The Covid-19 pandemic presents major challenges for us all but its impact is heightened for vulnerable people and socially isolated communities whose first language is not English, including the Afghanistan diaspora.
This virus has had an unprecedented effect on BAME communities so I think we must work together to ensure the safety of everybody in the UK and ensure no group is unnecessarily targeted or marginalised because of it.
For women in the Afghan community, who are ACAA beneficiaries, their only form of social interaction outside their household is attending our classes, events and clinic. Unfortunately,the coronavirus outbreak is preventing regular meetings and many struggle to access the internet. It has been a pleasure to watch women grow in confidence through our services as they meet new people and learn new skills to integrate into British society. We, like many other organisations are offering workshops and classes online, but so many have expressed the concern that their internet isn’t good enough. It is such as shame to hear this, but we are working to protect the Afghanistan diaspora as much as we can.
It has been heart-warming to witness the community support one another, remaining in contact and sharing tips on how to keep happy and healthy during these uncertain times. The more advanced English language students have offered to help other learners and talk them through technology in their own language, so everyone can take part.
However, the community is increasingly worried about the spread of Covid-19 and, while we translate the latest news for them, a number of people struggle to understand the information given in English. One of the women we work with does not speak English and is relying on information from family and friends. She did not understand the concept of self-isolation and believes Covid-19 is an illness sent from God. The ACAA are working tirelessly to combat the spread of misinformation and it is for people like her that that we must work together with the Afghanistan diaspora to make sure everyone remains safe.
The coronavirus is also establishing a foothold in war-torn nations such as Afghanistan. Afghanistan has seen a rapid rise in cases and similarly to countries across the globe, is expecting more. When in power, the Taliban became internationally infamous for their sexism, undermining the capabilities of women. The Taliban operated an orderly segregation and forced women to confinement, which often led to depression,which in turn had a telling impact on family harmony. I have heard from my family and friends that socially isolating has reminded them of days under Taliban rule, which is why it is imperative we support women during this period. We don’t want them to be 'transported' back to what life was like under Taliban rule.
I believe all official guidance and advice should connect with refugee communities who face isolation, many of whom encountered this long before the coronavirus pandemic.
I want to urge people to continue to build bonds of support during these difficult times. Being kind, offer help and think of one another as much as you can. It will make our community stronger, safer and happier for when this pandemic is over
Rabia Nasimi, Strategic Development Manager at the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) now a PHD student at the University of Cambridge
For more information about Rabia Nasimi and the work of the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association, visit: https://acaa.org.uk/