About the project

Borderings: Displacement, Gender and Health forms part of the public engagement arm of the SELMA project, a cross-institutional, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary collaborative migration health project between University College London, UK, Aga Khan University, Pakistan and the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern, Switzerland.

The SELMA project set out to understand the policies in place to protect migrant/refugee health, with a particular interest in how policies attend to the structural (upstream) drivers of health and how gender and gender norms shape the health and wellbeing of migrant and refugee communities.  To uncover drivers of poor health and identify the opportunities and barriers for seeing effective policy responses adopted and implemented, we synthesised existing evidence and undertook in-depth policy analysis within two disparate migration health contexts;

  1. migrant, refugee and asylum systems in Europe;
  2. male labour migration from Pakistan into the Gulf Corporation Council 

Check out our webinar series here.
Meet our team here.

Mobilising voices, and platforming experience

Central to SELMA’s methodology was a broad systemic response that reached beyond the parameters of our academic institutions and engaged with multiple stakeholders. In this, engagement with migrants and refugees was essential. Indeed, although migration is regularly the topic of political rhetoric, media coverage, cultural discourse, and academic study, rarely are refugees and migrants themselves afforded the space or platform to discuss their concerns or experiences. In turn, migrants and refugees are routinely stripped of their political voice and agency; their opinions and experiences excluded from the symbolic space of representation and occluded from decision-making processes.

Our public engagement project sought to shift the communicative order and mobilise the voices of Pakistani labour migrants and migrants and refugees in the UK to speak to power. Through a series of creative workshops and dialogues, we hoped to amplify their voices and bring them to the foreground of the migration and health policy debate.

The works presented in Borderings: Displacement, Gender and Health are the results of this series of workshops, which brought together a group of artists with a history of displacement to explore the complex, nuanced and changing reality of what it means to be a male/ female/ non-binary/ gender non-conforming refugee/ migrant.

The UK workshops were curated around two central questions:

  1. How does gender shape the migration/displacement experience at each stage of the route from pre-departure, in transit, upon arrival and in life in a new country?
  2. To what extent does gender and citizenship status shape the ability to live a healthy and happy life?

We were inspired by the lively conversations, generosity and openness of the participating artists. The resulting work defies reductive representation and passionately demands a fairer, more equitable, more inclusive future. A future that sees beyond the borders of self and society and recognises the full humanity of others.

Explore the Borderings collection.

Explore the Pakistan arm of the SELMA public engagement project; Dubai Chalo.


For more information regarding the broader SELMA policy research contact Prof. Sarah Hawkes: s.hawkes@ucl.ac.uk.

For more information regarding Borderings please contact Imogen Bakelmun: imogen.orizaba@gmail.com

For more information on the artists or to work with the artists, please contact Counterpoint arts: hello@counterpointsarts.org.uk.


Borderings: Displacement, Gender and Health was made possible by the passion and commitment of the participating artists Sabrina Richmond, Edin Suljic, Anan Tello, Bumi Thomas, Rana Ibrahim, Selam Mengistu, Ghafar Tajmohammad, Yasmeen Audisho Ghawri, Tom Green of Counterpoints Arts, and the team at Imagist London.

The typeface used across the site is Whyte Inktrap by Dinamo.

The work of the SELMA project is supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust (grant number 208712/Z/17/Z).

All images are copyrighted © by the individual artists. No image or information displayed on this policy brief or on the virtual exhibition site may be reproduced, transmitted or copied without the express written permission of the named artists. Contravention is an infringement of the Copyright Act and its amendments and may be subject to legal action.