This project was set up to enhance intercultural understanding around sexual behaviour and gender relations among migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking populations. Run in collaboration with New Routes (an NGO set up to support and empower asylum seekers in Norwich, UK), the project is linked with the UEA UNESCO Chair in Adult Literacy and Learning for Social Transformation. An important dimension of the project is to bring research and training approaches developed in the Global South as a resource for organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers in the UK and other countries in the Global North.
A few years ago, New Routes became aware that asylum seekers wanted to learn about different assumptions and legal frameworks around sexual abuse and gender relations in the UK. Since then, they have been running separate workshops with Terrence Higgins Trust, a British HIV and sexual health charity, to explore these issues and they approached the UEA UNESCO Chair team to help strengthen intercultural learning by participants, researchers, NGO practitioners and trainers.
The research began in July 2018 with separate workshops for men and women at New Routes Centre. Observations, focus group discussions with participatory techniques and interviews have been part of the mix of methods and activities so far. The research offered insights into the cultural similarities as well as differences, ways of mediating language and meaning and facilitation as an intercultural encounter. Reflection on these findings has led the team to address issues around facilitators’ roles and relationships with participants, structure of the workshop sessions (particularly with regard to gender differences), language resources and additional support needs. A training resource pack was launched at a national conference organised by project in July 2019 and is available here.
The workshops will be adapted for the coming year, to respond to the participants’ ideas and views. The project was funded through the UEA/ESRC Impact Accelerator Fund (from 2018-2019) and the team presented on the project at a University of Sanctuary public seminar in October 2019.
Reflections from project participants:
“New Routes has benefitted enormously from the partnership with UEA. The participatory action research findings have evidenced the effectiveness of the workshops in widening participants’ attitudes to culturally sensitive, very personal topics. We are very much looking forward to sharing these findings and workshops guidance tools at the national conference in July” (co-researcher from NGO)
“When you told us that we are deciding the topics, I felt happy that someone is hearing and caring for us” (focus group participant)
“Thank you very much for listening us and I know I learnt a lot. Now I can teach my daughters and I hope they won’t experience the same things I had” (workshop participant)