Empowerment, Integration and Participation

Women’s Empowerment, Integration and Participation Project – WEIP (2017-2018)

Women’s migration to Europe is strongly linked to the feminisation of poverty and the search for better employment and educational opportunities. Gender discrimination and violence often also play a role in the decision to migrate. Whilst it may open new opportunities for women, migration can also reinforce restrictive gender stereotypes and increase women’s lack of decision-making power.

In addition to this, Europe is also currently facing a massive influx of refugees coming from war-torn countries and the partners of this project are already seeing an increase in the numbers of refugees. The experience of refugee women, in particular, is marked by additional layers of discrimination that need gendered responses to facilitate integration.

In our experience migrant and refugee women (MRW) face the language barrier, are not familiarised with the system and end up trapped in low skill/low paid jobs, often facing gender abuse and exploitation, including sexual exploitation. Gender roles affect MRW’s integration and the ways in which they are able to contribute to and benefit from their destination communities.

In response to this, LAWRS has set up and is currently leading the Women’s Empowerment Integration and Participation (WEIP), which aims to provide MRW in four EU countries (Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK) with enhanced opportunities for integration.

The objectives of the WEIP project are focused on providing new and recent migrant and refugee women (MRW) with a better start to life in the EU and improving their chances of integration in the host countries by increasing their skills, access to services and employment opportunities. The planned activities will address the priorities of this project by providing concrete initiatives such as language and skills training, employability activities, specialist advice and education advice and recreational pursuits for MRW in four European countries.

Through this holistic programme of complementary activities, WEIP will help foster the integration of MRW but also facilitate the access to work and improve job prospects for MRW that are often trapped in low skilled and low paid jobs.

In June 2018, WEIP organised a seminar in Rome, Italy which highlighted how collaborative efforts between organisations and statutory agencies in each European country should promote empowerment and political participation of migrant women.


In November, LAWRS organised and hosted the international WEIP conference with 54 attendees. There were discussion panels on young women and migration, on valuing lived experiences and recommendations of migrant women in their pathways of integration.

Eva Jimenez Lamas, a union member of the ACV  the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions in Belgium, spoke to how undocumented women in the care sector unionised for their rights. These undocumented migrant women workers had been deprived of their family and reproductive rights. Moreover, Ornella Ospino spoke about community activism as a mechanism of empowerment: “True power comes within the community, we might think we have lost it due to ‘hostile environment’ but we still fight for social justice. Community activism is about feeding our children, telling our colleagues how to unionise, caring for each other”

Launch of the short documentary: “Voices of resilience: Migrant and Refugee Women in Europe”
Recognising and strengthening the agency and power of Migrant and Refugee Women


On International Migrant Day 2018, LAWRS launches the short documentary titled: Voices of resilience: Migrant and Refugee women in Europe” which highlights the experiences of migrant women in the UK, Spain, Poland and Italy and sharing their experiences and calls for change.

The short documentary was shared as part of the  Women, Empowerment, Integration and Participation project (WEIP) which is hosted by LAWRS (UK), Differenza Donna (Italy), KARAT Coalition (Poland) and Red Acoge (Spain) hosted a conference in London to bring the voices and experiences of migrant and refugee women to the forefront. The documentary was first screened in November at the WEIP’s international conference in London, where more than 20 migrant and women organisations in Europe highlighted the role of migrant women’s lived experiences and provided recommendations to uphold their right to integrate and to live free of violence and discrimination.

As Sophia Gomez Pelaez, a migrant woman in Spain, interviewed in the short documentary states:

We come looking for other opportunities, especially as women as we are searching to cover family needs. However, it is difficult to find shelter as we often face rejection”


Moreover, Cathrine Nsamba, a migrant woman in Italy also interviewed (and photographed above) recommends:

“I was supported by the organisation to learn more and to understand more […]and my advice for women like me are to go inside leadership and campaign for these leaderships”


Finally, Alma Gatica, the WEIP Coordinator at the Latin American Women’s Rights Service stresses the importance of a migrant and gender perspective in our work.


“We, migrant women, have to get access to decision-making spaces where policies are discussed so we can fully participate in the host country: socially, politically and economically. We are the leaders of our own empowerment journey, both as migrants and as women”

Watch the full short documentary below:

“Voices of Resilience: migrant and refugee women in Europe”



The partners of this project are:
KARAT Coalition http://www.karat.org/
Differenza Donna http://www.differenzadonna.org/
Red Acoge http://www.redacoge.org/es/
Latin American Women’s Rights Service – LAWRS


“Co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund of the European Union”