Migration has been a trending topic in the public debate for many years. Especially in the receiving countries, heated discussions around multiculturalism, national identity and social welfare have often been reduced to pro and contra immigration stances. The immigrant becomes the scapegoat for all sorts of economic, political and social issues, but what the public discourse tends to overlook is to address who these immigrants actually are, what motivates them to leave their home and their families, and which obstacles they are confronted with in transit, as well as upon arrival at the destination.
With this series on women and migration, Gender Across Borders tries to shed light onto some of the various forms of migration, in an attempt to represent the plethora of migration experiences and the people behind them. Our focus will be on women, because their stories differ greatly from those of male migrants, as the following posts will illustrate.
This series features personal accounts, observations and critiques by women and men from several continents. Their stories couldn’t be any different from each other, yet they have one thing in common: They all show that migration, whether chosen or forced, is part of the eternal human endeavor to make a better life for oneself and one’s family.
We spoke to Flavia Dzodan, a writer and blogger, who came from Argentina to the Netherlands, only to be confronted with her «otherness». She gives an excellent overview of the situation in Europe, the final destination for many immigrants, who have to face dehumanizing immigration laws, institutionalized racism and an increasingly hateful rhetoric from far-right politicians. Especially the role of women migrants is exploited for political gains.
A lot of female migrants coming to Western Europe from Eastern Europe and Africa end up in Spain and are exploited as sex workers. In her article, Samantha Smith critizes Spain’s laissez-faire attitude in regards to these mostly trafficked women, and urges us to recognize the individuals and their stories beyond the stigmatized term “prostitutes”.
Ruxandra Looft’s personal experience could be considered a migration success story. She now lives in the US with her young family and completes a PhD. Few people would guess that at the age of seven, she and her family left their home and their belongings for an unknown future. The Night We Left recalls these days of uncertainty and what remains of her Romanian heritage today.
Claire Charamnac also remembers her childhood and the naivité with which she assumed the normalcy of having maids at home. Growing up in Singapore, which heavily relies on migrant women as domestic workers, she started questioning the way these women are taken advantage of, criticizing both the sender and the receiving countries.
Finally, Pasipanodya Mubaiwa describes the struggle of Zimbabwean women looking for a better future in South Africa. He emphasizes the dangers of the journey, the discrimination faced upon arrival, and what the emigration of Zimbabweans means for those left behind.
Last but not least we would like to draw your attention to the artwork illustrating this post, courtesy of Girija Kaimal, who was born and raised in India and began her professional career as a textile designer. She moved from India to America in 1998 and became an art therapist, an education researcher, a wife and a mother. Her art is inspired by her journeys; she uses media that reminds her of home and yet uses many materials that are mainly found in the developed world. You can find more of her artwork and her vision on her blog Art stories.
The series will run the entire day. Enjoy reading!