The Florist that Helps Refugee Women Flourish

Bread & Roses provides women from refugee backgrounds with emotional and practical support on their pathway to employment.

by Olwen Smith, February 7, 2018
Bread & Roses

In the UK, support for refugees is in short supply. This is particularly the case for female refugees who often struggle to find work or end up in unstable or undervalued jobs. Enter Bread & Roses: a unique social enterprise which aims to help refugee women flourish through employment. We caught up with co-founder, Sneh Jani, to hear about their journey so far.

Tell us about Bread & Roses, where did the idea come from and what do you hope to achieve?

Bread & Roses is a social enterprise florist that was set up in June 2016 by Liv and I during a fellowship programme in social innovation, Year Here. I had a longstanding interest in refugee rights from my time interning with the UNHCR in Berlin whilst at University. Liv had worked at a homeless hostel in North London as part of Year Here and recognised that there was a lack of provision for the hostel residents from refugee backgrounds. Together we wanted to come up with an entrepreneurial solution to address issues faced by this demographic in London. We quickly learned that the unemployment rate amongst refugees in the UK is disproportionately high – over 6 times the national average, and this is even higher amongst women from refugee backgrounds. That was the basis upon which we set up Bread & Roses. Our aim is to provide women from refugee backgrounds with emotional and practical support on their pathway to employment.

bread & roses

For refugee women, finding stable and secure employment can be a huge challenge - what have you noticed to be the main barriers they face in the UK?

They face multiple challenges, the main ones being: a lack of English language skills and a lack of understanding of the UK job market; the long wait before receiving refugee status (during this period – which can last 5  to 10 years in some case – they are unable to work and can become socially and economically isolated); a lack of tailored training and employment support and finally, a lack of childcare, which prevents them from accessing the support that is available.

What’s the backstory to the name ‘Bread & Roses’?

Bread & Roses takes its name from a political slogan coined by Rose Schneiderman, a pioneering American socialist and feminist, back in 1912. In a famous speech, Schneiderman argued that women working in low-paid jobs need more than just the basics (the bread) to survive - they deserve dignity, respect and the opportunity to flourish (the roses) too. Since then, 'bread and roses' has become symbolic of the struggle of working women to achieve better pay and dignified conditions.

What does the training offered by Bread & Roses entail? Are there certain key skills you hope will be strengthened by participating in the workshops?

We are currently running our winter training programme, supporting 8 women from around the world with English language and employment support, together with floristry training. The programme duration is 12 weeks, with the final 4 weeks consisting of a work experience placement. The key skills we hope will be strengthened are:

  • English language
  • Understanding of the UK job market
  • Understanding of the world of work
  • Floristry (practical skills as well as improved wellbeing)
  • Confidence

What have been the biggest learnings for you and your co-founder in the process of setting up a social enterprise?

We have discovered that you never stop learning and can always do better. You don’t need to know everything before you start, as there are many learning curves along the way. Additionally, tenacity and resilience are invaluable skills in creating a successful social enterprise. And finally - we've learnt that people are complicated!

What’s next for Bread & Roses?

When our winter training programme ends, we hope to follow it up with another summer training programme. We're also currently exploring running a crowdfunding campaign in spring/summer. We hope to start supplying  bouquets to more clients for events as well as running floristry workshops for the public. 

You can find out more about Bread and Roses here.

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