CEFAM, Switzerland

Geneva’s internationality is often focused on the high-flying professionals posted here, but the city also has many foreign migrants: all too frequently marginalised. CEFAM empowers these groups to fit in and thrive. 

Moving to a new country can be a lonely experience, especially if one cannot speak the language, has been forced to flee, or feels isolated by spending time caring for young children. Meyrin is one of the most multi-cultural districts of Geneva, with residents from 45 different countries. It is a fitting location for the CEFAM association, which offers a ‘home away from home’ specifically for migrant women who have lived in this area for weeks, months or even years. With many of the women holding a valid permit and intending to create a new life in Switzerland, they simply need assistance to overcome cultural and language barriers, to help them fully integrate into local life and prevent a spiral of loneliness and instability.

Modelling a ‘by the community, for the community’ approach, CEFAM is run by 50 local people, mainly volunteers, and takes a highly practical stance. The centre enables migrant women with pre-school children to learn French whilst their children are looked after alongside them. Workshops and discussions around local life help the women navigate the customs and civil obligations that characterise life in Geneva. Women are encouraged to reclaim their confidence and identity, harnessing skills such as sewing or cooking, by way of delicious catering services. At its heart, CEFAM is social, offering outings and arts activities that give the women an essential space to bond and share the challenges of making a new life abroad.

For the whole of 2015, the Trafigura Foundation is supporting this non-profit organisation and its team of volunteers who provide a lifeline in times of need, and a springboard to a new start.

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Key figures

  • 160

    women use CEFAM annually

  • 50

    new joiners each year

160 women use CEFAM annually
50 new joiners each year

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