WIDE Herstory in Pictures

At the Annual Conference 2010, held in Bucharest, Romania, the WIDE Network celebrated its 25th Anniversary.

Following the UN Conference on Forward Looking Strategies in Nairobi, in 1985, the WIDE network was born out of the will of a group of the women working in development NGOs in Europe, committed to integrate the women’s rights agenda and equality concerns in their work. These women felt the need for a solidarity network to support them in their struggle.

You can download WIDE herstory in pictures from here.


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Closing Remarks of the Conference

Christa Wichterich, an independent writer, feminist activist and member of WIDE from Germany, made concluding remarks of the WIDE Annual Conference 2010. Her presentation compiles the main issues raised during the gathering in Bucharest and suggests strategies on how to move forward!

Download the presentation from here.

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How to build a women’s movement

Economic policies are not gender neutral and women are excluded from global economic decisions. The real system against which women fights is the patriarchy.

The Nicaraguan case of movement building is a successful story that can be followed. The methodology of the movement tried to find a way out from the blockade that the government had put. This blockade was created in the very moment when the organization had reached a dialog with the UN. Women’s movement in Nicaragua created a link with UN that succeeds to present a political, social and economic agenda.

It was used a nonnegotiable collective economic agenda as key to communicate with UN officials, meaning that the issues on the agenda were preset and no change could be accepted. The only concession that was possible was to settle the priorities in time, what could be done right away, what should be done in near future and what on long term.

A real achievement is that the movement built a network in Latin Central America. Strong feminist leadership was oriented toward new generations of women and left the personal interests for collectives ones. Regional Women’s Movement combined their agenda with the UN agenda. But that may be risky to follow the tracks of laws implementation or money flow. Instead, the success is the discussion over women’s economical issues at global level. On one side women need to have access to economical assets, on the other side women mobilization is needed for exceeding the bureaucratic system in order to have an impact on population. While women’s movements have to work at national level on some specific situations, other points on collective agenda will be linked to global interests. Globally women’s movements are highly contested; it was gained less than it was lost. The qualitative feminist agenda is extremely debatable: it is not enough to be part of the movement without saying anything, it is important to enter own issues on the movement’s agenda. The strategies should be flexible in order to summarize a coalition of forces, raising awareness through challenging of stereotypes, reading diversity, change the image of women as victims into the image of women as agents, new kind of links with the Global South.

Ioana Vrabiescu, participant in the Workshop “Vision Lab” in the last day of the conference.

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Walking the Talk: Putting Alternatives into Practice and Policy

Saturday, the last day of WIDE annual conference, was dedicated to discussions on topics such as women human rights or migration and equality.

The first speaker was Patel Pragna, representing Southall Black Sisters ONG. Mrs. Patel talked about the situation of migrant woman in the United Kingdom. She mentioned the unhappy situation of migrant women who leave their country in order to find a better life in England, but unfortunately the British laws represent their misfortune. Once on British ground in maximum two years they are supposed to be married in order not to be deported and so they become victims of abuse. In one form or another they become the plunder of abused marriages. Most of the times they are imprisoned in their husbands homes or even in one room beaten or malnourished.

The law may help them or so it is said, only if they are able to provide proves of their abuse, but in order to be declared victims of an abuse the quantity of proof must be extremely consistent and the process is so long that most of the victims give up.

The Southall Black Sisters ONG, tried to solve the issues of gender equality, based on the fact that if Britain put a great deal of effort in order to eradicate violence against British women why shouldn’t they do the same font migrant women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Middle East, Africa, etc.

It was also discussed that there is a continuous circle as the state says that this problem should be solved by the migration control, while the migration control blames the government.

In the end of her presentation, Mrs Pragna underlined that her organization (ever since the 1990s) has been campaigning in order for migrant women to feel able to leave a violent marriage without being afraid of deportation.

The second speaker was Adila Mammadova Aydin, lawyer for the Migration Centre, Azerbaijan, working on strategies to protect women that are victim of trafficking. She talked about the Chinese refugees that come to Azerbaijan, how they work in massage saloons and how they are forced to practice prostitution, and how in case of any disease the Migration Center has to find  all the men that came into contact with these women.

 She also asserted that the reason for this type of trafficking is the fact that these women have no access to information regarding the place they are going to work to when they leave their countries. Doe to this, the Azeri Migration Center has founded a call center where by calling 152 they can get whatever information they need.

The third presentation was that of Banica Cerasela, from the Advocacy and Human Right Centre, Romania, on the situation of Roma women linked to migration. She started this topic from a little story about the migration of Roma people from India 1000 years ago. She also mentioned that ever since Roma people have confronted themselves with discrimination. Most of them don’t have identity cards even now in the 21st century. Along with this, in case of education, if any, most of them barely finish the 4th grade, due to poverty or lack of resources to maintain all the kids in school. Due to a perpetual search for a better life Roma women are easy victims for human trafficking, and so the one that may sense her into this business is a member of the family: a brother, a cousin, an uncle, etc.

 In order to escape this „slavery” regime, the Roma woman has to declare the abuse to the police, but as it is a hidden activity, and as no one talks about it, these women are trapped within a vicious circle; the police doesn’t believe them as most of the times it works hand in hand with the „provider”. The only help these women have is to get legal aid, but as we all know legal aid without being well financed does not bring the needed help. The legal aid is not the proper one, the process is so long, the proof must be consistent so the majority of Roma women give up and accept their faith.

