4. Stories of integration: migrant women in Europe

Bernadeta Bortos: Helping other migrant women also means integration


By Yoselina Guevara López

Bernadeta talks on the phone, through her words she tries to give strength to those who listen to her, she looks for solutions for other women who, like her, are migrants and feel lost in a country where they have to face a new language, new customs, a whole universe that many times they had imagined different.

Bernadeta relives the year she arrived in Italy, they were very hard months, the separation from the family of origin, the difficulties to obtain the documents that would allow her to stay legally: “my experience goes back many years ago, when it was very difficult to arrive in Italy and integrate. We are talking about November 1999”.

Unfortunately, even in the year 2024, the integration of migrants in Italy is still difficult, the bureaucracy and the lack of governmental assistance at the level of an accompaniment of those who do not know the language, hinder the speed of the procedures. In addition, at the political level, with the concertation of the media and social networks, migrants and refugees continue to be framed as the main cause of unemployment and crime. It is necessary to highlight how the narrative against migration has a destructive power, thanks to social networks, that is not comparable to any other moment in history.

Bernadeta recalls how she overcame the collective prejudices and labels surrounding her fellow countrymen “I was told several times that Romanians are all gypsies and thieves…. but with time I learned to prove that we are not all like that….. In fact, I was proud of my country, we are strong. I used to tell people about the good things in my country, the hardships the Romanian people had to endure, and they understood that we were different from what they were led to believe.” She turned the difficulties into opportunities to help other women, to overcome the loneliness of being faced with a hostile world and the need to identify ourselves as part of the same group.

Being a woman and a migrant are factors of discrimination, and the fact of being a mother can be an unfavorable factor for entering the labor market. Bernadeta points out how she was excluded from jobs simply for having children, not for lack of skills: “Because I am a mother, it happened to me many times in the labor market; not having a job because I am a mother. Even today, I am still a mother…. and this hurts me a lot. I have to say that one of my dreams in the drawer is to never again hear a woman say that she didn’t get the job because she was a mother.”

Many migrant mothers find it impossible to find formal employment in line with their skills and studies, having to resort to domestic work, cleaning, or caring for the elderly, this does not mean that they are less dignified jobs but that the preparation and experience of many migrant women is lost. In addition, they may suffer an unfair gender wage gap, job instability and worse, not being able to continue to develop in the labor market, which for a person can be decisive for a full life.

“Work is not only money, it is also a way to feel valued. But this is not only for migrant women but for all women. Only this claim would be difficult to realize if companies that hire mothers are not helped to pay less taxes (knowing that they could miss work many times for the family and the company would have to call a substitute)”.

Bernadeta’s reflection is summarized in the creation of policies and laws that translate into programs that address the specific needs of migrant women workers. It is necessary to emphasize that the limited legal avenues available to women migrant workers, and their exclusion from labor legislation, make them particularly vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation. Moreover, women migrant workers often suffer different disadvantages than men because of their status, the fact that they are mothers, as well as the stereotypical jobs assigned by patriarchal societies to men and women.

“I wish that at that time, when I arrived in Italy, there had been all those associations that help you to integrate, to settle in Italy. My integration was very long”.

The space of support for migration that has been left empty by some governments and even by the absence of policies and legislation on the subject of migration, has been filled by civil society organizations that have understood that the very existence of human beings and all living beings on the planet depends on union and cooperation. Life cannot be created alone, societies do not grow alone, harmony is created as a whole, even the most spiritual, because it includes the whole as part of itself. At the present time in which humanity suffers the disasters of wars in different regions of the world, it is necessary to reflect on the fact that warlike confrontations have not made us develop as a civilization. On the contrary, openness to the unknown, cooperation and solidarity have been primordial and decisive for our evolution at the human level.

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

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *

Este sitio usa Akismet para reducir el spam. Aprende cómo se procesan los datos de tus comentarios.