Make Every Woman Count Blog http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org Promoting the Empowerment & Rights of African Women & Girls Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:10:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknow http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknow-4/ Mon, 27 Mar 2017 03:10:03 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1050 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

Personal Story

My parents were born in Eritrea which was an Italian colony but due to circumstances both migrated to Ethiopia with their parents in the 1940s when they were both young. Both my parents studied in Ethiopia and my mother qualified as a nurse and my father as a civil engineer and he actually taught at the University in Addis Ababa. My mother taught and worked at Tekur Ambessa Hospital.

I was born in Addis Ababa Ethiopia and not long after my birth the military government headed by Mengistu Hailemariam (Derg Regime) took over in Ethiopia. The regime was against intellectuals which it termed as petit burgeois along with further persecution of Eritreans as a result of the war for independence. My parents felt like outsiders in a land that they had grown up in and as a result my father fled in 1975 to the UK, and my mother and I fled in 1977 to be reunited with my dad in 1978. My father was one of the lucky ones as many of his Eritrean colleagues at the University were killed by the Derg.

Therefore this was the second time my parents had to endure upheaval in their lifetime. The late 1970s saw the winter of discontent in the UK and it was a difficult time to be a refugee as there was no jobs for the nationals in itself. My father agitated by lack of employment in the UK thought the idea of being on welfare demeaning and as a result found a job as a University Lecturer in Benghazi, Libya and in 1979 we moved again.

During this upheaval my mother ensured the stability of the family and the idea of normality in very challenging conditions. We all also had to endure in fitting into a new country, culture and learning a new language. During this time an extra addition came into the family as my brother was born in Libya.

This impacted on me in a number of ways as it meant I changed schools a number of times and did not have the luxury of keeping in touch or cementing long term relationships with people. It also meant that I had to learn new languages all in a short space of time which was in itself linguistically confusing as well as missing school in my formative years. My years in Libya also gave me the opportunity to interact with many different cultures and opened me up to understanding the challenges that other people face.

As I grew older I tried to put my own experiences into context and understand why we were at war. The Eritrean war for Independence was what impacted my life during the years I was growing up and everyone was looking forward to see an Independent Eritrea which is at peace so we could all go back to our homes.

The end of the war and independence for Eritrea 25 years on has not resulted in the aspirations and dreams that our families fought for but instead we are still living in exile. It is therefore, only half a victory as my parents along with countless other Eritreans looked forward to help in the rebuilding and healing of Eritrea. This dream or hope has for now temporarily been deferred until Eritrea is a country that is governed by the rule of law, justice and democracy the very ideals for which many paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives including members of my extended family.

I joined Network of Eritrean Women in 2014, as I believe that without the voices of Eritrean women there can be no peace and stability. It has also enabled me to share and understand the stories of Eritrean women and the burden that they have shouldered and continue to do so. I believe that by ensuring the proper training, skills and empowering Eritrean women we can have real change and it is those women who endured life as freedom fighters, home carers, breadwinners and kept the Eritrean family intact during these times that I hold as an inspiration. It is also this that gives me the motivation to continue fighting until the rights of all Eritreans are upheld and the contribution of Eritrean women is fully acknowledged and integrated into the society.

I also participate in other spheres of the Eritrean opposition and feel that the voice of women is lacking and the level of participation is low. However, it is important that as women we raise our voices in all avenues that are open to us. It is important that we challenge the status quo and that we as women are fully integrated into the peace process for Eritrea.

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknow http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknow-3/ Fri, 24 Mar 2017 02:23:57 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1048 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

An interview with Fatma, an Iraqi woman refugee, living in a German refugee camp*

My name is Fatma, I am 30 years old and I am from Iraq. In 2008 we went to Syria where we lived for several years. Then we went to Turkey, we took a boat to Greece and then we arrived in Germany where my daughter died. Living in the refugee camp is not easy for me. We have a shared kitchen and everyone can walk in this kitchen. If I didn’t have children, I wouldn’t come here. My daughter is 10 years old and goes to school; the other two children go to kinder-garden. Last year I was attending a German course but it was far away. I had to travel a long distance and then I had also to pick up my children from school. I left that course and I have applied for a place at a German course which is closer to the camp but I’ve been told that I have to wait for 7 months.

