For those of you who are watching BBC2’s Lucy Worsely present Cake Bakers and Trouble Makers tonight – you may see some familiar faces. What a couple of crazy months it has been in the Shoreditch Sisters’ Solidarity Quilt campaign. Time to take stock and talk about what’s next, to keep this amazing momentum going.
WHERE DID WE START?
Almost two years ago now, we started a knitting project with a group of refugee women from Women for Refugee Women. Here we swapped knitting skills, women from the WI and refugee women alike, culminating in more knitted squares than anyone knew what to do with. During these knitting sessions, many of the refugee women spoke of the time they had spent in detention and the inhumane treatment they had suffered there. They had been imprisoned not because they had committed a crime, but because they had sought safety in the UK. What is more, many of their friends were still locked up in detention.
We decided to turn the squares into our beautiful Solidarity Quilt; a powerful symbol of female solidarity with women inside detention demanding that women seeking asylum in the UK are treated with justice and dignity. Kick starting a full on Solidarity Quilt tour we made a first stop at the Women of the World festival where we sewed the blanket together and the UK public wrote messages of support to the women inside. Next stop was Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where the quilt hung for a month and our Trojan horse echoed support from within detention’s walls. Finally we knitted in bright craftivist protest at the summit to End Sexual Violence with the message that if the UK Government is serious about tackling sexual violence, then decent support needs to be offered to those women who flee it.
WHAT HAPPENED THEN?
With news that the home secretary Theresa May was conducting a review into detention centres, we grabbed hold of the momentum and made even more noise: Dressing up as Theresa May at our second Women of the World festival to urge Mrs May to be ambitious in her review. In the run up to the election, our Solidarity Quilt was displayed in the Victoria & Albert’s ‘All of this belongs to you’ exhibition. We marched along with the ‘Say No to Racism’ march holding our ‘migration is beautiful’ placards. And joined 100s of people in demonstrations outside of Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood detention centres where the detainees inside joined in with our chants of ‘Freedom!’
The solidarity movement with people in detention is growing through great efforts by passionate individuals, sisters and organisations as the Movement for Justice and Women for Refugee Women. Not only are there now 100s of people speaking up against detention, the High Court of Justice ruled that detaining fast track asylum seekers is unlawful. Asylum-seekers would therefore no longer be detained throughout the asylum process simply for claiming asylum. A massive win, showing that ending detention is possible.
WHAT IS NEXT?
For all of you in Shoreditch Sisters’ Campaigning, the next big moment is on Saturday 8 August when we will be joining a massive protest with women outside and inside Yarl’s Wood.
Blog post by Rachel Wandelaar for Shoreditch Sisters WI