Local activities with migrants and minorities in Italy

1. The groups

Migrants – the first group with whom we experimented autobiographical activities in Italy is made up of Afghan and Iranian women, a group of 17 women, to which were added some Italian volunteers. The opportunity to collaborate with this group came about thanks to the cooperation of Binario 15, an association which has been working for years with the Afghan community in Rome and other Italian cities.

The women involved ranged in age from 35 to 50 years; almost all had children, and were engaged in various work activities.  They had varying levels of formal education (ranging from I and II level diploma, to degree and specialisation).  They do not receive financial or other public support.

Minorities – the second group was represented by Romanian minority in Italy – we had a long discussion if is appropriate to treat them as a minority not as migrants and we decide to consider them as a minority because they are Italian citizens, they were born in Italy (all of them). The Romanian community is the largest in Italy, with over 1 145 718 people residing in Italy by 2020. Romanian immigration in Italy has been a phenomenon that has been present for decades, which has had two particular moments of development: after the Romanian revolution of 1989 , and the liberalization of tourist visas in 2002, and especially with Romania’s entry into the EU in 2007, which allowed Romanian citizens to move freely in Europe. It is important to note that the similarity between the Romanian and Italian languages was an additional factor of attraction for Romanian citizens.

The members of the group, consisting of 16 people, were mostly women, with a minority of men. The ages ranged from 30 to 55, and on average the participants had a diploma as a qualification.

2 Particularities of the tailored learning program

Our method was to use a different autobiographical narrative theme for each meeting, communicating it to the participants through a Whatsapp group beforehand; participants could therefore write something, or find photos or other materials.  During the meeting each participant described her experience, her story, sharing any materials with the group. These materials could be personal photographs, music, images and other materials to describe their culture of origin.  At the end of the meeting, the participants were able to suggest topics for the next meeting.  Each meeting was recorded, which helped with the transcription of their stories, creating a collection of tales.  This collection was subsequently sent to the participants for their feedback before creating a final version.

It is important to underline that this workshop was made possible thanks to the collaboration with Binario 15, a voluntary association, which already works with Afghan and Iranian women. Without their cooperation it would have been practically impossible to involve this particular minority group, not just for reasons of culture but also gender.  That’s why we believe this experience was truly significant.

It should be pointed out that, due to the remote nature of the activities, it was not possible to carry out an evaluation through questionnaires.  Instead, an informal evaluation was carried out, firstly, by listening to the experiences of the participants and secondly through interviews which were aimed at exploring how the participants felt about the workshop and what impact it had.

The workshop’s title was: “Let’s talk about us…. A remote storytelling workshop” and the different narrative themes are listed below.

We introduce ourselves … The stories of our names.  The name we bear is part of our identity as individuals and as part of a family and social history.

We started by giving our names and answering to questions as: What’s the story of your name? What does your name mean in your culture? Do you know how you were given your name? Often the way we are named is related to cultural traditions, family stories, or other special events.

Holidays, celebrations and traditions … In the second workshop meeting “Let’s talk about us…” we shared memories of holidays, celebrations, traditions, including the special recipes that accompany these moments.

Childhood memories: games, places, important people from my childhood… In the third workshop meeting “Let’s talk about us ….” we shared childhood memories, especially memories of games.

Things I’ve learned In this meeting we shared memories of life experiences in which we learned things that were important to us.

Women who are important to us. The fight for equal rights. Some of the participants suggested talking about women who are important to us, women who are committed to change.


In this meeting we asked ourselves: “What would you like to do to change the condition of women, in your country, here in Italy and in the world?”  We also dealt with the struggles for women’s rights in Italy.

How did we find writing and sharing these memories?
How did we find this experience?
What have we learned?
How can the stories we shared be important to others as well?

3. Evaluation tools used

We used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale for evaluation the level of self esteem at the beginning and at the end of the workshops.

After each workshop we had a reflection session when participants were supported to meditate on the whole experience and self assess their evolution.

4. Successfully elements and obstacles

Creating the workshop with the group of migrant women was a very special experience and a privilege, not least as Afghan and Iranian women do not readily participate in educational and cultural activities. There are several reasons for this: cultural, practical, linguistic and logistical.

Firstly, culturally, women do not have a presence in public spaces in Afghan and Iranian culture.

Secondly, the women concerned all had work and family commitments meaning they needed to take care of their children and home. Thirdly, language barriers had to be overcome, as the women had not been in Italy for long, nor had the opportunity to attend Italian lessons.  Lastly, due to the pandemic, the activities had to take place remotely rather than in person.

All of these challenges prompted us to find creative answers.

On the other hand, the activities took place remotely due to the pandemic, but this presented difficulties from the outset.  The first difficulty was the linguistic aspect; women belonging to the Afghan and Iranian communities frequently have poor skills in Italian, both at oral and written level. They are often only in contact with people from their community of origin, and are mainly engaged in looking after the home and children, or in outside jobs that do not require particular language skills. They seldom attend Italian schools, both for cultural and practical reasons, as the schools rarely adapt their working practices to women’s availability.  For the participants, it was difficult to find time free from family and work, which meant that it wasn’t possible to create a consistent group over a period of time.

We therefore had to find solutions to these problems, and adopted a series of measures.

Firstly, we created a calendar of remote meetings, using the Zoom platform, every fortnight in the evening, which proved to be an accessible time for all participants. Secondly, participants could connect from home, enabling them to continue to care for their children – who often looked at the screen with curiosity – and even continue to prepare dinner.

But finally, the workshop was certainly successful, and the impact on participants was positive in many ways.

It provided an opportunity, during the pandemic and related lockdown, to cope with a difficult time through the mutual support of participants. Through the workshop, the women deepened their awareness of their own history, improving their self-esteem, as well as awareness of their social condition.  Finally, through the narration, the participants “took the floor” in a political sense, talking about the problems related to the condition of women in Afghanistan and Iran, and sharing their ideas for social change, and for a more just world.