LANGUAGE CAN BE A BARRIER; Analysis

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), October 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

LANGUAGE CAN BE A BARRIER; Analysis


Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

In Cardiff, 22 different languages are spoken by cultural groups. The women in the ethnic minority groups can feel isolated but now help is at hand.

SOME women who can't speak English are taking their bilingual children to their local surgery in an attempt to hold a conversation with their doctor.

Often embarrassing gynaecological problems are discussed, problems to which children should remain oblivious until reaching a certain age.

But for some women it is the only way, as overcoming the language barrier is a tough job.

Bound by cultural and religious rules that decree their place is in the home they are often isolated all day with just their children for company.

According to a recent report, in Cardiff alone 22 different languages are spoken. To experience a slice of the city's diverse social culture, just take a walk in Riverside with its ethnic supermarkets, takeaways and Sari shops.

But now women can get help from MEWN Cymru, a network aiming to end the isolation and marginalisation of black and ethnic minority women in the city.

"It is improving but in certain sections of the community it is the case - that the woman's role is in the home. Here she is in control and her job is bringing the children up and providing the day to day care, but I think the younger generation are moving forward, as they want a career, want to go out and want to further themselves, " explains chairwoman Geta Aldridge.

"In Swansea, we've done our research as to why women weren't accessing services, such as doctors, leisure centres and social services and we found that language was the biggest barrier.

"Some communities don't want a male doctor, there was difficulty accessing a female doctor and getting an interpreter, so the children were communicating for the parent, which was not an ideal situation."

Geta points out there are also problems communicating with their children's teachers and many make simple mistakes like confusing social services with social security.

"It's a language and cultural barrier and when you're a female and a black female it's a double barrier. Childcare is another issue as for the majority of women who want to go into employment, childcare is so expensive.

"We're unique in that women can come in and their husbands or partners are happy that it's an all-women organisation. …

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