*This interview was held anonymously and edited by MEWC

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknow http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknow-2/ Wed, 22 Mar 2017 01:41:59 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1046 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

An interview with Forat, an Iraqi woman refugee, living in a German refugee camp*

My name is Forat, I am 45 years old and I am from Iraq. As there is war in my country, we travelled to Turkey and from Turkey we took a boat to Greece. Then we passed by several countries and we arrived in Germany. I have a son who is very ill and life here is not easy for me. I have been here for 1.5 year. Two months ago I started attending a German course which is offered by the State, I go there from Monday to Friday. My son is 9 years old and he got a place at school 2 months ago.

*This interview was held anonymously and edited by MEWC

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknow http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknow/ Mon, 20 Mar 2017 03:17:26 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1044

March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

An interview with Fahima, an Iraqi woman refugee, living in a German refugee camp*

My name is Fahima, I am 30 years old and I am from Iraq. Few months ago, we took an airplane from Iraq to Turkey and from Turkey we took a boat to Greece. Then we took a bus and we passed by several countries like Serbia, Macedonia and then we arrived in Germany. I am happy in this refugee camp. In the previous camp, we couldn’t cook for ourselves as there was only catering and we couldn’t eat –because of our religion and culture- all the meals. Plus, we were receiving only 100euros per month from the German State. Here, we can cook whatever we want and I am happy with the current situation. I think my life is now starting. The most important thing is that there is peace here. My 9 year old daughter goes to school and we are looking for a place for my son at the kinder-garden. I have also applied for a place at a German course which is offered by the State.

*This interview was held anonymously and edited by MEWC

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown… http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknown-5/ Fri, 17 Mar 2017 01:49:52 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1040 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

An interview with Uzma, an Iraqi woman refugee, living in a German refugee camp*

My name is Uzma, I am 62 years old and I am from Iraq. In Iraq there is war right now so we took a plane from Iraq to Istanbul. Then, from Istanbul we took a plane to the Czech Republic where we stayed for one day and then we took a car to Germany. We did not know the driver, he was a stranger and other people told us that we could get in his car and drive us to Berlin. In Germany, there is peace, whereas in my country there is war. Of course, there are difficulties. It is hard for me to talk with other people as we don’t speak the same language and the distances here are very long. My husband is ill and he is in a wheel chair and this is hard for me. He has a liver problem and it is hard for me to take the bus with him in order to go to the doctor. I have to take a taxi and this costs us a lot of money. Currently, I am living in the refugee camp and I am learning German.

*This interview was held anonymously and edited by MEWC

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown… http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknown-4/ Wed, 15 Mar 2017 04:54:39 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1036 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

An interview with Aadela, an Afghan woman refugee, living in a German refugee camp*

My name is Aadela, I am 44 years old and I am from Afghanistan. I was living with my family in Afghanistan and there was war as always. The next country we lived in was Iran but we were having problems, especially the children had problems at school. Then, we moved to Turkey and we lived there for a couple of years. This is why we decided to move to Germany. Here (in Germany), we are registered at the job center which in theory, means that we are allowed to stay in the country for 3 years. Now, we have a problem because we need to present our official passports and we don’t have them so we went to the Afghan embassy in Berlin in order to get our original birth certificates. We have no family left back home to help us with this problem. We don’t know if we will get these documents and I just hope that even if we don’t get the documents, Germany will provide us with new ones. For the moment, I am at the refugee camp all day and I go to German courses three times per week. There is also a volunteer who gives yoga classes and I do yoga.

