We were delighted to catch up with Sneh Jani, co-founder of Bread & Roses, a social initiative to support refugee women in London which is now one year old. The organisation trains its clients in floristry, and helps them develop their English skills and increase in confidence. According to the organisation, there has been a huge gap in support for refugees in the UK since the disbanding of the Refugee Integration and Employment Service in 2011, and there is significant demand for enterprises like Bread & Roses to support women. We spoke to Sneh at 8.30am, on her day off from her full time job as a management consultant working in public service reform, as she headed to a day of floristry at Hackney City Farm.
All photo credits: Lily Bertrand-Webb
Tell us about Bread & Roses! How did you and your co-founder Olivia Head come up with the idea?
Liv and I met on Year Here, a progamme I would hands down recommend to people wanting to get into the social enterprise field. My desire to work with refugees stemmed from my time translating at the UNHCR, whilst Liv was working at a homeless hostel. We both wanted to do something in this space, and actually the name preceded the idea. ‘Bread and Roses’ was a slogan coined by a feminist called Rose Schneiderman in 1912, who believed that worker must have bread – the basics of a job, but roses too – dignity, respect and opportunities. We believe that marginalised people should have both a livelihood and the opportunity to flourish. Women’s movements around the world today use the phrase to support better pay and ‘flourishing’ conditions. Once we had the name, we thought immediately of setting up a bakery and a florist together, but actually there are lots of social enterprise bakeries in London, including Eastside Bakery, and Bread Ahead (both of which are fantastic!) . There were no florists, and the barriers to entry in terms of equipment and qualifications were also much lower, so we decided to go for that!
We first ran a pilot programme at the Women For Refugee Women offices, who are now one of our flagship partners. It went so well that we decided to grow.
Who are the women who you work with at Bread & Roses?
We have now gone through several iterations of the programme. Our team is made up of women from lots of different backgrounds who have got the right to work in the UK. We work with women with very hard-to-hear stories, such as those who have been sex trafficked into the UK, and those fleeing domestic abuse and violence.
As an organisation, we aren’t lobbying or making waves within the political sphere, but we speak out about the issues. Our mission is threefold, firstly, to empower refugee women who already have the right to work in the UK, then to support the wellbeing of both women who have right to work and those who don’t. Lastly, our aim is to raise awareness of the reality facing refugees in this country, and the difficulties that they face. Women who don’t have the right to work have less than £5 a day to live off – most people don’t know that, and it is shocking.
One of the key benefits of working with us is simply the chance for the women to practise their English with others. In our current cohort of six women, all are from completely different backgrounds, but they have English as a common language, and are making strides forward in the language.
Both you and your co-founder Liv work full time as well as being devoted to Bread & Roses. How on earth do you do it, and what tips would you give to others?
I see Bread & Roses as a complement to our day job. It takes up evenings and weekends, and we have had to become creative with the amount of sleep we get!
We have an amazing head florist, Livi, who designs and runs the courses, and former programme participants also come back and support on training the current cohort. My co-founder Liv heads up marketing, social media and online, while I focus on sales and finances. Every so often, we think we need to stop and take time out to focus on operations, but then a big campaign opportunity comes up like World Refugee Day on the 20th June, and we can’t ignore it!
I prefer it like this though. Last year, we were lucky enough to get some funding which let us both work on Bread & Roses full time – it just didn’t work for us at the time. Now, we are working full time in our own jobs, and giving our all to Bread & Roses – and we feel the most positive that we ever have.
How can we get in touch with you to order flowers?
You can visit the Flowers section of our website – we take orders until Friday afternoon at 5pm, and deliver on Mondays across a lot of London postcodes. For special requests, such as further afield deliveries, or for events floristry, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are living in France too, watch this space – we’re currently piloting Du Pain et des Roses in Paris!
Thank you Sneh, we wish you and Bread & Roses all the best!