DAY THIRTEEN: Female genital mutilation, migration and displacement 

In this interview with Juliana Nkrumah, issues of female genital mutilation and how different meanings are affixed to it through migration and displacement are discussed.

An interview with Juliana Nkrumah 

Featured Iimage reproduced from Shutterstock 

What does this year’s blogathon theme mean to you?  

A lot of us think of gender-based violence (GBV) as violence against women – but GBV is wider than violence against women. I see it as societally instituted where social control and social isolation are powerful strategies used to entrench GBV. 

The wars that took place in West Africa in the late 90s and early 2000s in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone forced people to leave their countries and go to places like Guinea and Ghana, and then sometimes resettle in Western countries. These West African countries practisce female genital mutilation (FGM) as a traditional practice, a normal social practice that nobody questions. FGM is seen as a way of strengthening women’s status and position in society, not as GBV.  

It is important to recognise that GBV does not only occur when populations are in conflict, but also in communities where there is a sense of stability. However, where conflict or war displaces people, after social upheaval new understandings of GBV emerge.  

How does the movement of people shape access to communities of care after enduring gender-based violence? 

FGM is a form of gender-based violence. The interesting thing about this type of GBV is that it only affects people who identify as biological females, as the site of violence is the external genitalia of a person born female. When people live in a country, village or community where FGM is not seen as GBV, because the society has forced people to accept this is a way of life -, this is who we are, this is what defines us and sets us apart from other biologically born women -, then there is no question about seeking care because it happens to everybody – 99% in Somalia, 94% in Djibouti, 94% in Guinea. How are you going to seek help if it is not seen as an issue?  

If we focus on the movement of people into diaspora, to a country like Australia where FGM is not an acceptable practice, we see FGM as a human rights violation, and we accept and respond to the health impacts. We create the care and build an environment where women are comfortable to seek help. For example, in maternity care it becomes an issue of life and death, particularly for the most serious types of FGM, where health professionals have no knowledge and skill to deal with it. Gynaecologists and women’s health workers need to be able to respond and make the community feel comfortable approaching communities of care within our health care services.  

But we are currently lacking psychological care in our community. Women who were circumcised before they came to Australia in a sense have learned to deal with it. But the young people are savvy, their culture is not only their parent’s culture, but the global culture. And as a result of that, they are dealing with some deep psychological impacts. We need to grow a community of care for these young women as some of them are really angry and frustrated. Their anger is fuelled by the fact that they feel that beliefs like religion was used to entrench and enforce the practice. They are looking for skilled professionals who they can relate to and who they don’t have to educate about FGM before they can get support. There’s a movement against this type of GBV, driven by the community themselves. The young people are on a trajectory to stop the practice in their community, to say it’s not going to happen to our children, and we are taking control of our community now.  

How might migrant communities practice healing and seek accountability in the absence of legal personhood and formal citizenship? 

In relation to making a change around this form of GBV, I think you need several things to work side by side. The law as a tool of change is powerful in the hands of those who understand community and can use the law to reach community and change a situation. When the laws around female circumcision were introduced in Australia, they were harsh, and the community saw this as a racist response. But the interesting thing is that we took the law and went to the community and said to them, it’s not because they don’t like you or because they’re being racist, we have laws in Australia that protect a human being’s body, just like bicycle helmet and seatbelt laws. This made the penny drop for some communities, they said ‘whoa, the government cares about me and the protection of my body and my children’s body’. The law became a tool for education, leading to change.  

I see changes in understanding of GBV and female circumcision because people are living in a place where outside information can reach them. If there’s no information in community the practice is allowed to continue. There’s evidence to show that when people receive external information, they use that to make an informed decision. In Australia, the law has been a tool of education and what people reverted to for protection when they are under pressure from families overseas to ensure the perpetration of the practice.  

Author’s Bio 

Juliana Nkrumah AM has worked in both State and Commonwealth Government agencies for over 20 years. Her voluntary work in the community sector has gained her much acclaim including the award of Membership of the Order of Australia. She currently works as the Program Manager, Domestic and Family Violence at Settlement Services International (SSI).  

Juliana has been an active advocate on the women’s issues in Australia since 1989; she is especially passionate about Women’s Human Rights issues. Juliana played a leadership role on issues of FGM across Australia whilst working as the Coordinator of the NSW Education Program on FGM in Western Sydney Area Health Services from 1996 to 2005. She continues to be a spokesperson on FGM; and has provided access to training on FGM for a number of women as spokespersons on FGM. 

