Women tell their stories of migration, integration and settlement into Sunderland

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UNTOLD stories of migration, integration and settlement by women from diverse communities living in Sunderland are explored in an insightful heritage project.

Led by Sangini, a charity based in Wearside, Stories from Our Sisters in Sunderland explores the lives of women who have lived in the city since migrating from countries including Africa, African-Caribbean, China, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Eastern Europe.

The project seeks to record the personal stories of these women, and explore how their lives have been shaped by Sunderland and how in turn they have influenced the city through their cultural traditions.

More than 50 women of all ages have engaged with their heritage so far, learning new skills in recording oral history to collect each other’s personal stories as part of the project.

Sreelekha Reddy, founder member of Sangini and project participant, said: “Taking part in the project has helped me to remember a part of my life that I had left behind in India, and recollect the journey I undertook since arriving in Britain.

“It has been deeply moving to retrace the early steps I took to settle down in Sunderland. This is where I settled with my family and my children have grown up.” By recording the stories of those women who have migrated to Sunderland, the project seeks to celebrate their achievements as they led the way in establishing their community.

Sreelekha set up Sangini in 2002 after identifying a gap in mainstream health provision for women from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and developed ways to tackle inequalities through creative intervention while enhancing social cohesion.

Shruti Jain, project manager and trustee from Sangini, said: “Everyone has a story to tell. It’s important to preserve this unique aspect of our local heritage by collecting the unknown and hidden stories from women who migrated to Sunderland before they are lost.

“We want to share the stories with the wider community in a celebration of the significant contribution of the women who have made Sunderland their home and of our shared cultural diversity.”

All the personal stories collected through the project are being captured and shared with a wider audience through a dedicated website.

Eighteen months in the making, the Stories from Our Sisters in Sunderland culminates in an exhibition in which participants have worked with artists to recall and share memories of their homeland, cultural habits and their achievements in Sunderland.

Activities include a textile map of the city, portraits workshops and working with a book artist in using maps to inspire women to ask questions about each other’s countries.

The exhibition brings together all the oral history recordings, artwork and photographs and will be held at Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden at the end of June.

Anyone wishing to be involved can contact project manager Shruti Jain on 07921 453793.

To listen to the Sangini stories, visit www.sanginistories.org.uk.