their employers, including when they were not working.
  • All participants felt they did not have the option of changing their working conditions.
  • All participants related signs of isolation and an inability or fear of seeking help.
  • 50% of the participants were victims of trafficking for labour exploitation.

The difficulties in identifying exploitation and abuse in the sector, coupled with a lack of options and understanding of how to access support by workers, lead many women to remain in these conditions for long periods of time.

Adding to their vulnerability, migrant domestic workers in the UK are exempt from essential labour rights and are subjected to an anti-migrant rhetoric and environment that creates fear and anxiety over their immigration status, regardless of their situation.

Crucially, traffickers and exploiters benefit from this system that allows them to use workers’ anxiety over immigration status as an effective form of control and coercion, all the while knowing that they will not face any consequences for their actions.

The disregard for the working conditions of migrant domestic workers goes against the UK’s goal to end modern slavery, and there is much that the government can do to ensure that workers are treated fairly and do not fall into exploitation. Read our report here to see our recommendations.

“When I was told that I had to be available, I did not imagine that this included my days off […] I did not imagine late nights. ‘Available’ means I am there, in the house. I will be living in the house so I could, if she needed something, be available. But not 24/7. So I accepted, but I never thought that things would change later.”


Join our Young Women’s Advisory Board

Would you like to inspire and unlock your full potential to champion and lead action to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG)?

At LAWRS, we are looking for 10 enthusiastic Latin American Young Women aged 18 to 24, based in London, to join our Young Women’s Advisory Board for six months.

What's it about?

The Young Women’s Advisory Board is an initiative by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and its project for girls and young women: Sin Fronteras. The programme seeks to train Latin American Young Women for collective action at the intersection of migration, age, and gender, amongst others.

This programme provides you with theoretical and practical skills in feminist leadership and advocacy that you will be able to apply in your life, your career, and your community.

The program will be held in English and Spanish, and meetings will be in-person in London.

Who's it for?

Latin American Young Women aged 18 to 24, based in London, are invited to participate in the Young Women’s Advisory Board and will receive a stipend to support their engagement in the programme (at London Living Wage levels).

Please note: this also includes first and second-generation of young women with Latin American ethnicity and European/UK nationality.

How? 

The six-month programme (Sep.2023-Feb.2024) consists of a 4 sessions Leadership and Advocacy training (Saturdays, Sep.2023), 4 monthly meetings, and a 4 sessions training and discussion series about tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) as Latin American young migrant women advocates (Saturdays, Feb.2024).

Programme Timeline

Programme Starts: Saturday 09th September.

Leadership and Advocacy training sessions: Saturdays 09th, 16th, 23rd and 30th Sep.2023 (11 am - 3 pm) in-person in London.

Young Women’s Advisory Board monthly meetings: Saturdays, Oct. 21st, Nov.04th, Dec.16th, and Jan.20th (11 am - 2 pm) in-person in London.

*These dates will be discussed with the participants during the training sessions in September to find out if a different availability suits them better.

Training and discussion series: tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG) as Latin American young migrant women advocates: Saturdays 03rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th Feb.2024 (11 am - 3 pm) in-person in London.

*These dates will be discussed with the participants during the training sessions in September to find out if a different availability suits them better.

Program Ends: Thursday 29th February 2024.

Benefits

With the Young Women’s Advisory Board, you can gain skills, meet new people, and influence LAWRS’ policy work bringing youth voices to the centre of the organisation and the public debate.

Get involved in the work that we do, get paid for your time, gain valuable experience to include in your CV, get trained in leadership and activism, and be invited to LAWRS events and beyond!

This is your chance to create a more equal world for girls and young women, participate in a collective social change actions programme to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG), and shape LAWRS’ policy work.

Apply Now!

Apply online using our Application Form: https://forms.gle/CGUdELNKtq1Z7ZCy7

Applications are open until Wednesday, 06th September 2023.

Please note that completion of the application form does not guarantee a place in the programme. If your application is accepted, you will be invited to an online interview/call in the following days. If selected, you are expected to attend the opening Leadership and Advocacy training in September.

Contact

Melissa, the project coordinator, would be happy to talk to you if you have any questions or need support with your application. Contact her at: melissa@lawrs.org.uk / 07802 645001.

