HerStory: Refugees, migration and history writing from a female perspective – visualising data

Oral history gives visibility to histories that have been under-represented, and that includes women’s experience as refugees and migrants.

It was long believed, for example, that labour migration and asylum-seeking on grounds of government or political persecution were causes of migration and flight that related solely to the traditional “male domain”. Germany has only recognised non-state persecution and gender-specific persecution as grounds for asylum since 2005.

Through selected sequences from Archive interviews, the participants explore reasons for seeking refuge and experiences during the process that are specific to women. They visualise these aspects in a simple form of data journalism; the charts are integrated into an Instagram account created especially for the protected framework of the workshop.


Short workshop (1h – 3h)


12 years and over 


oral history, female perspectives, feminism, sexism, gender-specific violence, gender-specific discrimination, reasons for seeking refuge, global contexts, collective memory, history writing, multiperspectivity


  • data journalism/data visualisation
  • research, evaluating sources
  • generating charts/Instagram/Sharepic/Canva


  • smartphone/tablet or computer (1x per 2-4 participants)
  • Internet

Bridge to the Archive of Refuge 

Interviews with eye-witnesses in the Archive of Refuge are used to learn more about gender-specific persecution and experience of migration or flight.

Anna Krämer, M.A., and Prof. Karin Scherschel for bpb.de:
“Women flee for many reasons: they flee from political persecution, civil wars, environmental disasters, poverty and various forms of violence, e.g. domestic violence or sexualised violence such as ‘honour killings’, forced abortion, forced marriage, forced sterilisation and (genital) mutilation, the burning of widows, and rape. Sexualised violence is a weapon of war. Experience of (sexualised) violence does not end when women leave their home country. They are also exposed to dangers during and after their flight. The routes taken by refugees are fraught with risk, and once they reach the country of reception they may, for example, be prey to racist violence or exposed to further threats in refugee camps. […] Causes of flight that affect women in particular were not recognised as such for a long time. Germany did not include gender-specific and non-state persecution as grounds for granting protection under its Immigration Act until 2005. Even then, implementing this recognition in practice is subject to numerous hurdles. First, the evidence is hard to produce. This form of persecution concerns very intimate areas of a person’s life. Sexualised violence often takes place within the family and in the home. Second, women often do not realise that gender-specific violence may be recognised as grounds for asylum.”

Video sequences


Came to the GDR from Colombia as a child in the 1950s with her mother and sister


Sequence 07:50 – 24:00
Talks about her mother’s situation as a single parent in Colombia and the voyage to Europe as a political migrant.


From Somalia/Kenya, in Germany since 2015; active on behalf of refugee women and girls

Sequence 1- 17:50 – 31:00
Situation of women and girls in her home country; her desire for education and the obstacles placed in her way as a woman.
–>trigger warning: Talks from 26:00 about her experience of genital mutilation.

Sequence 2- 39:09 – 59:00
Talks about her decision to leave Kenya in order to live more freely as a woman and about her arrival in Germany, where she experienced sexual harassmen


Hungarian Romani, in Berlin since 2015

Sequence 1:24:07 – 1:36:35
Describes how she decided to leave Hungary for good and reports on being a social worker in Berlin for Hungarian Roma women earning their keep as prostitutes.


Jewish woman from Russia, in Germany since the 1990s

Sequence 11:27 – 29:12
Talks about her life as a working wife and mother in Moscow as her desire and then her plan to emigrate to Germany took shape.

Learning sites | face-to-face + online

This method can be implemented in a face-to-face setting or on a completely digital basis.

Educational objectives and practical options

The participants understand the fact that and the ways in which oral history, unlike many written/official sources, makes women’s stories more visible and more self-defined. They are familiar with gender-specific causes and experiences of flight and migration.

The participants learn a source-critical approach to resources and information. Exploration of a multi-perspective, differentiated view of history and people.

Detailed description of the workshop/module

  1. Warm up (20’)

Start with a “guessing game” to visualise

> how frequently women appear in German history books? (correct answer: 1-3%)
> how frequently Wikipedia biographies are devoted to women? (correct answer: 16%)

Free tool to generate interactive surveys/infographics:

kahoothttps://kahoot.com/business-u/ (quizzes, learning games)


Even today, the ways in which women have shaped and experienced history are often invisible. The same applies to their experiences of migration and flight.

Migration and flight are not gender-neutral, men and women have very different experiences. The same applies to the specific experiences of non-binary, inter- or transsexual people.

It applies to every stage in the process: the reasons for seeking refuge or migrating, the way decisions are made, the path taken (i.e. the actual journey to another country), and experiences after arrival.

Question for participants: What potential differences occur to you?

Some notes on asylum law:

“Gender-specific persecution” includes sexual violence, exclusion from education, honour killings, forced abortions, forced marriages, forced sterilisations and mutilations (e.g. female genital mutilation) as well as discrimination on grounds of sex or sexual orientation. This is non-state persecution, so it is only accepted as grounds for asylum if the home country does not offer protection.

