Hassan Osman Dahab (Copenhagen, Denmark), 8 March 2006

Ethnic Women in Denmark

Last week I went to one of the Arabic shops in Nørrebrogade to buy special spices for my Falafel. While I was looking for fresh vegetables, and as I was examining the degree of freshness of my spices, I saw a woman – or at least I guess she was a woman because I could not see her face or anything from her forbidden body to decide whether she is a woman or something else. I got interested and I decided to start a conversation with her.

I presupposed she was an Arab and that there would be no language barrier to communicate with her. "Kif Al-hal ya-akhti," I said, or how are you, my sister? Indeed, she answered in Arabic, "Al-hamid lal-Laah," or thanks Allah. I got out with her as she was interested in talking with me. When she found out I could speak and write in Danish she asked me a favor, whether I could translate a letter form the municipality, and I was willing to do so. But before I did I asked her about her husband or relatives. Her answer was shocking to me as she was divorced – with two young boys who are attending an Arabic school, their Danish language limited and even their Arabic not on the level to explain a simple letter.

This woman's life is not different from many other ethnic women in Denmark; therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about 20,000 ethnic women, living permanently in Denmark. The Danish government had decided to invest a great deal of money for the migrants, especially for the migrant women.

What are the main characteristics of ethnic women in Denmark?

Most of ethnic women are living in areas in Copenhagen in areas which are mainly inhabited by ethnic minorities. As a result there is no interaction between Danes and migrants, or to be more precise, a lack of influence of Danish culture and way of life. The ethnic minorities have been outsiders of Danish society for a long period of time. They are an undesired group of people neglected by Danish politicians on the one hand, and discriminating by a great deal of the population on the other. Here, we might describe various aspects of discrimination in the fields of education, work, and access to counseling.

Men whom brought these women to Denmark in many cases left them when of their behavior did not fulfill the expectations. Their children are then brought up without the possibility to integrate. Hate and jealousy among the second immigrant generation from Danish children is growing as they have nothing ahead of them but an empty life with isolated families.

This problem will be very crucial and hard to deal with in the future, unless the politicians take it seriously and work out a strategy in order to integrate the migrants into society. No one claims that there is a magical solution, but it does not mean that a viable solution is not possible.

We can for instance help ethnic women by spreading information concerning society's values and principles and demonstrate a willingness for conditional acceptance. If ethnic women tried to get out of isolation by participation in courses and show interest in learning about the Danish way of life that would integrate them into Danish industrial life and would gradually increase acceptance by Danish society. However, such step would not be done without a real initiative by Danish government.

Immigrant consultants are a very import step forward. Academic immigrants working as consultants in municipalities have a responsibility to help their fellow people in the process of integration. They know about the background and the reasons behind the problems of integration. We have often observed Danish social advisers that are not interested in the problems, they only provide material help because they are not willing to become involved in the solutions.

Danish authorities must find a special way in dealing with these problems. One of the means of solving these complicated problems is financial help. But I would like to give an advice to the Danish authorities: do not pay money without getting something in return. Do not finance free housing without having the respective families prove their willingness to integrate.

Dr. Hassan Osman Dahab

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