As the majority of asylum seekers are coming from the patriarchal societies in which men are always the ones who represent the family and make important decisions so women are always in the shadow, we believe that women and children asylum seekers are two micro groups that should be empowered to engage in health, educational and social context of the local community. It’s a long process but we believe that the empowerment of women, through the various forms of non-formal education, working on raising their self-esteem, encouraging them to make contact with other people, actually contributes to the breaking of prejudices of the role of women, about her subordinate position and certainly the development of motivation for learning and associating with other people. It is therefore an ongoing process and reflects the changes in the role of men in the family. Certainly, one should not expect rapid and radical change in this area because we need to be aware of the phase in which the most asylum seekers are while being in Serbia – transit, one of the steps between the country of origin and their destination.
At the beginning of our work, reactions of the men and women were different. They were all a bit confused. We explained to men what we are doing and what we are talking about with their wives. As the hosts, we were trying to make all changes (related to rules, duration, structure) to be gradual, with constant explanations and consultation with participants. Often the men would drop in to see what’s happening and it often happened that men were the ones who were helping women in the care of orphans while they were in our workshops. This behavior can be understood as the beginning of change in traditional family roles.
During the initial interviewing women at the very beginning of workshops release, we have come to data that no woman who was hosted with her family in the asylum center was not in the center of a town, in a store, a market or at a coffee shop. Now that image changed to a great extent, even the older girls took the role of the family shopping. Eventually, we have involved girls older than 16 in the workshops.
Moreover, children are the crucial micro group of asylum seekers that should be involved in contributing the social integration and inclusion into the community. They are growing up in different countries, different circumstances, surrounded by children from other countries and cultures, they are learning language from each other, overcome barriers and patterns of adults and they are more willing to engage in civil society.