*This interview was held anonymously and edited by MEWC

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown… http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknown-3/ Mon, 13 Mar 2017 03:27:57 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1030

March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

Story of a refugee girl

By: SMN 

My earliest memories as a child are of…

 

…standing in my family’s stilt house, watching my great-grandmother making a long golden necklace… She told me I was going on a long journey far away and I asked her if she was coming with us. She said she was too old and couldn’t join us.

… my uncle, carrying me on his back through the Cambodian jungle, as everyone in our group of approximately 15 people were running, sweating and being exhausted. In the stillness of the night, we prayed to Buddha to protect us from stepping on land mines, or from losing our sense of direction in the thick vegetation if not first detected by the Khmer Rouge or Thai solders who would be all too satisfied to just finish us off.

For days, from village to village, and through the darkness, we had finally made our secret journey from Cambodia to the refugee camp on the Thai border. It is with the gold that my family managed to survive the war, such as the necklace sewn by my great-grandmother through the hem of my skirt. My family was able to escape the killing fields by paying guides who knew their way to the Thai border.

Why would anyone flee away from language, family, culture if they weren’t truly desperate? They say that for this war, there was not a single family who had not lost at least one member. In some cases, only one member would survive. In our family, my grandmother lost her younger sister and her youngest daughter, who would have been my aunt. My little brother, born during the war, was too skinny, too malnourished, and barely survived. What began as a rebel group quickly turned Cambodia’s rice fields into killing fields: Between 1975 and 1979, more than 1.7 million people – one quarter of Cambodia’s entire population – died of torture, overwork, or starvation because of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

smn

As refugees, we fled this nightmare scenario with only few clothes on our backs, with the hope of something better, especially for the kids: me, my brother, and my two younger cousins. In this place called America, my aunts and uncles found jobs cleaning hotel rooms, working as hotel doormen, washing dishes at restaurants, pumping gas, and cleaning wealthy people’s homes. We had to do two jobs at the same time, to wait for the buses while only wearing light shoes and jackets in freezing temperatures, but still our new life was good. This was the land of opportunity.

I remember my first day at school, walking into the classroom and all the other kids’ eyes were on me. I’m not sure who was more shocked, the kids who were facing a foreign girl with a different appearance, poorly dressed and didn’t even know how to say ‘hi’; or me, not knowing any English with eyes just staring at me? I was placed in first grade and had to repeat it since I didn’t know how to read. Luckily, as a kid, I adapted and learned fast. I soon became the family’s interpreter, going to parent/teacher meetings for my brother and cousins, and reading letters and documents for my aunts and uncles. Although my family worked too many hours, they always encouraged us to study hard so we could have an even better life than the one they had. Seeing how hard they worked, I could not imagine failing. At 6th grade, I finally had straight A’s. I was the first of my relatives to go to college, a liberal arts women’s university, finishing my BA in three and a half years – and was also then the first to get a master’s degree. My aunts and uncles eventually saved enough money to start their own Asian restaurant, where I worked every weekend. All the kids went off to college, found jobs and became productive citizens of the United States of America.

The story of my family is a story of refugees, of immigrants, and mostly, of the American Dream. It is one family’s story, a quintessentially American story, shared by many, and hopefully by many more to come, so that this Dream remains alive and reaches us all.

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown… http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknown-2/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 02:22:10 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1028 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

آزادی Āzādī

I am anxiously awaiting Nowruz this week, the new year and new beginning. I’ve decorated my apartment with spring flowers, cleaned the windows and made an appointment to get a radical new haircut (because that is what we traditionally start the new year with – dignified and full of respect for what lies ahead). During all this, the memory of a particular line of a Farsi Nowruz song that we used to sing as children pops into my head: “this is Germany! (crowd response: shake it!) Nowruz is free! (crowd response: shake it!)” This part makes me wonder about the complexity of Germany and the repeated use of a concept as abstract as freedom. Freedom. Such an elusive and delusive idea it is. Coming from a war-torn country this is all my family ever talked about for the first years – آزادی Āzādī. I remember one thing that I was constantly told: “This is Germany. You are free, you have the right to express yourself the way you want. Do not ever be afraid, because this is Germany.”

