Olga Khoroshilova's piece on the BBC World Services website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41737330) tells the story of a brief period in 1921 when the gay community in Russia had a "brief window of freedom" and shows extraordinary photographs of a gay wedding from the 1920s. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend this week where I was teasing him about making an honest man of his partner, commenting on how progressive we are in the UK and how the gay community has the options of a civil partnership or a wedding, to fit their needs and wants. Yet this morning on the train I read about how this is not a modern phenomenon led by the liberal west, but indeed Russia was way ahead of us.
Of course reading on in Khoroshilova's article it becomes clear that there was a twist to the tail, but that is her story to tell, and I commend you to read it for yourself. It is however a story that still plays out in Europe. Attitudes and laws in countries like Russia make life difficult for the LGBTIQ communities in those countries to have the rights and opportunities that they should and often as a last resort people feel the need to leave their country and flee elsewhere where they are free to be whoever they are. These migrants are then often lost in their new homes, being rejected by local migrant communities for their sexuality and being rejected by local gay communities for their nationality, they can end up in a lonely existence without the support mechanisms around them that they need.
At IARS we have been working on an EU supported project, with partners in The Netherlands, Italy, Greece and Cyprus to develop a training package for professionals working with LGBT refugees to help them with the specific challenges this community face. The key aim of this Erasmus + KA2 (KA2 - Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices, Strategic Partnerships for adult education) project is to improve adult education provision in the participating countries and through this innovative learning to allow other European countries to replicate its findings and educational tools. A secondary objective is to design and pilot, evidence-based, user-led effective strategies for enhancing basic skills for adult learners, while developing adult educators’ competences to deal with one of Europe's most marginalised groups of learners, making use of new technologies and teaching outcomes.
n particular, EpsiLon focuses on sharing, developing and transferring innovative practices in education targeting professionals and volunteers working in services for LGBT asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. It will develop a innovative, evidence-based, user-led educational tools in order to raise adult learners' awareness and sensitivity to the needs of all those with LGBT background. The educational tools will enable the professionals and volunteers to identify these LGBT groups' most current and urgent needs some even reaching on issues of survival, dignity and respect. It will also help them challenge their own biases and improve their skills in providing tailored and culturally sensitive services. The need for the development of such training programme is highlighted at top level by all competent organisations such as UNHCR and the EP.
You can find out more about our Epsilon project by looking at http://www.epsilonproject.eu/ where you will find lots of resources and eBooks to download.