The Irida Women’s Center is Northern Greece’s only women’s community center. They create an open, multicultural, and resilient community by providing a safe space with community-building activities. Their community currently has over 500 active members from 37 different countries.
“Irida” is a new Hellenic Greek word that means “the palette of all colors that reflect light.” They chose this name because it reflects the diversity of women in their community. The women interact with one another in a safe community of collaboration and co-ownership with a strong sense of belonging. Diversity is promoted at Irida Women’s Center in an atmosphere of mutual trust and shared perspective.
Members of Irida’s community gain full and open access to accurate information and resources, gain a thorough understanding of their legal and social rights, and learn tools to process their experiences in a trauma-informed setting. They gain access to a space in which they can speak up, express their needs and desires, feel heard, and gain the confidence to make their own decisions.
By providing a multilayered foundation from which each woman can develop and establish her support network, Irida’s services provide our members with resources to navigate a system that systemically attempts to disempower women.
In the middle of 2018, Irida’s team introduced and developed the concept of community representatives.
Community representatives are Irida women with lived experience who are active members of their communities and who feel empowered and confident to participate in the project and become focal points for their communities.
They ensure that communication channels between their communities and Irida’s team remain open, provide direct feedback to the team, and provide translation assistance when needed.
Irida’s team was not unfamiliar with the concept of community representatives. Their organization began implementing the practice in 2016 while operating in Idomeni, and after its evacuation, they settled in the two main camps: Softex and Koutsochero.
In their programming, the community representatives are carefully chosen from a group of committed women. The most important factor in their decision is whether or not they have earned the trust of their community and how involved they are in it.
Their presence in Irida is critical because it allows women to be heard and to take ownership of the space. Depending on the size of the enrolled community, the representative can help hundreds to thousands of people.
The timeline varies depending on where the practice is taking place (camps or community centers), with camps having faster processes (as the humanitarian work in the camps is considered emergency response).
1st Stage: The Protection and Activities teams are identifying committed Points of Contact (POCs) who are volunteering their time in the service of their community to support activities or sessions that are taking place: small translations on non-sensitive sessions, explanation of activities, rules, distribution support, and so on.
2nd Stage: Once it is determined that the candidate meets the requirements for becoming a representative (patience, cultural sensitivity, good manners, trustworthiness, and so on), they are encouraged to gradually take over the facilitation of an activity on their own. The activity’s initial implementation is scheduled to take 4-6 months.
3rd Stage: While the above-mentioned activity has been taken over from the candidate and has been running smoothly for approximately 2 months, with positive community feedback for the candidate, a general assessment takes place:
What is the candidate’s legal status (are they allowed to work?) /What is the candidate’s immediate plan (stay in the country or relocate?) Is there clear communication between the candidate and the rest of the team? (Language ability) / Is the candidate well-liked in the community?
If the assessment yields negative results: Because they are not permitted to work, intend to relocate, or have limited language skills: Candidate continues to volunteer for as long as they want, receives assistance as needed, and receives a recommendation letter at the end of the volunteer period.- Negative community feedback: Depending on the feedback (which is collected weekly), the activity will either end after a 4-6-month implementation period or immediately. Volunteers will be given proof of their participation.
4th Stage: After the three-month small job opportunity has ended, an evaluation process is underway to determine whether the job opportunity will be renewed, renewed with a larger contract, or terminated.
The Irida Center works with communities that have a long way to go before they can enter the labor force. Τhey are currently working to improve their language skills and provide them with accurate information about labor law and workers’ rights and obligations in the host country.
The cultural representatives in their center in that context are:
METAdrasi was founded in December 2009 with the goal of facilitating refugee and migrant reception and integration in Greece.
METAdrasi is committed to upholding and protecting the fundamental human rights of all those who have been displaced or persecuted, believing that migration leads to development.
The acronym METAdrasi is a combination of the Greek words “meta” and “drasi,” which means “then + action” and encapsulates our mission and philosophy.“
METAdrasi is active in the following key areas, guided by the principles of consistency, efficiency, transparency, and the ability to adapt to changing needs:
METAdrasi directly benefits migrant women through education and integration programs such as vocational counseling and job placement.
There is also an indirect benefit in terms of asylum services provided by interpreters.
Approximately, 35-40% of METAdrasi’s beneficiaries are women, with the vast majority coming from third countries.
Women from third countries are more reserved than men in the Labour Counseling Programme when it comes to programs that include courses (65-35% vs. 50%) due to cultural differences (religions, women’s position in the family and society). It is critical to be aware of the work opportunities available to the target group under consideration.
There are empowerment days for these women, as the psychology of actively seeking work or other opportunities, such as training (with referral to technical seminars related to a specific job she could have in her home country), is considered.
An example related to educational programs is the existence of a space where parents can leave their children for a few hours while they attend classes. Children can be creatively engaged in specific areas under the supervision of kindergarten teachers for as long as the lessons last.
Workplace counseling takes a different approach. Fewer meetings are required; it is solely about finding work and is dependent on the skills of those involved and their ease of access to the labor market. On the other hand, there is a more consistent flow of training programs, which one can attend for months or years, progressing from level to level in order to master Greek and English. In other words, the support is more extensive.
The integration program includes job counseling and labor market interface, as well as seminars (computer skills, CVs development, how to move in a job interview). At the same time, METAdrasi’s team works collaboratively on other parameters related to legal documents and job search (securing AMA).
There is a HUB in particular where someone can come and then, through an appointment, see exactly what documents are required to guide them. On the other hand, there is the option of learning English, Greek, soft skills, and even German for adults and minors on the islands, as well as in Athens and Thessaloniki.
When it comes to program implementation, dissemination and promotion are crucial. Of course, each case is unique. Standardized language learning should be avoided, and more emphasis should be placed on communication in everyday contexts. Essentially, the Greek courses should be tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries.
METAdrasi’s team collaborates with a wide range of public and private sector stakeholders. They also work with all international actors, including IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF. Different methods are used to reach the beneficiaries: ACMMR, social media, and dissemination of information within community.
The message itself is important in the communities that exist. Potential success is transformed into a model to be followed and emulated.
The smaller a program, the easier it is to make changes to overcome problems, such as:
The following are solutions to existing problems:
METAdrasi’s organizational benefits include:
Photo has been retrieved from: https://metadrasi.org/en/metadrasi/
The goal is linked: getting a job allows a person to stand out in society and meet all of their other needs. Combined with education, learning the language and some soft skills that are taught will allow one to be served everywhere in a few years (while simultaneously using English). The result of integration is brought about solely by the goal.
The integration program is primarily concerned with finding work, and it is obvious how integration is accomplished. In cases where someone is not interested in finding work (either because they already have one or because they do not want one), education can be used to meet their basic needs.
Education, particularly language learning, is an important part of the process of integrating into the labor market and society in general. Tens of thousands of people have benefited from our programs, with women accounting for 35-40% of the total.
In terms of implementing similar initiatives at the local level, we believe that one should: