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Racialized minority women’s journey through integration labyrinth

The MiRA center launched its first-anniversary book #Myeverydaystruggle on March 5th, 2019 in a series of several publications planned on the occasion of MiRA ’s 30th anniversary. The book represents racialized minority women’s voices, where they convey their stories from their perspectives. The MiRA Center wants to shed light on the issues that the racialized minority women’s movement has fought for several decades.

The MiRA center’s work confirms that regardless of ethnic differences and variations in national origin, women with a minority background are fighting a common struggle in Norway. This is the fight against racist gender oppression. The struggle is carried out in several areas, both within the family against patriarchal gender traditions, but also in society at large against marginalization, stereotypes, and prejudices. Being a minority and exposed to racism and gender discrimination binds women together, and forms the core of their everyday struggle for equality.

In #Myeverydaystruggle we meet women who tell stories about challenges with oppressive traditions and discrimination against women. The stories highlight what it is like to deal with diverse challenges related to being a woman and at the same time a minority. Listening to the women’s own experiences and thus being able to better understand their complex situation is important both from a gender equality perspective, but also from an integration perspective.

The simultaneous challenges are about disproving negative representations of oneself, creating a diverse perspective, and accepting that it is ok to be different. It is also about finding one’s place in the labor market and at the same time answering all the questions one’s colleagues may have at any given time about one’ s personal life. Where do you come from? Are you a Muslim? Do you eat pork, why do not you eat pork? Why do you use a headscarf? Do you pray five times? If you do not pray, are you less Muslim? How long have you been in Norway, and how long are you going to be here? For the questioner, this may be meant as harmless and everyday questions, but the one who has to answer is constantly reminded that one does not belong here, and that one is different and foreign. Thus it is a continuous personal struggle against alienation, where one must defend oneself and prove one’s loyalty to the country one lives in.

If I look back on 30 years of our struggle for equality, it has always been intersectional and has been conducted in several areas of society at the same time. We have worked based on a conviction that if the goal is real equality and independence for racialized minority women, it is necessary to make structural changes in several areas of society. This applies in politics and legislation, in social and collegial relations, in the public and private sector, in educational institutions, working life, and in the field of culture.

For the MiRA center, the black women’s movement and the women’s struggle internationally have been an important source of inspiration, and experience from there has shown that economic independence alone is not enough to create real gender equality. As long as patriarchal structures that oppress both women and minorities are not challenged at their core, we will not achieve real equality. Continuous reforms that are to change certain discriminatory practices are important, but a lasting change in society only takes place by changing the structures that perpetuate discrimination in society. The MiRA Center has therefore always looked at the whole of Norwegian gender equality policy, which also includes the Immigration Act. One of the basic requirements for us as equality advocates has been that minority women must become financially, but also legally independent of men. Fighting the three-year rule and the income requirement for permanent residence in the Immigration Act, together with other statutory barriers to minority women’s independence, have therefore been key issues for the MiRA Center.

Integration is basically about rights, opportunities, and empowerment. It is a continuous process and minority women’s experiences in the book can be used as a compass to examine whether integration policy has been successful, and thus given them real opportunities for development and inclusion. We hope that through #Myeverydaystruggle we can increase awareness of the complex reality many minority women live in. The women in the book express their thoughts, opinions, demands, and visions both as women and as minorities. Their stories are guides and inspiration also for young women who want to carry on the fight for equality, with an understanding of what it means to be Norwegian and at the same time a minority. In this way, women contribute to a strengthened basis for the future and intersectional struggle for equality.

The book is in the Norwegian language and can be ordered from the MiRA center.

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