Norway: Immigrant women active in society

Norway: Immigrant women active in society

Immigrant women participate in several social arenas as much or more than the rest of the population, which conflicts with the image of the oppressed immigrant women.

Local politicians Aisha Ahmed (19) and Hatice Elmacioglu (40) in Drammen are among the many women of immigrant background who have took control of seats on municipal boards around the country last elections.  With that they contributed to the fact that immigrant women and men in local politics are much more equal then the rest of the population.

While women make up 46% of the immigrant representatives in municipal councils, women make up just 38% among all municipal council representatives.  In Drammen 12 non-Western representatives were elected for the council in 2007, the most in the country.  The wish to influence drives Norwegian-Pakistani Ahmed and Norwegian-Turk Elmacioglu.

Elmacioglu says she's a single mother of three and saw that there was a lot missing in the schools.  "I decided to go into politics and came up from 20th to 8th place on the Conservative Part's list by actively getting votes," says Elmacioglu.

Ahmed was active in the Labor Party since she was 15 and was told she's a role model for young girls.

"It's important to participate in the debate.  I think that it can motivate and engage other minority women to do the same."

The report "Immigrants and the municipal elections 2007" from Statistics Norway also shows that immigrant women usually vote more in elections than immigrant men.  Adviser Vebjørn Aalandslid of Statistics Norway points out that there are great different between different immigrant groups, but thinks that the finds are interesting.

"This corresponds badly with the image of the oppressed immigrant woman which is often described," he says.

Minority women differentiate themselves positively not only in local politics: Women of immigrant background own their own company almost as often as Norwegian women, they complete upper secondary school more often than immigrant boys, get higher education more often compared to the rest of the population, and participate more often than immigrant men in Norwegian courses.

Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman Beate Gangås this this clearly shows the great resources among immigrant women in Norway.

She says that these numbers give a nuancing of the image which is often created of oppressed immigrant women who live on the sidelines of Norwegian society.  The facts show that there are many resource-strong women who actively participate in society.

Hatice Elmacioglu and Aisha Ahmed work for including and socializing minority women.  Ahmed heads a Pakistani women's organization in Drammen and Elmacioglu is a female representative in the Turkish national association and regularly arranges women's parties in Drammen.  The parties are open for everybody, but Norwegian women seldom come.

"I'm concerned by Norwegian women. I think they're so occupied by their own lives that they don't engage in what happens outside," she says.

The women's movement was accused this week of failing immigrant women.  Ahmed agrees.

"Why doesn't the women's movement cry out that immigrant women don't get jobs.  It's easy to accuse culture and different values and it leads in some cases to immigrant women not being taken seriously," she thinks.   Conservative Elmacioglu emphatically disagrees.

"I wanted to go into politics and now I'm there.  There are possibilities, but you must fight for it," she says.

Last week Elmacioglu invited the deputy mayor in Drammen and Frp man Freddy Hoffmann to her home so he could learn more about non-Western culture.

"We must fight prejudices.  I got praise from Hoffman for being a good role model," she says.

Source: Dagsavisen (Norwegian)

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