3. Stories of integration: migrant women in Europe

Mitzaida Rojas Ramírez: age should not be a barrier to work


By Yoselina Guevara López

“I arrived in Madrid at the age of 50 and every job I applied for I was rejected because of my age.  Here in Spain they made me feel very old for all the times they told me: you are too old for the position we are looking for. It doesn’t matter your experience, your knowledge, your skills, only your age matters, incredible but true, there are not many opportunities for people over 50 and older”.

This is the testimony of Mitzaida Rojas Ramírez, a Venezuelan migrant, married, with two daughters.  She is a university graduate in Administration with more than 15 years of experience at the business level, but she has to work as a cook, a trade she is passionate about and for which she feels no shame, in fact she says that every day she tries to improve herself through the professional training offered by the State Public Employment Service (SEPE). But in a Europe that claims to be a defender of the fundamental rights of citizens, including migrants who decide to live in these lands, is there no recognition of the studies and experience of women who arrive on the European continent with professional experience despite their age? 

For Mitzaida, getting lost in thousands of years of bureaucratic procedures and endless waiting for the recognition of her university degrees is not an alternative to live at least with dignity. Hence, she has decided to work in a trade as a cook, and as she herself states:

“You can’t say in a job interview that you are a university graduate or with a degree and go looking for a cleaning job, for example. I learned to hang my college degree on a wall and keep quiet, to pass for ignorant of a subject many times to be taken into account to perform an activity or to avoid a bad comment like what do you know about that if you are a cook?”.

Mitzaida’s work experience in Spain has been full of ups and downs, humiliations, labor exploitation, massacring shifts, racism, but cooking has helped her to integrate. On the one hand, she has learned about the traditions and dishes that are typical in Spain and that are part of the culinary art of the Iberian Peninsula. But cooking has also allowed him to keep alive the customs and traditional celebrations of his country.

“For me it is extremely important to preserve our roots and traditions, not only in Venezuela but also in my family. I come from a family where food, sharing a plate of food with others is extremely important, it represents a blessing to others, it is to promote love”.

He carries that feeling of solidarity with him, but he also does not lose the joy of living fully the celebrations of traditions in Spain, culture is also integration.

“Madrid celebrates many festivities encouraging joy and sharing, they take their customs and traditions very seriously and that fascinates me. Practically every month there is a celebration, I try to go and enjoy them when I can, but the truth is that I love this country and especially Madrid, which is where I live. Some of these celebrations that I like are San Isidro’s day, the day of the constitution”.

Mitzaida smiles, her green eyes have not lost their brightness and joy despite the sadness and nostalgia of being away from loved ones. She walks through a park, it is winter and yet the weather gives an unexpected spring, with so much of the splendor of a sunny day. He sits on a bench reading a book, nothing prevents him from continuing to nourish himself with the knowledge that reading gives. One last request for those who are or will be in the European Parliament:

“Expand job opportunities for women regardless of age, that age is not a limitation to opt for a decent job because it is not the age that limits you but the knowledge in an area, experience and skills. Members of the European Parliament should know and listen to women who have been deceived in search of jobs, and develop laws that protect both migrant and national women to avoid exploitation and deception”.

Yoselina Guevara López: Venezuelan social communicator, political analyst, columnist in different international media, whose work has been translated into English, Italian, Greek and Swedish. Winner of the Simon Bolivar 2022 National Journalism Award (Venezuela), special mention Opinion; Anibal Nazoa 2021 National Journalism Award (Venezuela); I Comandante Feliciano 2022 Historical Memory Contest (El Salvador) Third place. X: @lopez_yoselina

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