Fakhra Salimis acceptance speech for the Amalie Laksov Human Rights Award
First of all, I would like to offer a great thanks to the board at Amalie Laksovs memorial foundation for awarding this important human rights award for the year 2003 to The MiRA Resource Centre for immigrant and refugee women. We who work at The MiRA Center feel honored to receive this award and see it as recognition for our work and longstanding and persistent work for women´s rights. This struggle has been fought by brave minority women who have also had many good supporters among our ethnically Norwegian sisters.
I have had the privilege of working together with many of these brave women, both at The MiRA Center and through other forums in the community. Today we stand here, humbled, to receive this award on behalf of all of us.
I am also overwhelmed by Amalie Laksovs generosity and courage, that she established this foundation in memory of her husband Håkon Laksov and her four brothers Carl, Benjamin, Harry and Leonard Scheer after they were all killed in German concentration camps in 1943. It is clearly through Amalie Laksovs spirited actions that history will not be forgotten.
This year, The MiRA Centre has received the award. We see it as a clear declaration from the foundations board that even today the work against racism, anti-Semitism and the struggle for women´s rights is very important. It demands a lot of courage from people to see their loved one being killed or abused, just because they have a different skin colour, religion, ethnicity, culture or even another lifestyle. By establishing a memory foundation to protect human rights, Amalie Laksov showed us women´s heroism – that they have both the courage and the strength to vive suffering and loss, while at the same time using this force to fight against injustice.
Minority women in Norway today are fighting a triple battle; they are women, they are part of a minority group and they often belong to the lowest socioeconomic class in society.
The MiRA Centre was the first to organize minority women to put racist gender-based discrimination on the agenda both within their own communities and in Norwegian society. The MiRA Centres more than 20 years of work has played a meaningful roll for all those who have a genuine interest in minority women´s situation. This is because it is minority women themselves who run the Center. We who work at The MiRA Centre live ourselves the reality that most Norwegian experts only talk about. Today there are many resourceful women with minority backgrounds at The MiRA Centre who are advisors and support for other women who face difficult situations because of immigration.
We know that to be a part of a minority group while at the same time being a woman is tough. We also know that to raise our voices in protest against patriarchal and repressive cultural practices demands courage. But we are also aware that our individual rights are strongly connected to the rights of all immigrants and that all this is closely connected to the social, economic, political and cultural environment that we live in. So long as we are marginalized in the Norwegian society as a whole our voices will not be heard. So long as we meet racism and gender discrimination either in the workplace or other places, we are not equal citizens.
It is because of this reality that our struggle as minority women is so complex. We must fight for our rights, both as minorities and as women. In this struggle we need solidarity and support. Amalie Laksovs human rights award for The MiRA Centre is evidence that we are not alone in this struggle.
I will end with some words from the black-American author James Baldwin who lived in France. For many years James Baldwin wrote an open letter to the black author and activist Angela Davis, after she was arrested in the 70s for political advocacy against racism and for the black freedom struggle in the USA. He wrote: “ Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecedented nation.
If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name.
If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own – which it is – and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night”.
YS: Professional Organizations Central Associations Equality Award 1999