DAY THIRTEEN: Fursat ki Fizayen: a reclamation of space, rights and aspirations

Divya Chopra and Rwitee Mandal illuminates the importance of accessible spaces for women, especially in urban sites which are often planned with masculine vision and makes these spaces unsafe and non-inclusive for women.

Divya Chopra and Rwitee Mandal 

Featured image: ‘Top view of the terrace’ at Fursat ki Fizayen, credits to authors

Gender Biased Violence (GBV), especially Violence Against Women (VAW), is a living reality for migrant women living in resettlement colonies. Dislocation to under-resourced peripheries of cities is an iniquitous outcome of the urbanization process which deeply and disproportionately affects women who constitute almost 67% of the migrant population (Census of India 2011). While the underlying causes of GBV are rooted in patriarchal relations, the impacts of urban migration on gender compound those relations. Violence Against Women varies according to geographical location and scale as well as various other causal and contextual processes in cities. Migration particularly has deep ramifications on the lives of women by impacting their livelihoods, access to opportunities, resources, services and their ‘right to the city.’ Further, the physical configuration of urban areas planned with a masculine vision renders urban spaces unsafe, inaccessible, and non-inclusive. 

Within this larger discourse on GBV, VAW, and urban migration, ‘Fursat ki Fizayen’, a socially engaged art project supported by Khoj International Artists’ Association, engaged with the spatial realities of young, single, working women living at the margins – geographically, socially and economically – and artistically interpreted the multiple narratives around women’s leisure in the visible public domain, thereby encouraging women’s participation in public space.

The project explored the concept of leisure as a way of acknowledging women’s right to leisure time for personal growth as well as mental and physical well-being; as a way of addressing women’s right to leisure spaces in the city; and together with such an approach, contributed towards building gender inclusive cities. 

The project site, Madanpur Khadar, is a peri-urban, resettlement colony in Delhi, located along the southern banks of River Yamuna, where provisions of basic urban services and amenities are grossly inadequate. Open spaces within this tightly packed, built-to-edge, lower income neighbourhood are heavily gendered, unsafe, and hence inaccessible, discouraging young girls and women from enjoying these spaces. Instead, they avoid these spaces completely and remain invisible in their own neighbourhood.

Lacking access to physical leisure spaces, but having access to smartphones, they escape into a virtual space to live an alternative reality of public life. Through the construction and projection of self in an anonymous digital realm, they express their aspiration for leisure without being judged or afraid. Thus, providing access to a safe space where young women could enjoy leisure time without the fear of harassment or violence became the primary objective of the project.  

Leisure for women in cities, often determined by the intersection of gender with other identities, produce exclusion in complex ways. It is seen when women spend their leisure time, they construct their identities using space to express themselves and interact with others. Fursat ki Fizayen explored this dialectical relationship between leisure and space by engaging young, single, working women to reflect on how they think and construct their own images in the public domain. Participatory place-making and image-making being powerful tools for social empowerment were used to foster ownership and belongingness for their created environments. Stories of daily negotiations and contestations were curated to understand the lived experiences and spatial realities of these young women who access the site of power – the public domain – while exploring and reclaiming spaces for leisure in their own unique ways. Aspects of time, space and nature of leisure were discussed to co-design and co-produce leisure spaces with them. Their stories were used to understand and question the ways in which the world affects women at leisure. 

Among the many open spaces imagined and desired for at the neighbourhood, precinct, and city level, a space often forgotten, underutilized, and seldom used for leisure – terrace – emerged as the space of relief and escape from the confines of the four walls. Our facilitation partner Jagori provided the terrace at their community office at Madanpur Khadar for intervention.

The terrace at Jagori was also seen as a safe, familiar, and accessible space. Addressing multiple binaries, this space was reimagined as a personal yet collective, private yet public, internal yet external, an open-to-sky elevated space with lots of plants, seating, lights, decorations, music, mirrors, games (carrom, hopscotch, skipping), exercise equipment, a patch for a kitchen garden and various backdrops for selfies.

A central feature of the terrace, a colourful wall mural, was conceptualized along with the girls who co-created the mural along with two young artists. Together with the girls, the artists painted each of the girls’ avatars in joyful colours, enjoying both productive and non-productive means of leisure – reading, singing, working out, taking selfies, dressing up or just watching the world go by.  

Project team with group of girls. Image credits to authors.

