October 11th, International Day of the Girl Child
The number of girls and young people who migrante arriving alone in Spain is increasing. They walk alone, and the absence of close adult references or protection figures makes them highly vulnerable.
What does a girl alone do in Melilla?
When girls arrive in Melilla, they are transferred to the city's minors centres. In these centres, they share space with more than 80 children, so it is difficult to provide individualised support without an extensive network of professionals or specialised resources, through which they can establish a bond of trust with each child.
What does a young girl alone do in Melilla when she turns 18?
As it happens with any young person, when they turn 18, these young girls are forced to leave the centres for minors that they used to live in and are left on the streets, in many occasions without any valid documentation and, in the absence of a census, without access to health care, education, or a legal way to support themselves. The lack of a work permit, added to the institutional racism and xenophobia so present in the place, forces them to suddenly become adults with no other support network than their own friends and colleagues in the same situation.
What is there to choose from where there is no choice?
What life choices do they have left at this time? There is not much choice: to do precarious domestic work, to prostitute themselves, either alone or in sexual exploitation networks, or to end up in indirectly forced marriages, since many end up deducing that only by marrying can they be "legal".
The anguish to achieve a regularised legal situation in the country is constant: bearing in mind that having valid legal documents translates into "existing in Spain" and therefore allows them to denounce and report the abuses of which they are usual victims, in all kinds of contexts. Let's remember that only with valid documentation is it possible to work in a legal and above all controlled manner, without having to face, with a total lack of protection, situations of human rights violations, without the silent violence becoming the master of their lives.
The sisterhood that unites us
Faced with this situation, the activists of Solidary Wheels and No Name Kitchen in the field carry out a social intervention based fundamentally on giving humanitarian support and weaving human networks of trust with the young women in this situation, something which as well as seeking other objectives which we consider essential, allows us to act as agents of prevention in the case of detecting that some of their fundamental rights are being violated.
To do this, the (female) members of the Solidary Wheels and No Name Kitchen team in Melilla meet with the young women at least twice a week. In principle, the idea is to enjoy simple plans such as sharing the afternoon and carrying out activities, often proposed by them, such as Spanish classes, walks, dynamics, visiting the beach or doing sports. As time goes by, and as trust is born, we use these moments so that our lawyer in the field can give them legal advice.
We believe that being present in their lives on a continuous basis, and not just occasionally, allows us to accompany them in the difficult transition to adult life in which they find themselves and try to alleviate their feeling of loneliness and uprooting. We also believe that it is particularly important to share together the stages of migratory grief, to support them in the complex emotional management of all the stressful situations they go through, and to "sow together" arguments of empowerment that will help all of us to live in freedom.
Each day that goes by and we feel that tenderness and support "weaves" us closer together, we are more and more aware of the value of sisterhood, and of small interventions such as those capable of achieving enormous social and vital transformations.
By Anna Peñarroya and Ana Gragera