On 6 June 2023, on behalf of WIDE+ and the network’s Migration and Gender working group, Nurhidayah Hassan, programme coordinator, had the opportunity to speak at the European Parliament for an event on “Feminist Receptions, Transforming Together: Border Contexts and Welcome Models for Migrant Women, Adolescents and Children in Europe and Mesoamerica”.
The event was organised by WIDE+ member, Creación Positiva, with its partners, Almena Cooperative Feminista and Formación y Capacitación AC, or FOCA AC, along with Member of European Parliament Diana Riba i Giner (from the Greens/EFA political group). The event has been organised within the framework of the project, “Acogidas Feministas: Transformamos Juntas” (Feminist Receptions: Let’s Transform Together”. One of the objectives of the event is to raise awareness of the situation at the borders and in the migration, refugee, and asylum contexts for women in both European and in the central Mexico-Guatemala corridor. While the two migration contexts are different, the goal is to also share good practices in addressing the reception of migrant women from an intersectional, intercultural, and anti-racist feminist perspective. Other speakers at the panel discussion event included Diana Damián, FOCA A.C.; Jara Henar, Alianza por la Solidaridad (also a WIDE+ member); Sylvia Tejada, Mujeres Pa’lante; Maritza Sore and Amanda Alexanian, Almena Cooperativa Feminista. It was moderated by Mª Luisa García Berrocal, coordinator of Creación Positiva.
Aside from MEP Riba, there were other public decision-makers present at the panel such as Mireia Mata i Solsona, the current Secretary of Equality of the Generalitat de Catalunya, and MEP Monica Silvana Rodriguez (from Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats political group). The event was also attended by the European Network of Migrant Women, the International Center for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), among others.
Mireia Mata started the discussion by stating that feminism is not just a word but a way of seeing life and a perspective that can bring about real change in the migration context. Diana Damian, representing FOCA A.C., explained the migration situation in Mexico, and that despite the pandemic, migration in Mexico did not stop. There is an equal representation of men and women in migration, but women move in different ways and for different reasons (eg: while men take the train, women tend to walk in their migration journeys). She said that migration is also a sign of an increase in poverty where people want to seek more opportunities for better lives.
Both Jara Henar and Sylvia Tejada discussed the denial of migrants’ rights in Spain and throughout Europe. Henar argued, “The migration policy of the EU is murderous, it is responsible for many deaths. It is also hypocritical especially when you look at the differentiation of policies for Ukrainians, versus other refugees.” Tejada, speaking from the migration context of Spain, echoed this sentiment and pointed out the violence women experience during all phases of migration. She also highlighted how migrant women tend to live in precarious, non-segregated accommodation centers in slave-like conditions and critiqued the lack of a rights-based approach in the migration policies of Spain.
The panel then moved to discuss feminist approaches to supporting migrant women. To this end, Damian presented the comprehensive accompaniment model of FOCA A.C. where care is centred and actions are designed not to revictimize migrant women. This model is also feminist, intersectional and rights-based where the actions cover 3 main components – the right to information and training; the right to comprehensive accompaniment; and the right to social and political participation. Maritza Sore and Amanda Alexanian of the Almena Feminista Cooperative also emphasised that a feminist approach to accompaniment models is one that is focused on transforming patriarchal, welfare, colonialist and racist imaginaries about migrant women who are not from Western territories.
Nurhidayah Hassan, representing WIDE+, agreed with Damian and the Almena team, and presented two examples that are in line with their recommendations. She presented the work of WIDE+ members – International Women Space’s Break Isolation Group, a peer-to-peer support model led by refugee women that is based on community-building and having safe spaces away from the challenges of living in accommodation centres in Berlin and Brandenburg; and Red Latinas’ political school where the goal is to promote the political participation of migrant women in Spain. She said, “The most important takeaway from these examples is that we need to consider migrant women as vital stakeholders when designing policies and include them in all levels of decision-making processes. Migrant women have demonstrated strong community leadership and a wide spectrum of expertise when it comes to social justice work.” She also recommended simplifying access to EU funding for migrant women associations so that they can work in a more equitable and sustainable way.
While there was no time left for an active exchange with the audience, MEP Riba concluded the panel discussion by saying that migration is a complex and highly nuanced issue, and she noted that there are some Member States that use the topic of migration for “political war”. She welcomed the feminist interventions of all the speakers and agreed that another way of “managing migration” is possible.