 Bringing this problem in the limelight of publicity, it will just bring more stigmatization instead of solving it, the so called positive discrimination we all know about it. What she stressed out is that if a problem is not talked about it does not mean is inexistent.

 At the end of the discussion she underlined that trafficking is not specific for Roma women, it is specific for everybody as any woman can be easily trapped, and the only ones that may help them are NGOs, that fight in order to pressure the government into making some changes.

Sinziana Ghise & Ana Maria Oteanu, participants at Panel 3 in the third day of the conference

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Exposing, Resisting and Developing Alternatives

On the last day of the WIDE conference, in the second part entitled Exposing, Resisting and Developing Alternatives we went deeper into envisioning alternatives, how we could build bridges between several migrant women’s groups and the women’s movement as well as towards other movements, thus be inclusive in diversity.

 The first to speak was Dilber Aydin from the International Free Women’s Foundation.  She spoke of the problems that Kurdish women confront within Europe, mentioning that her NGO helps beneficiaries from Turkey, Iraq, Kurdish regions. It also organizes programs for educating migrant women in order to address that knowledge represents a weapon, which can help them fight for their rights or programs in order to stimulate these women sociologically, their cultural development in order to achieve financial sustainability by their one.

The third speaker was Dora Aguirre, past migrant, now a member of the Ecuadorian Parliament. She talked about a very important movement that managed to change the status of women migrants. After the constitution was changed, women not only that could vote but they could also participate in elections both in their original and their host country. A third and important change influenced the fact that they only could elect their president but, this title could be given through elections to both men and women alike.

 If at first the migrants had no voice or anyone to speak on their behalf, Mrs. Aguire”s organization, with the help of churches and through several meetings, managed to change the constitution in such way that Ecuadorians could vote, have a woman or men for president both in the country of origin and host, all in all I could say a very important movement for a minority without anyone to advocate for their rights.

 Sinziana Ghise & Ana Maria Oteanu, participants at Panel 4, third day of the conference.


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Experiences and strategies of migration domestic workers

Care arrangements changed in the last decades, especially in the developed countries. Traditionally the women in the family were the ones who were taking care of the elder people and they were unpaid. As the women started to work on their own, this task had to be taken by someone else. In a globalized world, women from less developed countries may come and take care of the elderly people in developed countries.

One of the workshops in panel 2 offered the study cases on the status of domestic workers in Cyprus and in Switzerland. Sarah Schilliger, researcher and member of WIDE Switzerland offered the participants of the workshop an insight on how migrant women are taking care of elderly, dependent people and how home-based care-arrangements do function in Switzerland. In the most cases migrant women come from Eastern European countries that are member of EU and can enter easily Switzerland. This care arrangement is made after the au-pair model which was first meant to function as an intercultural exchange for young people. But in the home-based care arrangements the work conditions are not so friendly for the care giving persons. They are working for economic reasons and not for intercultural exchange, and the work conditions are demanding strong physical and psychological condition. The main problem for the ones who are offering this kind of care services is that there are no regulations for this job, so the line between being a family member and being a worker is hard to be defined: the working hours are undefined and the working person has to be available round the clock, the tasks are not always clearly defined, the care giver can barely leave the house and has little access to social contacts. There are just informal contracts between the worker and family, therefore the worker has no social benefits and no access to health care, the wages are low and the worker is vulnerable to be exploited or abused. Moreover the migrant women have their own family to look after and they have to pass this responsibility to someone else: either another female member of the family or they hire someone with lower salary to take care of their own family.

The graphic above was presented by Sarah Schilliger in order to represent this “migrant to family” care model. An intersection can be observed between care-regime (who is providing and who is responsible to offer care support for elderly people, how are these responsibilities distributed between the state, the family and the market), gender regime (who is doing this work, men or women?) and the migration-regime (which are the migration regulations and how are the new patterns of labor migration configured).

In conclusion this migrant to family care model is not a win-win solution because of the precarity of working and living conditions of the migrant and this arrangement maintains and recreates inequalities along class, nationality/ethnicity, gender and it creates new global dependencies (care drain, international division of reproductive labor).

Irina Ilisei, participant at Workshop 3 on Studies, experiences and strategies of migration domestic workers to protect their rights, Panel 2.

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What is care?

What is care? What are the actors in global care chain? How this issue is talk about in EU? – These were some topics on Friday afternoon discussions at the WORKSHOP “Global Care Chain”.

The care chains are those unorganized and unrecognized systems where somebody is trapped, unable to renounce at something without breaking the chain.

A meaning of economic global chain is said to be the export of care, and, in the same time, the import of care services. Women migrate leaving their own families for better paid care jobs, while other women from poorer countries will take their place for a less paid job. Export informal work by taking care of elderly in the family, or of the children, leads somewhere to a lack of care, usually in the less protected families. This deepens the poverty. In this chain, men are unable to fill the gap and provide either the financial support, due to the economic reasons, or to supply the care needs in the family due to the educational gender role.

It was emphasized the fact that import of care workers affects also the family structure by introducing the national culture of the care giver in the hosting family.

Inside daily life, in modern states, the labor market is pressuring women (and men) to do overtime work regardless to domestic work in terms of “time”, not only the money.

Without the re-evaluation of “care”, or simply considering as a fundamental value of human life, the migration of care workers will entertain a poor quality of life for people.

As possible conclusions, it was underlined that a care worker can be subject to abuse world wide without recognition and legal frames. Following the same argument, the insufficient financing of state social services or the ignorance of international civil society organizations will draw further inequalities.

Ioana Vrabiescu, participant in the Workshop “Global Care Chain” in the first day of the conference.

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