The mural also strongly represents women’s right to experience leisure freely without the fear of harassment or violence. Since the young women have a strong digital presence, a Wi-Fi connection with boosters, charging points and speakers have been installed along with the creation of a beautiful backdrop for video calls/meetings, selfies/reels. A QR code printed on the wall connects the visitors to our Instagram page. The reclaimed terrace now has become a space for me-time, meet-ups and celebrations. 

Having an afterlife, way beyond the duration and scope of the intervention, was an inherent quality of the project and its associations. The women appropriated the space by growing their kitchen gardens, making their decorations, creating their selfie backdrops, holding their celebrations, and bringing along more women and girls to enjoy that space. The vibrant terrace continues to be used in creative ways to experience leisure by the community women. This terrace was built as a prototype that could be easily replicated allowing for additions and alterations. We hope it can trigger similar ideas to make use of underutilized terrace spaces to their full potential using local skill sets, locally produced products and locally available materials – which are low-cost, sustainable and support local businesses.

Together, these terraces could fulfil the need for accessible, and familiar spaces which women can access freely and use for personal and collective time, without fear of harassment and violence. 

Authors’ Bios

Divya and Rwitee are spatial design practitioners, researchers and educators based out of Delhi/Gurgaon. 

Divya’s practice primarily delves into themes of Inclusive Cities, Informality and Migration, Socio-spatial Justice and Urbanising Rural. Her current research pursuits revolve around formulating an integrated urban development framework that allows for a collaborative and structured way of envisioning, co-designing and co-producing our cities. She has been working across community partnered multidisciplinary engagements with a focus on placemaking through participatory art and co-design methods. She has been actively involved with the Urban Form Lab at the Urban Design programme at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi. 

Rwitee is a Senior Program Manager at Safetipin, a social enterprise which uses technology to collect spatial data in order to make cities safer and inclusive for women and others. She has been working across multidisciplinary domains with a focus on gender-responsive spaces and placemaking through participatory art and co-design methods. She mentors the Social Urbanism Lab at the postgraduate Urban Design programme of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi. 

DAY THIRTEEN: Whom to Blame? Negotiating Vulnerability and Living in Safety in Assam 

In the border state of Assam, India, public discourses often link gender-based violence with immigration but Ivy Dhar offers us a different picture that is more complex. Her research suggests there is no clear connection between immigration and an increased violence towards women and girls.

Ivy Dhar 

Featured image: Scene from a play Labhita. Courtesy of Dwijen Mahanta. Source: Wikimedia Commons. 

Assam, a state in North-East India, has witnessed multiple episodes of ethnic conflict over time. The phrase bahiror manuh (outsiders) has come to largely connote anybody who could not be identified as indigenous to Assam till the 1960s. Its usage further picked up momentum and had the effect of drawing attention to bideshi (foreigners) or undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh in the 1970s and 80s. Post-2000s, those believed to be immigrants have been publicly labelled, almost permanently, as “Assam’s sorrow”. In recent times, smaller indigenous communities have asserted a strong anti-immigrant sentiment.  

It is widely understood that political instability often engenders organised crime. Along with the continued political unrest in Assam, crime against women has increased at a faster pace, which stands to be the highest in India in 2021. Problematic media report in alarmist ways about how migration and demographic changes affect the social milieu. This is, however, not the full picture. 

Growing up in Assam, choosing to migrate in the 1990s to a metropolitan area in search of prospects of education and career, though my research interests kept my interaction intact, I cannot help but question whether the spaces today are in fact more unsafe than before. Dowry was almost unheard of when I lived in the state, whereas today domestic violence and dowry death list as a high concern for Assam among other states of North-east India. Cruelty by the husband and his relatives has a fair share in the numbers as well. Reports disclose that women at home feel unsafe

The narratives that I have gathered through an open-ended questionnaire and unstructured interviews with women and girls (aged 16-49 years) living in urban areas of Assam on why the struggle for women’s safety is so challenging suggests that there is no clear connection between immigration into Assam and the question of women’s safety. One respondent felt that women have become educated and more visible in public spaces, but society remains patriarchal and work-culture demands for mobility push women to further vulnerability.

Domestic violence, abuse, and domination of women in the neighbourhood are regularly observed, and safety is easily compromised. Young girls are targeted in public transport and streets. Women’s vulnerability is highly at stake in spaces that one frequents daily and not only in isolated zones. This is not a recent phenomenon. 