We would be grateful if you could also share this information with your network, as we want to ensure many young women know about this opportunity, especially those with a passion for making a difference in the lives of women and girls.

Thank you for taking an interest. We can’t wait to hear from you!


40 years supporting the Latin American community

It has been four decades since a group of Latin American women decided to organise and LAWRS began its work, little knowing that all these years later we would occupy a key place in the heart of the Latin American community in the UK. 

When in the 1970s, due to the political dictatorships in our continent, many people were forced to migrate, the newly formed community in the UK found that the country was not prepared to respond to their needs in an adequate way. Adapting to a new country with such a complex system required the development of specific services for our community. This need was even more evident in the case of Latin American women, who required the creation of a feminist space that would provide them with support and access to information in a safe way.

LAWRS was thus created as a space where the needs of women in our community were heard and supported, where bonds of friendship, community and mutual support were formed, opening up opportunities to feel at home while being away from home. 

Since then, the community has continued to grow, and LAWRS along with it, offering new services and reaching out to the most vulnerable people in the community, while engaging in political processes, with the intention of improving the living and working conditions of Latin American women in the long term. 

Today, we remain firmly committed to our mission to  for all Latin American and migrant women in the UK. Many people have been part of this long journey and have left their mark on our organisation. To all of them we pay tribute and express our gratitude, in the hope that we will continue to grow, transform and be a safe space for all Latin American women who need us. 

If you haven't yet seen our video celebrating 40 years of LAWRS, you can watch it here: 

https://youtu.be/6ObYpar2N_U


What does volunteering at Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) mean to me?

By Alejandra Uribe Cardenas (She/her)

To write about what volunteering for LAWRS means to me, I must begin by reflecting on my own story. One of the only constants in my life has been being a migrant. My family moved from Colombia to Spain when I was around 6 years old, and at the age of 18, I moved to the UK.

I have precious memories from my childhood in Madrid, and most of them are with my family. My mum and my aunts have played a crucial role in my life. They are very strong women that left a life behind just so the new generation could have better opportunities, and as single mothers, the weight of providing to us fell solely on their shoulders for many years. However, I am very fortunate because regardless of the challenges my family might have faced, we have always had each other. It was not until I migrated as an adult that I realized that having a support system is an immense privilege that very few migrants have.

In the summer of 2022, I got the opportunity to become a volunteer at LAWRS. My role at LAWRS involves supporting the Helpline Team by receiving calls from Latin American women who require support across different issues, including Housing, Welfare and Benefits, Immigration, Employment Rights, and Violence Against Women and Girls. What makes LAWRS so unique is that it is an organization for Latin American Women run by Latin American Women. They have created a safe space for Latinas where they can find the support they need in their mother tongue. Through volunteering at the helpline, I have experienced first-hand the difference this makes, as many of the service users that call us do not speak English. For example, there was a time I had to call 999 on behalf of a service user, and even though it was an emergency, I felt somehow relieved that LAWRS was there to be able to help in such a circumstance.

Overall, my experience as a volunteer has been incredibly valuable. I particularly appreciated that at the beginning of my volunteering journey, I discussed my development objectives with LAWRS’ Volunteers Coordinator, and we designed a plan with my areas of focus. I have gained transferable skills such as working professionally in both English and Spanish, enhancing my communication in both languages. I have also improved my interpersonal and problem-solving skills by engaging with a wide range of service users and sometimes dealing with challenging situations. In addition to the professional benefits of volunteering, I have been able to contribute to my community and connect with other Latinas. Some personal highlights include running my first-ever marathon and fundraising for LAWRS as well as the International Women’s Day march. For the latter, LAWRS organized an event to create banners and practice the chants for the march. The whole experience was energizing, and I loved how there was so much joy, dancing, and sisterhood.

At the helpline, I have listened to all sorts of stories, some more complex than others, but if there is something that I have learned during my time at LAWRS is that behind every Latin American migrant woman, there is a story of resilience and every woman deserves to be listened to. Hence, why the work that LAWRS do it’s so important because they listen to the needs of women in the community, and they amplify the voices of those that tend to be invisible to the system.

All in all, LAWRS to me means community, belonging, and support.