Thorns and Flowers

7 November 2016

Consultation between man and woman

A new illustrated booklet has captured the views of women from minority communities who have experienced fertility issues.

Thorns and Flowers: Infertility experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Women was a project led by female academics from Cardiff and Aberystwyth universities and funded by the Welsh Crucible.

Using a drawing workshop, nine women from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities were encouraged to tackle and discuss their thoughts and feelings about infertility - an often taboo subject within minority communities which can leave those affected feeling isolated.

Through the creative workshop, organised in partnership with Welsh charity Women Connect First, the women discussed the negative emotional impact of not being able to conceive, the pressure to have children and stigma when they were not able to conceive, and how they sought comfort in their religion.

They also identified infertility education and awareness within their community as a tool to help challenge traditional views and taboos around infertility, and suggested that healthcare professionals liaise with religious places and leaders because people, and men in particular, are more receptive at these places.

Dr Sofia Gameiro, the lead researcher based at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology said: “Most of the infertility research focuses on middle class, well off white heterosexual couples, and is therefore not representative of different minority groups. The consequence is that our healthcare services may not address some of the specific needs of infertile BME women.”

Working with artist Paula Knight, the women used drawing to turn their views and experiences into artwork, which was later developed into the comic booklet.

This innovative use of a drawing workshop to elicit and disseminate opinions on sensitive topics was inspired by a previous project with the African youth charity WhizzKids United, led by Dr Lisa El Refaie from the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

Dr El Refaie said: “In the previous project, drawing workshops provided a forum for young Africans to share their experiences and knowledge of HIV/Aids and Ebola, both with each other and their communities. The current project builds on this successful experience in order to develop drawing workshops as an innovative research methodology that can be used in circumstances where traditional interviews and focus groups may not be appropriate.”

Dr Gameiro added: “This project highlighted the potential of drawing workshops to explore personal and sensitive topics and overcome cultural and linguistic barriers. The women taking part found the drawing component enjoyable, and something that allowed them to express feelings without needing words. Others valued the opportunity to share their experiences in a supportive environment.

“We hope the booklet increases awareness about these women’s infertility experiences within their own communities, but also among healthcare providers and policy makers.”

The booklet Thorns and Flowers: Infertility experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic Women will be launched on Tuesday 8th November, at UNITE, in partnership with Women Connect First.

More information about the event is available here.

The Welsh Crucible is an award-winning programme of personal, professional and leadership development for the future research leaders of Wales. Now in its sixth year, the programme supports research-inspired innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration in Wales.