Stepping into freedom, coming to Germany, I had to be grateful. My gratefulness had to be ready and on display, leaving no doubt.  My every move was watched, as I was never moving alone, my movements were intrinsically linked to those of my people. I had to try to be the good migrant, the one that is grateful, the one that is integrated enough, understands Western culture enough, and is Western enough – “oh no don’t worry, I am not like them”. I am one of those who are worthy of freedom. I am worthy of freedom. I am worthy of this free life.

My friend coined the term argumentative survival and it reminded me of the first lesson I learned from my parents: If there is a table full of men, you approach it and you sit with them and you speak. You always make sure to have a place at a table, ANY table. You always have to speak and you can never be silent or let people silence you. Make sure you read more books than they do; make sure you have absorbed all the knowledge to gain power, make sure you work harder than they do. We did not come here for you to be silent, we came for you to speak and hold your head high while you do. And when you speak, you do not speak for yourself only, you speak on behalf of other people who experience injustice and are invisible and do not have the same opportunities to be heard as you. And this is the first lesson many immigrant children learn in argumentative survival, the burden of representation, the burden of achieving, the impossibility of depoliticizing yourself, the impossibility of an identity detached from your community and history you carry with you. I am worthy of freedom. I am worthy of this free life.

I took these lessons to heart. Sometimes I float between the part that believes in my power, strength and abilities and the part that tells me that I am nothing, that I am not worthy, not smart, not capable. My family suffered an ordeal for me to be able to speak and I feel responsible. Yet, when I complain about discrimination and oppression my mom reminds me of our times when we used to live in Iran. She laughs and says: “We were treated like dogs and trash in Iran. This? I don’t care what these Germans say behind my back. I am free here! This? This is paradise!” Freedom.

As the years went on, we were able to create a stable life for ourselves in this country. My mother no longer had to clean the houses of white German moms nor babysit their spoiled children any longer. We moved from our social housing and bought a house in a sketchy area. Instead of living next to working class people of color we now lived with working class white people. Just as we thought that this was it, this was freedom and we got to have our fair share of it, a personal turmoil of the past came back to haunt us, making freedom not only a public but a private issue. Isn’t the circle of freedom strange? The trauma of invading a country, denying people’s right to self-determination, degrading and destabilizing their countries, their identities, their bodies, culture and feeling of self-esteem? How are these things manifested in the everyday lives of our children and future generations? How does structural violence become an issue of violence against our bodies? The bodies which are supposed to be free? How does structural violence make countries, communities, families and individuals feel defeated inside and out? Freedom. You gain some, you lose some. A strange perception indeed when I hear people talk about freedom and human rights and equality. Everybody speaks about it, but for some of us it is something we are told we have to earn and fight for just to end up realizing that freedom is empty, it is a delusion for people like us.

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Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown… http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/women-refugees-our-journey-into-the-unknown/ Mon, 06 Mar 2017 11:33:30 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1025 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. This year MEWC is dedicating the month for women refugees, and creating a space for them to share their stories. Our aim with this project is to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a woman refugee, and impact the perceptions of the media and the public about them.

I am YOU!

By: Edona Zogu

When I saw the Syrian refugees crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece, crossing the roads from Greece to Serbia, it reminded of me back in 1999.

Refugee – is not just a term that you should know. It does not mean that he/she is seeking for a better life or that he/she wants to go to Western Countries because that’s what he/she wanted all her/his life. In fact, it is none of the above.

 

 

Edona

 

Being refugee passes all the borders of your wills and desires, all your ideals and dreams. Refugee means you are forced to leave your country, your home, your school, your friends, your childhood and your life and your dreams, with or without your will. Refugee means you have nothing but yourself, your pain, you disgrace and your lost sense of belonging.

