STORIES OF MIGRANT WOMEN.
By: Sara Mariani.
Gender issues and equal opportunities for men and women are an integral part of the topic of migration, which involves 214 million migrants worldwide, half of whom are women. (1)
Migration is “a mighty but silent river…an expanding revolution of movement and empowerment, but one that remains largely silent “(2); however, while international migration has received little attention for a long time, female migration has received even less attention.
Today, we try to give voice to those women, today we give voice to this silent river.
G. SANS PAPIERS, 26 YEARS OLD, IVORY COAST.
I arrived in Belgium when I was 17, I was just a child when I was raped.
In my country, especially in my family, the women are the ones who have to do everything: my grandmother built our house, she had cocoa, banana and coffee plantations and I worked so hard. But here, everything is different.
When I arrived I applied for the orange card (3) and the neph (4): I was refused and for this reason, I had to leave the center of Brussels, moving to Liège, (in fact, to get the house in Belgium you need an identity card, an employment contract and a rental guarantee which makes this fundamental right practically inaccessible) (5).
When I was living on the street, a social worker found me. He did everything to help me and, after 5 times they refused to give me a house, after 5 times in which I was living in Brussels Midi station, after 5 times I didn’t know where to go, now I finally have my place, my space, my house.
When I arrived in Belgium, I discovered that I had breast cancer and today I benefit of the integration income but, after the expenses, I only have 80 euros left per month.
My grandfather always said that in order not to have to provide someone with fish every day, you had to teach them how to fish.
Today, I want them to teach me how to fish. I want to be able to work, I want to be lucky enough to be educated, because it is true, I am much luckier than others: I eat, I have a house but that is not enough for me.
I couldn’t get educated because I don’t have an orange card.
Today, I want to find the reason why I wake up every morning.
F. SANS PAPIER, SENEGAL
I am of Senegalese origin and I have lived here in Belgium since 28 years. I never went to school because my family told me that only boys could go there.
I was a victim of female genital mutilation at the age of 7 and I was a victim of forced marriage at 12.
I divorced my first husband because he was violent and because he kept telling me that, as a woman, I had to wash the dishes and take care of the house, but I thought “that’s not all I am”.
I only learned to read and write when I arrived here but now I have a certificate.
My aim is to help women in the problem with the residence permit and to make known the cases of violence that are not taken into account here in Belgium, such as mutilation. I fought so that genital mutilation and forced marriages could be a reason to seek asylum.
Today it is more difficult to obtain a residence permit than when I did so because there are more parameters but not because we do not have a sheet of paper, we cannot afford to educate ourselves, to allow ourselves to dream.
Since 1975, the United Nations has convened world conferences on women with the aim of identifying a plan of action for the advancement of the condition of women, during which the concept of empowerment (6) was formed.
It can be said that empowerment has been ‘measured’ by the percentage of women’s presence in public institutions, in relation to men, or by the economic ‘resources’ they possess, in relation to poverty indexes.
This interpretation reduces the concept of empowerment to institutional relationships or the private sphere. In fact, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (7) reduced empowerment to 4 indicators: literacy, women’s access to education, non-farm wage labor and the percentage of seats in national parliaments, too little to satisfy feminist movements.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, embody a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and leaves no one behind.
Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals.
In any case, the cooperation policies have prioritized an economic approach to women through “equal opportunities” as if this were enough to remove power asymmetries, as if it were not necessary to act against the patriarchal devices that made the above stories possible. (8)
Now “Women who for a long time have been the invisible figures of immigration, ignored by public authorities, must be placed at the center of the integration process “(9).
1 IOM- International organization for migration, (2010)
2 Taken from the 2006 UNFPA Report. The United Nations Population Fund was established in 1969 and is the central body for population issues within the United Nations system.
3 Certificate of registration. This is a temporary residence permit issued to a foreign national who is a third-country national of the European Union. It attests to the ongoing processing of an application for a residence permit or an international protection permit submitted in Belgium.
4 The NEPH number (Numéro d’Enregistrement Préfectoral Harmonisée) is a series of 12 digits that are assigned to you as soon as the prefecture registers your wish to take the driving licence exams (regardless of the track you choose for your training).
5 Droit au logement, CIRE asbl.
6 The process of giving a group of people more rights and freedom
8 Ianni V., (2017) Lo sviluppo nel XXI secolo, concezioni, processi, sfide.
9 Resolution 1478 (2006) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.