The final document of the reflection for MC

Table of Contents

Maureen Chiwandamira 1808147Reflection on the Zimbabwe female migrant community living and working in the United Kingdom.As an educated, middle class woman who left the country in the background of a worsening economic and political situation, I had high hopes of advancing myself and my family when I came to Britain. However, I was disappointed, shocked and stressed with the unfairness I and other Zimbabweans experienced in our efforts to support ourselves and our extended families. This experience was not limited to Zimbabwean migrants only but was echoed by other female migrants from other countries that I engaged with. I have chosen to reflect on my experiences and feelings of being part of a Zimbabwean female migrant community living in Hampshire because they shaped what I am today and helped me put meaning to what was going on around me. MacQueen et al (2001) define community as a group of people with diverse characteristics who are linked by social ties, share common perspectives and engage in joint action in geographical locations or settings. I chose to use Kolb (1984)’s reflective style as it gave structure to my thinking process and helped me critically analyse my experiences and responses. I became aware of the inequalities that faced different ethnicities and social classes in accessing health and social care services, participation in health promotion and entry into universities and colleges. These issues affected everyone in the community and therefore worked together to overcome these common problems. Payne (1995) points out that community work focuses on helping people with shared interests to come and work out together to meet those needs by developing projects. This would enable them to gain support to meet or work with others to ensure that those responsible for meeting those need do. This is an aspect of social capital which is defined as the nature and extent of one’s social relationships and affiliations of norms of reciprocity (Forbes and Wainright 2001, Eckersley, Dixon and Douglas 2001).Black African migrants are currently on the increase as more people are displaced by war, civil unrest and poverty. Estimates suggest that the number of black Africans in England and Wales total 1.4% of the population (Office for National Statistics Census 2010). Understandably this ethnic diversity is becoming a challenge for health and social care providers. Research studies in the United Kingdom has shown that one in six of newly arrived migrant has a severe life limiting physical problem and two thirds of the population have experienced mental health problems (Cary et al (1995) Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (1998).These symptoms are often linked to their past experiences and what their current problems mean to them (Burnett 2001). Social isolation, poverty, hostility and racism from the indigenous community have been shown to have a negative impact on the mental well-being of the migrants (Patel and Fatimilehin 1999). It has also been shown that some migrants arrive in good health. However, their conditions deteriorate because of the situation they find themselves in, compounded by barriers to access health and social care services (British Medical Association 2002). These obstacles were familiar to the community and for the success. There are more identified components of Putnam (1993)’s concept of social capital namely moral obligation and norms, social values and social networks.Research has linked social capital to improved mental health (Kawachi and Beckman (2001), reduced mortality (Kawachi et al 1997) and higher perceptions of well-being (Sevigny, Belanger and Sullivan 1999). It should be noted however that there remains the question whether social capital is a direct or secondary cause of the changes or a mere response to the wider political and economic factors. Wilkinson (1996) argued that social capital concerns were part of the psychosocial effects of broadening levels of socioeconomic inequality.Regardless of this much of the published research on newly arrived migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa has potentially focused on medical conditions of public health importance such as Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Ebola, and Cholera (Burnett and Fassil 2002. Bischoff, Schneider et al 2002). This unfortunately suggests that these communities are carriers of infection thereby resulting in incidents of hostility, stigma and isolation. This degree of marginalisation draws the victims together and was true for our community. Research evidence has however shown that the population of migrants with communicable diseases is significantly low (Burnett 2001). The focus appears to be on protecting the host community with little being done to improve the health and well-being of the new residents. The actions to respond to this deprivation as a community can be interpreted from a black perspective According to Dominelli (1990) the struggle for racial equality central to our work and embraces Cohen (1982, 1985) s notion that people define community figuratively making it a means and archive of meaning and a denotation of their identity.The shared experience of racism, stigma and suffering from the injustices of inequalities in service provision appeared to be the cohesive factor in the Zimbabwe migrant community. Community in this instance is seen as a value (Frazer 2000) encompassing factors of solidarity, commitment, mutuality and trust. Shared value was the foundation of our community as suggested by Cohen (1982, 1985) when he stipulated that truth of community is in its members’ awareness of the strength of its culture.Banks (1996) maintains that it can be debatable whether work done by a community can be defined as a professional activity. The Zimbabwean migrant community has been known to be synonymous with self help and informal caring. A few people have opened their own care agencies employing other Zimbabweans. This inevidently compensates for reductions or unavailability of public service provisions. Our community had to initiate support strategies to minimise the impact of poverty and oppressive practice. This encouraged community participation and empowerment. Twelvetrees (1991) proposes that the radical perspective supports ethnic minority communities in focusing attention to inequalities in service provision. Payne (1995) suggests that this draws attention to power which is the root of serious deprivation. According to Gil (1973) social policy’s main focal concern is the scrutiny of access to life enhancing and life-sustaining provisions but this did not seem to apply to our community. Titmuss’s (1976) approach is more about the allocation of a limited range of resources to provide for a range of social needs such as healthcare, housing, education and income maintenance. With a range of legal limitations imposed by legislation governing migrants and refugees, most members of our community could not access these resources. There appeared to be a disparity on how our needs are defined as there was no formal assessment to identify our community’s needs. We could not effectively apply Putnam (1993)’s concept of social capital to our community as there was a striking absence on the component of social values, social networks and moral obligations from the state and other organisations. We stood alone in isolation and depended on ourselves to make our lives better in the United Kingdom. This is evident in most Black and Asian communities were the incidence of disability, be it through age or medical condition, affects those who are likely to need care. The elements that translate impairment into a disability also tend to change family members into informal carers (Parker 1992). Care giving among white families has been gradually evident over the last decade as compared to informal care in black and Asian communities which has remained largely masked (Atkin and Rollings 1993a). Parker (1990) suggests that one of the most recurrent misunderstanding about modern society is that the family neglects disabled and older people. However, this is not a controversy applied to black and Asian communities. Their commitment to care for older and disabled family members is taken to be greater than that of white people with a detrimental effect that service providers do not concern themselves with the care and support of individuals from this group (Walker and Ahmad 1994).The general invisibility of carers from black and Asian communities is often heightened by service professionals racist stereotypes (Walker and Ahmad 1994). Hicks (1988) maintain that these carers are one of the most neglected and invisible groups in the country.As migrant Zimbabweans living and working in the Diaspora, there is common identification, needs, fears and problems with the Asian community in respect of service provision. We both have embraced the strengths perspective as the method and focus on the gifts, skills and assets of our community for all the development. Kretzmann and McKnight (1993 p 13) asserts that strong communities are essentially places where the capacity of the residents are identified, valued and used. Our communities have been hit hard with changes to the state social security policy resulting in overwhelming poverty and deprivation. Although it can be argued that social security has had some real achievements. The social services can only work towards raising the consequences of deprivation and inequality which flow from the wider economic factors that shape the distribution of resources within society. This experience enabled me to understand the complexities of marginalisation, discrimination and oppressive practice. It made me aware of my own resilience and heightened the need to be able to speak out for myself and question oppressive practice. I now value people’s experiences and try to understand them from their own perspectives.REFERENCESAtkin, K. and Rollings, J. 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