One can wonder what makes a bunch of ladies and gentlemen attend a talk on migration on a cold March evening. One could answer that the topic is trendy, everywhere on media and political discourse. Others could also argue that in a city like Brussels we are all migrants and that it may be time to look at the issue with different lenses…
On Tuesday 4 March, Leadarise volunteers organised the talk “Migration in Europe: Making Waves” at the Library where participants were warmly welcomed by its Founder Anne-Sofie. Two impressive women were here to present their work and opinion on migration in Europe, on forced migration and on refugee crises: Anna Platonova from the International Organization for Migrations (IOM) and Fadela Novak from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
After sharing many interesting facts on migration such as the regionalisation of the process, or the fact that former countries of origin of migrants are now becoming country of destination, or vice-versa (giving the example of Spain and Latin America), Anna gave a gender balanced perspective on migration. She explained that gender in migration has different aspects, both positive and negative. While clarifying that there is not really a feminisation of migration, she explained that female migration has changed and may be more significant than it used to be. Migration can be very empowering for women, allowing them to build a professional career for instance, outside of traditional gender stereotypes that women would have encountered in their country of origin, but women are also subject to specific discrimination.
When Fadela gave figures about refugees and internal displaced persons in South Sudan, Central African Republic and Syria, attention was peaked: 1.8 million people on the move in South Sudan, 2.5 million in Syria, 800,000 Syrian refugees in Europe…numbers replace people when they more than ever need to be visible and not forgotten. Fadela shared with us stories of women who found themselves empowered by the migration process. She explained that this has real impact on gender equality, but that it needs to be addressed carefully. When gender roles are modified it may disrupt traditional order and result in violence against women. Empowerment needs to be addressed globally, not only through assistance policy, but by giving a voice to those who are not heard, and by understanding what is really needed and not overlooking problems by gender blind aid action.
At the end of this evening, outside of the EU bubble, I believe the audience learnt a lot from those two inspiring women, with courage of opinion and a long standing experience on these issues, having left with a better understanding of how the challenges of migration should not be overlooked by superficial and short-term political discourse.
Article by: Leadarise volunteer Lise Schwimmer
Photos: Jackie Robinson | BOKEH PHOTO courses participant