Multiple discrimination, invisibility and the pledge of Latin American women in the UK

Carolina Gottardo

As recent research commissioned by the Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS) and Trust for London confirms, the numbers of Latin Americans (LA) in the UK is significant. We are of similar size to the Polish and the Chinese communities in London. However we continue to be invisible to the mainstream.

We are still classified as “others” in ethnic monitoring forms and this has meant that we have been ignored in terms of service delivery, policy and practice. This has been the reality despite our increasing numbers and the serious challenges faced by the community that can’t possibly be ignored.

According to No Longer Invisible , LAs  are mainly a young, skilled population that has been trapped in low paid and low skilled jobs, suffering high levels of labour exploitation and  lack of affordable housing and overcrowding. Services taken up by LAs are low; one in five are not registered with a GP and only one in five receive welfare benefits.

Multiple discrimination

The situation for women is worse. LA women in the UK suffer from multiple discrimination. Our clients at LAWRS are discriminated on the basis of being women, from a BAME group and migrants, refugees or asylum seekers, but also from an invisible ethnic minority.

Most women have left Latin America in the hope of finding a better life free from violence and poverty. Ironically these are the same issues that they face in the UK. The levels of violence against women in the community are high as a result of changing roles. Many women come with spouse or dependent visa and have to put up with the violence because they are threatened to be reported to the UK Border Agency and they don’t understand the system here. Most women also face the care burden - 60% of our clients at LAWRS are single mothers struggling to make ends meet.

The need for specialist services

At LAWRS we see more than 4,000 women per year that would find it hard to survive without our specialist services. Demand for our services has increased over 35% over the last year. Yet we struggle to secure enough funding to cover our demand and several Latin American organisations have been forced to closed down as a result of lack of funding

It is about time that our community is recognised for what it is and that mainstream services start to respond adequately to our needs. It is also time for us to speak up.

I appeal to funders and local authorities to respond better to the needs of groups subjected to multiple discrimination. What will happen if we are forced to reduce our services? It will disguise even further the problems Latin Americans women are facing in the UK. 

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