Refugees of the North East #3: Yvette
Yvette was born in Congo in central Africa where she worked as a business woman. She was also very active in promoting women’s rights in her community. She set up a project which aimed to support disadvantaged women to develop their confidence and leadership skills and become financially independent.
She explained that in Congo, equality between men and women is balanced in favour of men. Women are expected to look after the household and family and are often discouraged from seeking employment. For Yvette these views were outdated and she felt that women should have full access to the same opportunities.
Empowering women to achieve independence and personal goals was a cause that Yvette was committed to addressing: ‘We showed women in our community how to make perfume, soap and beauty products, so that they could use these practical skills in their own homes and sell products to make a little bit of money for their families.’
She recalls a local well-known musician who would often help her group, by providing training and resources. He was targeted by government forces and killed – something which deeply shocked Yvette and her community.
Yvette described the unstable political situation in Congo; she mentioned that many politicians would tour villages with the intention to sway votes in their favour, by offering people clothes or food. Many of Yvette’s friends and family had been subject to harsh treatment or killed at the hands of ruthless Congolese politicians. She says, ‘I lost my husband, my house. Everything I had just disappeared.’ Yvette came to the UK with her two children, who also use The Comfrey Project, and her brother.
Yvette is still waiting for a decision on her asylum claim after over ten years and is unable to work. Instead, she has been focusing on improving her English and work-based skills, hoping that she will be able to pursue a successful career as soon as she is given the right to work.
Her entrepreneurial spirit and passion to support those less fortunate than her endures. She has recently helped set up a voluntary charitable group called ‘Le Cri de Silence’ – or ‘The Cry of Silence’ – which supports migrant women to settle into their new life here in the UK. The charity also gathers donations of clothes and other essentials to ship to African communities facing poverty.