Social Capital and Integration: The Importance of Social Relationships and Social Space to Refugee Women

By Lisa Jane Goodson and Jenny Phillimore.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The issue of social capital frequently emerges in both academic and policy debates on refugee integration. Yet refugee voices and the reality of their experiences are often absent from such debates. The Home Office’s (2005) report, Integration Matters: A National Strategy for Refugee Integration, describes integration as “the process that takes place when refugees are empowered to achieve their full potential as members of British society, to contribute to the community and to become fully able to exercise the rights and responsibilities that they share with other residents.” Recent research has demonstrated that refugee women often feel isolated and lack support networks, a situation that can impact on their mental well-being and ability to integrate into society. This paper takes a gender perspective on integration. It draws upon 66 interviews with refugee women to explore their role and importance within their daily lives and the implications this has for citizenship and integration. It examines the type of networks and social capital women refugees have access to and how this might impact on their identity and well-being. Whilst the acquisition of social capital cannot always be regarded as intrinsically valuable a number of questions are raised including whether women’s access to social capital permits the acquisition of other forms of capital and what role does this play in refugee women’s experiences of integration? What obstacles do women experience in entering social networks or acquiring social/cultural capital? The paper concludes with a discussion of potential policy solutions.

Keywords: Social Capital, Integration, Citizenship, Refugee Women, Mental Health

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.181-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 578.403KB).

Dr. Lisa Jane Goodson

Lecturer, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, School of Public Policy, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

Lisa Goodson is a Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies. Lisa's main research interests focus on new migration, refugee women and integration. She specialises in qualitative research methodologies and has co-edited a book on qualitative research for Routledge and is currently completing a book on refugee integration and access to the UK labour markets. Lisa has extensive experience working with a range of community groups on issues concerning social exclusion, integration and sustainable development. She has worked on and managed a range of projects funded by organisations such as the United Nations, JRF, the Home Office and EQUAL. Lisa co-directs the qualitative research methods post-graduate course at the University and runs day seminars for public service personnel on focus groups and community consultation. She has also managed a large community research programme training new migrants in social research skills to work as co-researchers.

Dr. Jenny Phillimore

Lecturer, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

Jenny Phillimore's work focuses on the experiences of new migrants trying to make a place for themselves in Europe. Studies include work undertaken for the EU, Home Office, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a range of Government departments in the UK. She is particularly interested in participative research and together with Lisa Goodson has developed an accredited Community Researcher programme to train individuals from excluded communities in social research skills and build their capacity to influence the research agenda. Jenny's policy focused work has been influential in the development of employability, integration and housing initiatives for refugees in the UK. She has published on refugees and integration and on the epistemology and ontology of qualitative research. Together with Lisa Goodson she has a book forthcoming on refugees access to education, training and employment.

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