Working with migrant women without legal status: results
In Brussels, many migrant women without legal status have no or limited access to health care and other basic services. Their access to descent care is mainly hampered by a lack of information, limited financial resources and poor experiences in the past.
In 2019, three organizations (Médecins du Monde, Culture 4 Change (C4C) and Theatre & Reconciliation) joint efforts to help migrant women without legal status to reduce levels of stress, hopelessness and lack of energy and to come out of their isolation. One of the major challenges of the project was to mobilize migrant women to participate in this specific project; a theatre production that aims to reinforce the social cohesion of people with a different culture, background and age.
Action research conducted by C4C during the implementation process was conducted in order to know which elements contributed to increased feelings of trust and reinforced autonomy among the target group and more willingness to support migrants among a larger population. We could clearly see how the mood of the participants in this project that lasted till June 2019 and that resulted in a final theatre show, entitled Liaisons Joyeuses, was influenced by playing together which allowed the reestablishment of social relations and a revitalization through the expression of feelings and the creation of a (dramatic) tension on the set using different modalities and resources. Expressing emotions in a secure context, being able to relate to the here and now, moving the body, using voice, music, form and rhythm, were all elements that permitted our target group to regain confidence, self-esteem and autonomy and to restore relations, all elements that have a positive influence on the mental health of people and that can be obtained by relative simple techniques without the interference of medical or therapeutic specialists. We were also surprised by the large number of people that came to see our target group and expressed their willingness to be actively involved in efforts to support our target group in daily life.
Our major conclusion is that mental health can indeed be improved by social action, based upon a better understanding of what a given situation really means for a target group and their immediate social environment. We believe this finding may help in formulating answers to problems that are often unnecessarily medicalized.