A woman in her 40s observed that teasing or physical molestation was not uncommon in public spaces when she was in her teens, and women of similar age have confirmed such responses. Posing the query alike to girls brought to light that, though teasing is rare, they have come across incidents of molestation in crowded places and perpetrators of sexual harassment were often known to the victims. Girls have disclosed that they feel unsafe going outside the home alone, especially during night hours. They are mostly accompanied by family members. They may also feel uncomfortable wearing clothes of their choice given the public glare. A respondent often advises her teen daughter to come home early, be alert, and remain in a group outside the home so that she stays safe. Interestingly, issues of safety are more openly discussed in the present times by parents and schools but to my understanding, the threat has remained where it was two decades ago.  

The guardians of law and order insist that Assam’s higher crime rate against women is due to higher reporting. In that case, is the state responsive and listening carefully? A respondent rightly pointed out that there seems to be no regulated effort by the state to understand women’s vulnerability.  

A discussion on women’s safety brings the stark existence of patriarchy and misogyny that is often entrenched in everyday practices in more ways than the statistics can reflect. Women respondents have confirmed that sexist slurs are frequently used by men to objectify women.

In social conversation, bonori (unchaste), kulta (woman who has sexual relation with many men) and, kulokhini(attaining dishonour for the kin) all of them denote ‘bad character’ women, who are deemed to tarnish the family image, whereas ghorelu and potibrotastree define women who are of ‘good character’ devoted to home, spouse, and his family. Similarly, mekhelartolorejua is usually addressed to men who have the image of being submissive to women. Such standards and stereotypes harden discrimination in many ways and may pressurise women to give up on many individual pursuits.  

I agree with one respondent that crimes against women are not a result of any one single reason. She noted that immigration has caused anxiety and is suspected to have contributed to the existing crime rate. But these debates about immigration are also ways to make the safety of women a political issue, whereas social and cultural contexts are completely ignored.

Assam’s image as a women-friendly region under threat from immigrants is a generalised notion that clouds a more complex reality.  

Acknowledgement: I am thankful to Papori Das and Jasodhara Borthakur for establishing contact with the respondents.  

Author’s Bio

Ivy Dharis an Assistant Professor at the School of Development Studies, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Delhi. She was a Fellow (Junior) at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). She has taken an avid interest in researching the development and political issues of North-east India from the beginning of her academic career. Her broad interest areas are democracy, conflict and gender, water and development, and material culture and have published on related topics in journals and books.  

DAY TWELVE: I Never Ask For It: Building Testimonials to Gender-Based Violence

Over nearly twenty years, Blank Noise has worked with citizens and communities across India and beyond to build testimonials of gender-based violence. Blank Noise rests on the power of feminist collaborations and building feminist solidarities, writes its Founder-Director Jasmeen Patheja in today’s blog.

Jasmeen Patheja

Featured Image: Clothes from the I Never Ask For It campaign. Image credit: Jasmeen Patheja.

An idea has no significance or meaning unless someone makes it their own.

Blank Noise is a growing community of Action Sheroes/ Theyroes/ Heroes: citizens and persons taking the agency to end gender-based violence. Blank Noise was initiated in 2003 in response to the silence surrounding street harassment in India and globally. While for the first decade, Blank Noise worked to bring attention to street harassment, its next phase was an inquiry into the nature of victim blaming. Blame permeates spaces of violence. If blame has been used to justify violence against all identities and spaces, how can we be Action Sheroes everywhere? Not just on the streets, but in our power at home, on campus, at our workplace, on the internet.

In 2003- 2004, since the start of Blank Noise,  I reached out to women around me, to speak with me about their experiences of street harassment. Responses ranged from “it doesn’t happen to me”, “how can you ask me this question – I am not that type of a woman”, to “it happened to me, I was wearing my school uniform and it still happened.”  

The dominant climate back then was ‘good girls’ don’t experience it, don’t name it, and if you do experience it, you ‘asked for it’. Fear and the threat of street harassment was a given and normalised. 

The more I listened, I paid attention to the fact that garments were being recalled and named in testimonials.  I recognised that there was a pattern here in the way we narrated. The noticing became an inquiry. 

Nearly 20 years later, no matter where I go ( urban, rural or internationally) , I still ask the question “Do you remember what you wore when you experienced gender based violence? Is there an unnamed, yet unforgotten memory of discomfort where you remember the clothes? What makes so many of us, across identities and geographies, remember?”