I was 16 years old and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to become, when I was forced to abandon my dreams and leave my beloved country-Kosovo, my parents and my youngest sister because of the war. We were separated during that time, as my parents and sister were blocked in the war-zone, meanwhile me with my two other older sisters and brother were trying to get away from all the war misery and continue our studies in the capital city. Back then, I wanted to be a doctor.

I remember I wasn’t afraid of death, I wasn’t afraid of shoots and bombings, as they were our daily routine. Somehow you become non-human, and you adapt yourself in the new environment.

By the end of March 1999, we were forced to leave our home and headed to FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). We were stuck for two days in the neutral zone, between Kosovo and FYROM, as new refugees were not accepted at that time. There I got the “famous” title of refugee and I experienced the features that come with it. At the “No Man’s land”, I realized that it is not just about surviving a war but about your personal survival too. There, you have no hope of having your dreams fulfilled, of making your parents proud of your achievements, of having the sense of belonging to somewhere. In fact you don’t belong to any place, any family, any joy or to yourself anymore. Everything is ruined, not just your home, school, childhood and family.

After the “No Man’s Land”, we stayed at the refugee camp in FYROM before we flew to Belgium to another refugee camp where we stayed for five months. I knew nothing about Belgium at that time. We were treated with lots of respect and dignity. With the refugee status, I had equal rights with the Belgian citizens and I was amazed by that. However, nothing feels like home! Back then, I only had one wish: to be back at my home with my parents and family. Our parents could have come to Belgium but they chose to stay in Kosovo as they were experiencing the freedom for the first time in the history of our country.

After the war ended, I flew back to my homeland. The very same moment we decided to go back, we knew we are homeless. The Serbian forces burned our home but our will to reconstruct it was stronger than ever. We wanted to go back to contribute to the restoration and development of our country. My sisters and my brother managed to study and find jobs. Today I’m a 34-year old female, journalist and psychologist. Once I was a refugee as YOU are today, once I lost my sense of belongingness too. I am YOU!

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MARCH 8th 2017 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/march-8th-2017-international-womens-day/ Tue, 28 Feb 2017 18:53:09 +0000 http://www.blog.makeeverywomancount.org/?p=1005 March is declared as women’s month and women’s achievements and contributions to history and society are celebrated worldwide. Make Every Woman Count (MEWC) as an African woman-led organisation, which serves as a mobilising, networking, information, advocacy and training platform for African women, is launching the project “Women Refugees: Our Journey Into the Unknown..” throughout the month of March to celebrate women’s history and rights.

March 8th is the International Women’s Day. A day for promoting respect and appreciation for women and promoting equal economic, social, and political rights between genders. This year MEWC as part of its Women Refugees project, is planning on dedicating the day for refugees supporters to share solidarity messages.

According to UN’s refugee agency, women and girls make up around 50 per cent of any refugee, internally displaced or stateless population. Eighty-six percent of refugees are hosted by developing countries, with more than 30% in Turkey (2 million), Pakistan (1.5 million) and Lebanon (1.15 million). During 2016, almost 1 million refugees are estimated to have arrived in Europe by sea alone, according to the International Organization for Migration.

MEWC aims to showcase the resilience and survival of what it means to be a refugee. We wish to share our supporting messages for the people who risk everything in the pursuit of a better life in another country.

If you are interested in sharing your support and solidarity with refugees we invite you to send us your message:

  1. Submit your message to: info@makeeverywomancount.org
  2. Style: Your message can be in the form of a video (no more than 30seconds), poem, photo, or short written message (no more than 100 words).
  3. Deadline: March 6th 2017

 

We invite you to follow us and join us in our social media on March 8th

Twitter: @MakeWomenCount

Facebook: Make Every Woman Count

 

Every girl and woman has a right to a peaceful life. Together, let’s make every woman count!

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