For the second year in a row, Iroko was invited to participate in the event Rosso Indelebile (Indelible red), a series of artistic events, which took place in Turin and focused on the theme of gender-based violence. For two years Rosso Indelebile has brought art to various shared spaces around the city not usually designated as artistic locations. Similarly, the theme of gender-based violence is part of our everyday lives and “cannot be enclosed in an auditorium, but must be exposed and talked about by everyone”, by society, as highlighted by Isabella Bulgheroni, a member of the organisation Artemixia, one of the organisers of the event, in collaboration with the NGO MAIS. The aim of taking art onto the streets is to encourage people to ask themselves questions, and potentially find the answers, stimulating both the individual and the collective to try and see the world from different perspectives.
Gender-based violence, specifically, is a pressing issue, with a “war being fought around the world”, as defined by Esohe Aghatise, the president of Iroko. On 29th September Iroko participated in the 2020 installment, attending an event dedicated to migration flows and trafficking – details of which are here (in Italian) – and bringing the testimony of a survivor of trafficking and prostitution, Liliam Altuntas, who has told her story through the book of which she is the protagonist, I girasoli di Liliam’ (currently only available in Italian).
After the success of our initial course of three sessions on access to healthcare with a group of migrant women, we decided to invite them back for a further two sessions to go a bit more in depth. We noticed that many of the participants seemed keen to talk about specific aspects of their health or that of their family and they had medical questions that we were unable to answer. So, together with MSF Italy we invited one of their nurses who works in Rome to facilitate these sessions with more of a specific focus on health, rather than just access to services. This also allowed our own staff and other practitioners who work with migrant women to better understand some of the services these women use and what their rights are.
This project was aimed at women and so the two topics we chose were maternal health and family planning. The first of these two supplementary sessions focused on maternal health, taking into consideration the whole journey of pregnancy, including the choice about whether or not to take the pregnancy to term, the tests that are offered, giving birth and the first months of motherhood. Not only did we look at how the local services support women and families through this process, but also how those services work and what is involved, what a woman can expect when she is starting a family.
As anyone who has lived in Italy will know, accessing services can be extremely complicated and tiring, and navigating the bureaucracy involved can be challenging. For migrant women this challenge is amplified by a linguistic and cultural barrier and, unfortunately, an even greater barrier of fear among those whose migration status is uncertain. Perhaps most important among these services is the healthcare system. Access to healthcare is a basic right and public healthcare is guaranteed for every person in Italy, but fear and misinformation frequently prevent women, and as a consequence their families, from exercising this right.
This is why, this October, we began a pilot project in collaboration with YWCA-UCDG Torino and Medici Senza Frontiere (MSF) Italy to inform and guide migrant women in access to healthcare. During three sessions, lead by Valentina Reale from MSF Torino, with a group of women from Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo we explored the different ways migrants, regardless of their status, can access healthcare, in particular reproductive and maternal healthcare services.