Excerpt: In Greece, Melissa Network Takes Leadership From Refugee Women

When it comes to finding new ways to organize society, some Greeks are finding inspiration in surprising places. Like in the community of migrant women organized by Melissa I visited in Athens. Check out the whole show. - Laura 


Nadina C.: We're at the day center of Melissa network. In the heart of Athens, Victoria Square. Melissa is a network for migrant and refugee women who live in Greece. Melissa means honey bee in Greek. And the idea of a day center was to create a kind of beehive. This also explains our vision of society. It stands for what our vision is. Which is, a society is an open beehive of communication, creativity and exchange.
Marzia Jamili: My name is Marzia Jamili. I'm from Afghanistan. I am 16 years old. I was born as a refugee. I came to Greece last year. I was very happy to come here and I feel myself very safe because when we were in the camp, the camp was not very safe. And I feel very happy in this place. Melissa now is like my house and they're like my family.
Nadina C.: In Melissa we have the involvement of women from over 45 countries. As well as many of the most active organizations. Women's groups, associations and organizations. So it's the long-term migrants who are actually involved in the implementation of our current program. Because long term migrant women are the ones who know better than anybody else, or who are better positioned to know what works in terms of integration and what doesn't work.We've created all together a sort of holistic approach to what we see perceive of as integration and it's based on literacy support, psychosocial support, art and creativity, information sessions. So we do a lot of information sessions on social rights, legal rights, labor rights, all the different sets of things that they ought to know.

 


Referrals. So we have a referral pathway in case people need case management. Capacity building, so skills. Either through experts that we employ or through community people that we employ who may be doing cooperative training or team building or other skills like first aide and other things.


And self-care. And self-care is very important, especially for women, especially after such a long and arduous journey. Because it somehow shifts the focus back on themselves and give them a bit of space to look after their own well-being.


Marzia Jamili: They make me very strong. They give me hope about the future. When I came here I found everything here. They tell me that everyone can be their self and after that I feel, yes, I'm ... As a person that I can do everything. Now, I feel that at first I was like a bird, but now I feel that I can be a prime minister in the future.


Nadina C.: For us aide is something that someone gives to someone else. So it entails a passive recipient and we don't perceive refugees or migrants as passive recipients of aide. They are active agents of social change. Our belief was that the moment you create a solid space, a solid ground under their feet, they will be able to do wonders.


The thing we witness on a daily basis, from the simplest to the most abstract and complex is the solutions. The simple solutions that people have to find, the strategies they build. I believe that that's where we're going to find the hope for the future.
We were doing one activity, which was on International Women's Day, and people were writing different wishes that they had for the future. And a friend of Marzia wrote on her piece of paper that I want to be a commander or a surgeon. So we thought, that if we can accommodate this range of possibility then we're ... there's something happening here.


Laura Flanders: So that's it from me this week. From Athens, Greece, you've been watching the Laura Flanders Show. You can find at our website links to all the organizations we've talked with and more information about what's happening here and how you can plug in.

 

Watch the whole episode at: youtu.be/RNWeUyllIIc or get our full transcript by becoming a member!


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