Millennibrum: Offering more than just Chinatown as a focus; Lorraine Blakemore reports on the efforts made by the Birmingham Chinese Woman's Unit to meet the needs of the widely dispersed community.
The Birmingham Chinese Women's Association (BCWA) was formally set up in 1993 in response to the desire for a space where women can support one another. Although to the casual observer Chinatown would appear to represent a central focus for the community, in fact most Chinese women are widely dispersed residentially across the city. In the past, elderly women have felt particularly isolated linguistically and have had limited contact with neighbours and difficulty in expressing themselves when visiting a doctor. About 25 years ago there existed a small Chinese women's group, but this fulfilled more of a social than a practical role.
Today, the BCWA involves 20 committee members and more than 200 Chinese women across the Midlands. Into her 3rd year as Chair is Mary Louey, who has lived in the city for over 30 years and used to work in the catering business. Mary explains, 'Elections take place every two years. We are involved with organising fundraising events for, amongst others, the Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital. Every year trips within the UK and overseas are arranged for families. The Association also assists with requests for interpreting and medical matters.'
The BCWA is active in promoting cultural groups such as the Pak Ming Opera Troupe and has been instrumental in bringing the forthcoming annual Karaoke Championships, held in September, to Birmingham.