The first 8-10 years of I Never Ask For It was about making the garment a ‘truth’ visible to ourselves and the public we engaged with through the press and media. We were recognising that women in all clothes, women across identities, age, religion or faith experienced it. We learnt to say #INeverAskForIt. 

Participants build the I Never Ask For It project at public sites. Image credit: Jasmeen Patheja.

I Never Ask For It has grown from an idea and campaign to a mission. The 2004 version of I Never Ask For It issued the first call to action inviting survivors of violence to bring or ‘discard’ the clothes they were wearing when they experienced violence.  We moved from the idea of inviting and encouraging survivors to speak to the campaign’s current phase emphasising, “speak if it serves you.”  

I Never Ask For It is a place for memory – to keep our memories safe. It works towards building ten thousand garment testimonials and bringing them to unite at sites of public significance. We share this number because we are motivated by what it would take to build this – the healing it could offer, the feminist solidarities it could initiate.

I Never Ask For It has been built slowly, iteratively, through the years. It has been co-created with feminist alliances and through listening. We ask ‘who is yet to be heard,’ and that drives how we design its path ahead. The practice at Blank Noise is located within socially engaged art practice and movement building.

I Never Ask For It behind the scenes includes workshops, campaigns, research projects, public actions such as ‘Walk Towards Healing’, Listening Circles, public talks and more. It has moved away from its early ‘myth breaking’ and making this truth visible approach to now claiming, “We are done defending. I Never Ask For It”. The garment is merely a witness. It bears memory. It was present at that moment. We believe there is power in bringing the garments together, standing united in solidarity; power in speaking if it serves the speaker. 

We are building testimonials, but who has the capacity to listen? I Never Ask For It is about learning to be a listener. It is an injustice to ask survivors to speak if we do not have the capacity to listen.  I Never Ask For It rests on building our collective capacity to listen. The burden of memory is not mine, or ours alone.

Over the years, I Never Ask For It has been shared at multiple sites including Ars Electronica – Austria (2005), Kitab Mahal (2006), Abrons Art Center (2017) , Ford Foundation Gallery (2018), and is now also at Khoj International Artists Association through their ongoing show called Threading the Horizon.

Watch this powerful video of their work here.

Author’s Bio

Jasmeen Patheja is an artist in public service mobilising towards the right to be defenceless. Patheja has worked to end gender based violence and victim blame for nearly two decades. She founded Blank Noise in 2003, in response to the silence surrounding street harassment.  She mobilises citizens and individuals to take agency in ending sexual and gender-based violence. Patheja designs methodologies (tareeka) to confront fear, fear politics, warnings, and victim blame surrounding sexual assault. Patheja works towards building the capacity to listen to survivors of sexual assault and the capacity to care.

Jasmeen works with multiple forms of media. She is also a photographer. She is a TED and Ashoka Fellow.

DAY TWELVE: Care, fear and mothering in the British asylum accommodation system

“Writing about motherhood in the asylum system, I’ve come to realize, requires thinking about forms of life that survive, resist, and often also thrive in vulnerablizing and harmful spaces; and about the care practices that enable them to do so, even amidst fear” says Júlia Fernandez in this illuminating piece.

Júlia Fernandez

Featured image: Rayan’s accommodation, a small studio flat where she lives with her two children since they were moved to a very isolated area in the outskirts of the city. Rayan is one of Júlia’s participants in this project and the photo was taken by her.

I press Ctrl+F on my keyboard and search for the word ‘care’ throughout the document where I type all my fieldwork notes. The search function returns 120 results, of which more than 50, I quickly realize, belong to the word ‘scared’. Such an altering presence of two additional letters prompts relevant questions when writing about motherhood in the British asylum system. In what ways are ideas and experiences of ‘care’ and being ‘scared’ woven into the same everyday life stories of mothers living in asylum accommodation, and what does it mean to mother along the divides between care and fear?

Eleven months of (still ongoing) ethnographic research on the reproductive experiences of asylum-seeking women residing in temporary accommodation in London have invited me to wonder how ‘care’ and ‘fear’ mobilise different yet interconnected practices and discourses that shape lives -and life-making- in the asylum system. The authors of ‘Revolutionary Mothering’ beautifully capture the care work of mothers as ‘making a hostile world an affirming space for another person’ (2016: 116). 

Writing about motherhood in the asylum system, I’ve come to realize, requires thinking about forms of life that survive, resist, and often also thrive in vulnerablizing and harmful spaces; and about the care practices that enable them to do so, even amidst fear.

