Every Saturday, Trampoline House is the women’s house. Women’s Club is a meeting space for a good mix of asylum seekers, refugees, women living temporarily in Denmark, and women who’ve lived here all their lives. Together, they create a community that makes them all stronger.
"Women’s club is a community. We feel at home here,” says one of the women before handing the mic to
another next to her on the sofa, who continues: "Women’s Club makes us stronger because we can share our stories and hear about the experiences of others. It helps us to find ways to deal with our problems.” This week, Women’s Club is being visited by The Bridge Radio to train for a live program that’s going to be broadcast from Trampoline House 2 weeks later. The women hope the radio program will reach even more women in the asylum centers, so they too know that they’re welcome in the house and are not alone with their problems.
Listen to the finished radio program here.
Bridge Radio is the special activity for this week’s Women’s Club. On other Saturdays, Women’s Club hosts talks and debates, like the one with the football player Khalida Popalzai, who founded the Afghani national women’s team, and another with the Iranian/Kurdish freelance journalist Lawja Jawad Mohammad. Since January, there has also been a monthly session with Sherin Khankan from Exit Circle – a space for conversations where the women can process their experiences of psychological violence and social control.
As well as each week’s special activity, Women’s Club also offers help from women doctors and a lawyer specializing in immigration legislation. Every Women’s Club starts with a woman sharing their story, followed by an exercise session for everyone, before ending the day with a shared dinner. Women’s Club has also created the catering service Sisters’ Cuisine.
Staff member Tone Olaf Nielsen is the Women’s Club coordinator. She explains the idea behind Women’s Club, which started a year after the Trampoline House opened: "We were hearing lots of accounts from the women about feeling unsafe in the asylum centers, and that some of them were experiencing sexual harassment, even rape. They also didn’t always feel safe in Trampoline House.” As a result, house ran workshops for both men and women to discuss gender roles. "This led to a discussion of what kind of gender culture we wanted the house to have, and that we started to talk about each other more as family.”
It also became clear that the women needed a space of their own. After trying a variety of forms, the current Women’s Club – every Saturday afternoon from 2–6 pm (last Saturday of the month closed) – is really working. "It’s just exploded,” says Tone. "Whereas before maybe 6-8 women came, now there’s 20-30 women – every time!”
“The atmosphere in the house is different on Saturdays. The women really seem to enjoy that it’s their house. A lot of the women are being seen and heard for the first time. We get to know each other and create real sister solidarity together. This makes it possible for us to take care of each other if someone’s having a hard time.”
At the same time, Women’s Club is also an opportunity for women with kids to get out of the asylum centers and be with other adults, because there’s always childcare. "Because of the stressful environment they live in, the kids are always full on. But we’ve developed a childcare system so there’s a program for the kids every week, and they too are getting to know each other and make friends – a community just like their mums.”
Women's day every day
As Tone points out, another important outcome of Women’s Club is that the women have also started to use Trampoline House in other ways too: "Women’s Club means that the women are also more comfortable in the house on the other days of the week. They feel stronger and have established a community of solidarity that means they can support each other.”