An early morning visit to the refuge this morning to drop off some clothes, and as I listened to the women’s early morning talk – greeting each other with “Morning, Sissy!” as they got up and came into the kitchen to see me – I started thinking about one of the things I know most about this place, and the women who inhabit it, briefly or for a long time. There are tensions occasionally, different personalities rubbing up against each other in such a small house with so many kids in the mix, but by and large, there is real comradeship.
Quite often, there is a combination of women in the house, mostly who have been there a while, and they form really special relationships. At the moment, there is just such a dynamic. Four women, most of them closed off when they arrived, who have bonded into a family. A safe family, a loving family. They look out for each other, and they have each other’s backs.
There’s a few ways this manifests but let me tell you about a couple of them.
One of the women recently fell into a funk. She wouldn’t come out of her room when I arrived, the others expressed concern about her. This is a woman I know reasonably well for a number of reasons. She and I are very fond of each other, and I have had a part to play in her life outside the refuge. So I was more worried than usual, and asked the other women to keep an eye out and text me if they were too worried, and to tell Kris of their concerns. When I saw her a couple of days ago, she was back out of her room, on the laptop, looking for jobs and taking a keen interest in life, again. When I asked her what has happening for her, she said she’d been down but now she was okay. “Big up to The Sisters”, she said “propping me up, supporting me. They have my back.” She’s always been really motivated, but always a loner somewhat. So this is huge for her. To have the love and support of the women in the house, their trust, means a great deal to her, I know.
Another way this sisterhood manifests is one word: motivation. A wee while ago, one of the women started on a health buzz, as she calls it. 100 days of squats and ab exercises. I gave her a bit of help with squat technique, lapsed gym goer that I am, and that was that. The next thing I know, they’re all going to the gym, doing exercise, going for runs. And then, looking for jobs. Because after their programmes, they told me they sit around and so they had a discussion and decided it was no good doing that. They needed to keep active, and to get busy. Be productive. So three of them are looking for job proactively. They’ve discovered networking – asking everyone they know to ask their contacts if there’s any work going, that sort of thing. Difficult to do from a refuge, but they’re doing it. These particular women are safe going out and about, so they go to the mall and ask in all the shops, they look on seek.co.nz, and they schmooze. Amazing. And all because they’re sisters, and they’re in this together.
You know, there is often discussion about feminism and how it looks to women such as the ones I know through my work, and at refuge. Women who often have no money, no resources and are too busy for all that stuff.
But the fact is, they are feminists. They do sisterhood every day. They lift each other up, support each other in all their endeavours, keep an eye out for each other, and they are growing in their own power. Take away all the theory – not that theory is bad, it’s just that who has time to read it, even if I have made them aware of it – and this is what it looks like, at base, to me. Women supporting other women. And that’s magic.