What is it like for mothers to care when caring takes place in sites defined by ‘habits opposite to love’ (Gumbs, A, 2016: 12)? How do mothers nurture the life of others in sites that facilitate their very own suffering? And how is gender central to the understanding of how forms of violence fold into the everyday practices of care?

I follow Victoria Canning’s criticism of the structural violence of the British asylum system (2018) and approach asylum accommodation as hostile spaces structured by gendered and racialized forms of control, where the perpetuation of violence, trauma and fear is woven into the ordinary lives of unwanted populations. Canning’s work evidences the further gendered harms inflicted by the structures that contain and control migrants on women who have survived persecution. I try to extend her line of analysis to explore the impacts on mothers who care for their children and others in the precarious and uncertain circumstances of temporary asylum accommodation.

Mothers are moved through or stuck in the asylum accommodation system on a no-choice basis, subjected to forms of surveillance and control, and to the enforcement of material and legal precarity. Thereby, they experience minimized autonomy and safety, and higher levels of dependency and vulnerability that extend gendered and intersectional forms of violence into their everyday lives.

As houses witness processes of feeding, nurturance, love, and the continuous remaking of social relations, they also carry wider political significance. Thus, I argue, as extensions of patriarchal control, asylum accommodation structures and the gendered systems of violence that underpin them act as particular terrains for the emergence of specific forms of relatedness and practices of everyday care and support with which mothers, often as lone parents or as primary caregivers, respond to the violence and brutal care deficit of the system and the fears that this engenders.

María breastfeeding her newborn baby right before they were moved to another room. Her partner was carrying downstairs everything they had. Image credits: Júlia Fernandez

For the mothers I have met through my fieldwork, fear lives in the subtle, lingering agony of protracted waiting times and in the sudden accelerations of forced mobilities. The persistent threat of destitution silences dissent and complaint among mothers, whose phone calls to the charity Migrant Help are imbued with the fear of being dismissed or of being punished for the insolence of being ungrateful. Fear soaks through that meal illicitly cooked in a hotel room with improper appliances and pervades the air like the smoke that activates the alarms. Fear inhabits unopened envelopes containing unintelligible Home Office correspondence, empty Aspen cards at the end of the week, the return of a husband from an unlawful work day that raises public suspicions about illegal employment. Mothers fear raising a baby on their own in a hotel room and being sexually harassed on their way to the communal toilet. They fear unfavourable forced mobilities and disrupted childhoods that unfold through the course of fragmented memories of temporary housing.

For almost a year, I have observed the day-to-day strategies mothers utilise as they figure out how to mother despite being scared of the various deliberate forms of harm that permeate the British asylum system.

Mothers answer the gendered impacts of structural violence that further marginalise, impoverish, and exclude them with mundane, sketchy, creative, improvised acts of making life possible – often imbued with a sense of not-enoughness. Women respond to poor housing conditions by bathing small children and warming up milk bottles in the sink; composing ingenious sleeping arrangements in a limited living space; cooking chicken soup inside a kettle and warming up pizza slices in a secretly sneaked-in-toaster. They respond to the marginalising and individualising mechanisms of the accommodation system by waiting for the staff shift to bring friends and relatives to stay overnight and by participating in forms of relatedness across sites of temporary accommodation that support them and allow them to care for others. Their acts of care include boundless hugs and kisses to their children and other mother’s children; donating second hand clothes, buggies, and cots to their neighbours; doing hospital visits and helping with childcare; building a den with blankets and pillows and baking a birthday cake for their friend’s child.

The circumstances in which these acts of care take place bestow their mundanity with an extraordinary character that pushes back against gendered systems of violence and nurture the life of others beyond the limits of their fears.

Canning, V. (2017): Gendered Harm and Structural Violence in the British Asylum System.  Routledge Studies in Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship. London: Routledge.

Gumbs, A., Martens, C. and Williams, M. (2016): Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines. PM Press.

Author’s Bio

Júlia Fernandez is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, currently conducting ethnographic research on reproductive experiences among asylum seeking women in London. Her research aims to capture the complex everyday experiences of mothers within the British immigration and asylum system, seeking to understand how the conditions of transiency, insecurity and temporality result not only in particular modalities of mobility but also articulate specific reproductive experiences and subjectivities “on the move’’. Júlia also volunteers as a doula supporting asylum seeking women during pregnancy and childbirth and has social care background working with migrant women experiencing gender-based violence.