Mar Camarasa i Casals is the Research and Innovation Officer at a women’s foundation in Spain. Mar was involved in a project called ‘FORWARD’ whose aim was to promote the participation of migrant women in adult education.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
I am a social researcher, responsible for the Research and Innovation department of Fundació SURT – a women’s foundation based in Barcelona. We carry out European projects in order to better understand the situation of women across Europe and develop innovative methodologies to better support their empowerment processes.
Tell us more about project ‘FORWARD’
Migrant women are one of the most disadvantaged groups in the EU in terms of labour participation and social inclusion. Despite their diversity as a group, gender and origin crisscross as disadvantage factors in their lives. We were aware that their talent and knowledge were systematically ignored so we wanted to make it visible through the development of an innovative methodology.
FORWARD builds on a potential strong mechanism to overcome these problems, promoting the participation of migrant women in adult education, and focuses particularly on two key tools: competence-based methodologies and competence validation frameworks.
What was the nature of the work you needed help with?
We wanted to achieve our goals through a partnership, as migrant women across the EU and other countries face similar challenges. Internally we had limited resources to carry out such a comprehensive project so we applied for co-funding through the Grundtvig programme.
The project was very challenging as it was very comprehensive and encompassed many activities within a tight schedule. We had some problems with the budget, because we had to develop the first year of the project without pre-financing. The development of the competence-based model, the definition of competences and pedagogical tools were very demanding and complex. When we pilot-tested the model, we were very satisfied with the work done but had to adapt the language and some tools to the profile of migrant women.
What course of action did you take after identifying the key issues?
During the first part of the project we carried out an essential research in six EU Member States (Austria, Finland, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Spain) on the specific situation of migrant women, their competence capital, employability, experiences of competence assessment and validation, and participation in the labour market and adult education. We built on these results to create the FORWARD methodology and tools to support migrant women in the process of self-recognition, validation and competence development. During our work we tried to be as creative, open and flexible as possible.
Both targeted migrant women and professionals were very satisfied with their participation in the project. For migrant women, the pilot programme was an opportunity to re-construct their experiences, giving value to them and putting a name to the abilities they had developed through life. The trainers were impressed by the comprehensive materials and their practical use.
/en/file/treballadoresoptjpgFORWARD Migrant women
Of course, there are also challenges when working with disadvantaged groups. One of the main ones is to overcome structural barriers that affect migrant women’s position and possibilities. You can support an empowerment process but this person belonging to a disadvantage group will face barriers that are structural and that cannot be easily overcome, such as the labour market.
What are some of the outcomes from the FORWARD project?
The main pedagogical outcomes of our project were two publications:
- FORWARD Handbook containing a theoretical introduction to the conceptual and methodological approaches of the FORWARD competence-based model, as well as guidelines for trainers to apply the FORWARD pedagogical tools.
- FORWARD Toolbox containing more than 50 practical tools to be implemented on a group and/or individual basis with migrant women with the aim of identifying, developing and systematising competences acquired in all learning contexts.
The FORWARD methodology and tools were pilot-tested with 149 migrant women from Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia. The women benefited from the pilot-testing by being able to use tools to identify their competences, and reassessing and giving learning value to migration experiences. Questionnaires filled in by participants and trainers, as well as observations, confirmed that working from a competence-based methodology allows women to re-construct their experiences giving them value and putting a name to the abilities they have developed through different experiences.
We organised capacity-building workshops for professionals in the 6 countries, with the participation of 148 professionals of diverse background. At the workshops proved professionals working with migrant women in different areas (occupational integration, gender equality, intercultural and community action programmes, etc.) expressed interest to put into practice the FORWARD material
We also organised national conferences in five partner countries and we held a final EU conference in Rome, with a total of 332 participants. Many of the attendees were professionals and decision-makers who ensured the political incidence and vertical mainstreaming of the project approach and the future application of its methodology.
What are you best memories from the project? What did you learn?
One of the best memories was at the end of the pilot test with migrant women. They presented their competence portfolios, which was the final product of a group and individual task. They were empowered to share their strengths and learnings in front of the other women and this was amazing!
It was a very challenging and demanding project, but I learned a lot from it. I became familiar with competence-based methodologies and their power to recognise any person’s abilities and skills, which is always empowering.
I met very interesting, powerful and strong women, and I learned a lot from them. Meeting professionals from other partner countries was also very inspiring. I coordinated a cross-national and multidisciplinary project team, which was very challenging but enriching at the same time. I learned and put in practice my intercultural competences. And last but not least, I learned from migrant women themselves.
You can learn more about the FORWARD project here.