A New Women Connectors Manifesto
Success stories are often used by organizations and companies, less as inspiration but rather as excuses not to change the system – arguing that if some refugee women succeeded in the present system, so should everyone else. These stories should be told by the people who live them, to avoid tokenism and make use of the stories to change the system and create new and inclusive structures ~ Prof. Halleh Ghorashi
The New Women Connectors Manifesto sets out critical issues of concern for refugee, stateless and migrant women in Europe and demands for these to be addressed. This Manifesto is the result of a series of online gatherings hosted by New Women Connectors (NWC) with refugee, stateless and migrant women across Europe in 2020, who find that insufficient attention is given to their rights and issues within the EU. We are women from diverse backgrounds, religions, occupations, sexualities, ages, and abilities, who have survived war, conflict, discrimination and persecution. We are not passive victims, nor helpless beneficiaries, we are strong, resilient and resourceful women who want to see a change in the way we are perceived and spoken for.
We are concerned about the erasure of the voices of refugee, migrant and stateless women in the policy decision-making process which affects our lives. Far too often we are left out of the room and when we are included, our concerns are considered as mere opinions or background noise. Our lived experience and knowledge are not taken seriously at the policy level.
Refugee, stateless and migrant women continue to face multiple forms of discrimination, violation of our rights, precarity and marginalization due to our position at the intersection of gender, migration status, and sexuality.
As refugee, migrant and stateless women we find that EU health care systems are ill-equipped to deal with our health and wellbeing. We find there to discriminatory practices and services which are not gender nor culturally sensitive. In particular, now during the COVID19 pandemic, we find that access to basic information and services hindered by practices put in place to counteract the virus without regard to the issues faced by refugee, migrant and stateless women. The digitalization of health processes further exacerbates this exclusion, as it does not take into account migrant women who may be digitally illiterate, lacking language skills or not having access to digital tools. This has particular consequences for stateless women who often find no categorization on online portals, making it impossible for them to access health services. As such the COVID19 pandemic, besides being a health crisis has also heightened the numerous other crises that were already evident to us migrant, refugee and stateless women, including but limited to, lack of job security, lack of access to social security, and domestic violence.
Our Demands / Call for
These critical issues could and should be counteracted by allowing migrant women to participate in the policy-making and decision-making processes. We demand a bottom-up approach to policy-making in the EU which includes promoting the active participation of refugee, migrant and stateless especially women. This involves creating space for refugee, migrant and stateless women to advocate for their rights and in their own interests. Such a process should be inclusive, where refugee, migrant and stateless women are treated as equal partners. We also demand that migrant-led organizations be actively involved in policy-making and given the lead in the promotion of active political participation.
We demand gender mainstreaming, which is sensitive to migration issues, be made part of all EU policy debates going forward. This means including a migration lens in gender-equality policies as well as a gender-equality lens in integration and inclusion policies.
We call for increased financial resources to be made available to refugee, migrant and stateless organizations that are working towards building solidarity and creating opportunities, through research, workshops and seminars.
Alongside this, we demand that more resources are invested in the legal aid, training and dissemination of information on access to education and labor market inclusion.
We demand a review of health and care procedures in order to make health care services more accessible and free from discrimination.
We call for access to language courses and digital literacy courses to be made freely available to migrant, refugee and stateless women.
We believe that equal opportunities for migrant, refugee and stateless women is a precondition for a gender-equal Europe and as such call for more equitable access to integration services, with resources made available for childcare during the training period.
Lastly, we call for institutions, civil society organisations and policy-makers to start to practice deep listening. When we, as migrant, refugee and stateless women speak up we deserve for our expertise and lived experiences to be listened to with respect and compassion. For us, this is the first step of solidarity needed in order to tackle the issue of gender equality in Europe.
New Women Connectors, 2020