–> Now we are going to hear some of these stories from the Archive of Refuge.

2. Getting to know the Archive of Refuge (30’ to 60’)

Under “Video sequences” there is a selection of thematically tagged interviews and relevant sequences taken from these.

It is a good idea to give a brief introduction to each film or witness and let the participants choose which ones they want to watch, depending on their personal interests. Based on this, small groups of two to max. five people can be formed, with each group exploring one film.

When watching the sequences, the participants should capture one aspect of the narrative that strikes them as particularly relevant or interesting and that says something about gender-specific reasons for leaving or gender-specific experiences. They should make a note of the appropriate quote.

Important: Focus on a clearly defined aspect!

3. Work stage – research (45-90’)

The next step is to underpin the specific aspect of this refugee’s gender-specific experience with data. We are especially interested in statistics and data such as:

How many women migrate or seek asylum with children?

How many women in the world/a specific country experience domestic violence?

How many women migrate for professional reasons?


Kick-off discussion: How do I go about my research? / How and where do I find answers?

Independent research in small groups based on criteria explained in the guide or in the sources and resources provided, where appropriate

4. Generate charts & data visualisations (30-60’)

On www.canva.com participants use the data from their research to create a chart that visualises the finding.

–> www.canva.com – Button top right: “Design” – Select: Instagram – From the menu on the left select: Templates

They then upload each graphic and matching quote from the video as an Instagram post. The various posts will interact to create a digital “history book” that reflects the under-represented female perspective.

The Instagram account for this exercise should be created in advance by the teacher/leader specifically for the workshop, selecting the “not public” privacy setting. The access data can then be circulated to the participants so that they can manage their own posts.

5. Presentation and reflections (45-60’)

> why they chose that particular aspect

> what they learnt/experienced during their research

Selected questions for reflection in the closing session:

> Do men and women experience the same history?

> What reasons might there be for “women’s history” being so unknown?

> How does women’s experience as refugees and migrants differ from men’s?

> What do women and girls need to make their arrival in Germany a good one?

Further information, tools and aids



  • PolitischBilden: material compiled by a working group of education providers in Germany; can be filtered by keywords, e.g. migration and flight https://politischbilden.de/material
  • “Fakten statt Postfakten: Ein Quiz zum Thema Flucht” https://api.politischbilden.de/documents/5dd3dc09d7110_Methode Fakten statt Postfakten – Quiz Flucht.pdf
  • Migration dossier compiled by the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/dossier-migration/
  • Migration and flight page on the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung website https://www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/migration/flucht/
  • Glossary for reporting in a migration society compiled by the Neue Deutsche Medienmacher*innen: “Formulierungshilfen, Erläuterungen und alternative Begriffe für die Berichterstattung in der Einwanderungsgesellschaft”
  • Teaching and information material from UNHCR German
  • “Flucht im Lebenslauf”, Anne Frank Zentrum, education material adopting the biographical learning approach that works with the stories of Anne Frank and two women who were refugees a few years ago https://flucht.annefrank.de/paedagogisches-material/
  • Reasons for seeking asylum: https://aktiv.fluechtlingsrat-bw.de/fluchtursachen.html
  • “Kindernothilfe: Materialien für den Unterricht in Gesellschaftslehre, Politik, Erdkunde und Religion/Ethik: Migration and flight, Klasse 4-12” (2015) https://www.globaleslernen.de/sites/default/files/files/education-material/ue_flucht_und_migration_37_mb1.pdf
  • “Fluchtgründe, Asyl und Lebenssituation von Geflüchteten – Didaktisches Material für die Sekundarstufe”, Epiz – Zentrum für globales Lernen in Berlin http://www.epiz-berlin.de/wp-content/uploads/170518_Migration_Epiz_W.pdf
  • “Warum Menschen fliehen. Ursachen von Migration and flight – Ein Thema für Bildung und Gesellschaft”. Gewerkschaft für Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) und Medico international (2018) https://www.medico.de/fileadmin/user_upload/media/Warum_Menschen_fliehen.pdf
  • Education around the topic of refugees and asylum seekers: IDA, Informations- und Dokumentationszentrum für Antirassismusarbeit: https://www.idaev.de/themen/flucht-asyl/multiplikatorinnen/bildungsarbeit-zum-thema-flucht-und-asyl
  • “Flucht in den Medien – Arbeitshilfe, Handreichung, Materialpakete”, JFF Institut für Medienpädagogik (2020) https://www.jff.de/fileadmin/user_upload/mekrif/Materialien/210309_Arbeitshilfe_digitale_Version.pdf
  • Sociometric exercises as a method: https://www.uni-koblenz-landau.de/de/landau/hda/lla/seit/Aufstellung, https://teachingtools.uzh.ch/index.php?id=tool&toolId=26