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Crossing Borders: Navigating communication challenges for Freedom & Security

11 March 2024

International Women's Day: Freedom

For the celebration of International Women's Day, prof. Marina Terkourafi and Tatiana Boiko conducted a LeidenGlobal workshop on March 10th: 'Freedom and refugees: How do refugees get a voice?' (See info below.) This workshop was part of a special event, organised by Stichting Vrouwennetwerk Leiden, within the theme 'Freedom'.

After a welcoming by Hanneke de Winter (Vrouwennetwerk Leiden) and Alderman Yvonne van Delft of Leiden Municipality, followed by Spoken Word with Remke Verdegem (COC Leiden), and talks by Lilian Callender (Surinaamse Raad) and Florianne, Hasse en Shana (Studio Moio) a programme of 15 workshops took place, including a LeidenGlobal Workshop by Marina Terkourafi & Tatiana Boiko:

'Freedom and refugees: How do refugees get a voice?'

When one becomes a refugee, one loses not only their attachments to physical places and people left behind, but also the sense of autonomy and self-determination. How can one regain a feeling of control over one’s life while living life as a refugee?

In this workshop, the participants brought their own stories to help understand when and how things can go wrong (or right!) in communication across borders and what both refugees and non-refugees can do to feel safe and free. The value of languages was pointed out and especially the value of communication. For example people generally feel the need to "subtitle" themselves:  make an extra effort to explain your reasons as a way of avoiding misunderstanding in a cross-cultural communication situation.

By using interactive methods and role-play, it was shown that effective speaking and listening are crucial for creating a sense of freedom and security. This helped participants gain new perspectives and was beneficial for them.

Tatiana Schalm Boiko is a neuroscientist, who has recently become fully committed to helping Ukrainian refugees in Leiden. As an organizer of social and cultural events and a coordinator of volunteer-based language courses, she appreciates more and more the tremendous challenges people face and courageously overcome. 

Marina Terkourafi is professor of Sociolinguistics at Leiden University. As part of practising what she teaches, she is also concerned with access to equal treatment for all who find themselves marginalized in society because of language, gender, religion, or displacement.

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