November 8, 2008
Translated by Iren Bencze
The first meeting of migrant women currently living in Hungary took place on November 8, 2008, in the organization of Menedék – the Hungarian Association for Migrants. The goal of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for migrant women to meet, exchange experiences, and voice recommendations in order to improve their situation.
Following a get to know each other game, ladies with over 10 years of Hungarian background shared their stories, including anecdotes about the difficulties they had (and still have) with the Hungarian language, and also the fact that after a while, one doesn’t know anymore where home is: here in Hungary, or back on their native land.
The personal stories were followed by an introduction of women’s associations, including the British Women’s Association, the Chinese Women’s Association, the International Women’s Club, and the North American Women’s Association. While all these organizations manifested interest in the meeting, the Chinese Women’s Association was the only one able to send delegates; the other associations contributed information material about their work.
Something remarkable about the Chinese Women’s Association is that they have taken up the enormous challenge of helping migrant families to solve their everyday problems, to find jobs in Hungary, and to take care of the necessary paperwork to live in the country. Their phone lines are open 24/7, even when their leaders attend a meeting like ours. While preserving Chinese traditions, they help newcomers familiarize themselves with the Hungarian culture, and they organize trips on Hungarian holidays. Not only that, but they literally put their money where their mouth is: they raised over one*
million HUF for the victims of the Asian tsunami.
Following a short break, the women discussed the principles laid down in Brussels in January 2007, and accepted by NGOs of 21 countries, regarding the situation of migrant women in the EU. Some of the problems they face in Hungary include access to language learning for adults; the difficulty of obtaining citizenship, due to language and cultural barriers; and the lack of knowledge about the local legislation. (For example, according to the Chinese Women’s Association, out of a 20,000 strong Chinese community, 6,000 people applied for citizenship, but only a mere 300 were granted.) Getting foreign college and university degrees accepted for work in Hungary is also difficult. …And something that is a problem not only in Hungary: women receive less payment for the same work as men do
, and because men are still regarded as the bread winner in a family, they get raises more often than women do.
In conclusion, the following recommendations were voiced, in order to improve migrant women’s situation in Hungary:
- In order to help migrants to actively participate in public life, provide foreign language information about the local authority elections (all residents are eligible to vote for municipal bodies, regardless of citizenship!)
- Make migrant women visible to the general public, to allow the majority population to see these women’s contributions to the local society
- Provide more information to the migrant community about the local culture and legislation Where possible, provide language learning discounts for adults
- Considering that migrant women have less access to information than men do, set up an information sharing network to help them stay clued in.
At the end of the meeting, the ladies committed to keeping in touch through email, to inviting each other to events and activities, to organizing another meeting soon, and possibly uniting to act together in the future to represent migrant women in Hungary.
With the support of
* Attendees heard two different amounts being voiced, perhaps due to the Chinese lady's Hungarian pronunciation 'negy
= four) or 'egy
The Sunny Side of Globalization
A handful of ladies gathered at the first Meeting of Migrant Women in Budapest, representing seven cultures of the world: Australian, Chinese, Cuban, Hungarian, Polish Romanian, and Russian. Legal status, access to education, employment and decent paychecks all came into picture as the conversation went on, yet when it came to participation in public life, something amazing surfaced. Regardless of how long they were in the country or how well they spoke Hungarian, these ladies were already actively contributing to the Hungarian society, supporting their local communities...