Fatou Jinadu is GMIAU’s new Community Organiser. Thanks to funding from the Justice Together Initiative, as part of work in collaboration with IPPR and Praxis, Fatou joined us in February. Previously, she has worked at Visit From the Stork CIC and as a community radio host. We caught up with Fatou to chat about her new role.

What is a community organiser? 

A community organiser is somebody that will connect communities of people outside of an organisation to understand the organisation and the services. I don’t like using the word clients or service users, but “people”. As a community organiser we try to make people feel as human as possible. I want to treat people not just as a number or another tick-box. Community organising is about finding common problems, coming up with solutions, helping people, empowering people to speak out and fight for their rights. 

You have a lot of experience doing community organising. How has a community organising approach benefited the people you’ve worked with?

When you start organising, you see people come with no confidence or little knowledge about the area or their entitlements. When you start doing the organising and educating people and giving them the information they need, you see how they develop. One of the ladies that came to our group had no recourse to public funds and she didn’t know she could apply for it to be removed. We helped her with that. She couldn’t speak a lot of English; now she’s doing ESOL every Wednesday night, and now she’s started chatting in the group. We just have to listen to people, build relationships, and challenge the authorities and the people in power. 

From what you’ve seen at GMIAU so far, why do you think we need a community organiser?

It’s a great organisation and there are a lot of staff that listen to the people they support and help them with their cases. But I think people don’t really get to see the work that’s been put in to help. As an organisation that helps so many people through the immigration system – if you’re not in the immigration system you won’t really know about the work they’re doing.

So it’s to help build up the community relationships and challenge some of the lawmakers and policies. The only way to do that is by working with people and giving them the power and the belief that they can actually do it. I think having a community organiser will mean you will be supported, you will be sensitised and you will be informed and empowered to do what you want to do and what you think is right.

L to R: GMIAU’s Rivka, Denise, Amanda and Fatou at the Manchester Together With Refugees demonstration

Do you think more people are becoming aware of the importance of people with lived experience leading movements?

I used to joke about this and say – people that are trying to change policies or trying to give voice to the unheard are people that just learned everything from the books. Now having people with lived experience leading and building movements and organising themselves for them to be heard is such an amazing thing. I hope it’s not just a new trend that will die down and become another forgotten topic. “Lived experience” has existed for a long time. But people didn’t think it was necessary for people to speak.

From experience and what I’ve seen around me, people with lived experience are very very scared to voice their opinion – but they don’t know that’s their power.

I’m not the first one, and I’m not going to be the last one. People with lived experience should be given more opportunity to talk about their feelings. To make as much noise as possible.

To be honest when I was applying to this job I thought they’re not going to take me, I haven’t got any qualifications. I doubted myself, because this is my first ever official job. So I thought okay, if I can get this job, I’m gonna change a lot. Being given the opportunity just based on my experience is the best thing ever. 

What will you be working on in the next few weeks/months?

I would love to meet more of the caseworkers and talk about their work, and people they work with that might want to be a part of the movement. Start a group where we talk about issues, and see how we can help, build that relationship and start working on things. We can attend so many demonstrations, we can do so many petitions, but if we’re not organised properly as a movement it’s just going to fall apart. That’s why the mother and baby group in Longsight (Visit from the Stork) that we started is still going, because of the way I organised it. Even now, there’s no paid staff, they’re doing it on their own. If they need help, I’ll pop over and see how I can help. That’s the same objective and aims I’ll set for the groups that I’m going to start for GMIAU. 

We’ll continue to share updates and news from our community organising work over on Twitter. If you’d like to be involved and speak to Fatou, you can call or text her: 07421312156.