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Oct 1, 2007

Black European women at Vienna congress urge recognition, equality

VIENNA, Austria: Black women play a crucial role across the EU and deserve to be recognized and respected, and have equal opportunities, organizers of a black European women's congress said Saturday.

The three-day gathering, which ended Saturday afternoon, drew more than 80 black women from 16 European Union countries, as well as from Switzerland and the United States.

The conference was deemed the first of its kind by the co-organizers, the Vienna-based, nonprofit International Center for Black Women's Perspectives, also known as AFRA, and Tiye International, a Dutch umbrella NGO aimed at promoting equal opportunities for effective participation of black and migrant women. It was held under the patronage of Barbara Prammer, the speaker of Austria's parliament.

"I think one of our messages is that we don't want to be invisible," Hellen Felter, director of Tiye International, said at a news conference at a Vienna hotel.

Conference delegates — including activists, academics and other black women of all ages — focused on themes such as identity and empowerment, challenges faced by the young, political participation and access to the labor market.

AFRA Director Beatrice Achaleke said black women looking for jobs were often discriminated against because of their skin color, negative stereotypes and the general population's unwillingness to accept them.

"It doesn't matter if I speak German perfectly or not — we have to take into consideration that we are a visible minority," Achaleke said.

On Saturday, delegates adopted a series of recommendations to the EU, including one that stated companies and employers should be required to implement human resource measures and tools designed to recruit black personnel, reflecting the diversity expressed in their missions statements.

"We are demanding equal access, we want to enjoy our full rights as citizens of Europe," Achaleke said, adding that the EU had designated 2007 as the "European Year of Equal Opportunities for All."

Both Felter and Achaleke also said a direct dialogue with, and specifically focused on, black European women was necessary and has been lacking.

"When people talk about women in Europe, they mean white women," Felter said.

In an effort to initiate a dialogue with European lawmakers, delegates planned to launch a network in 2008, the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

"We don't want to protest, we want to participate," Achaleke said.

Source: IHT

11 comments:

Eddie G. Griffin said...

I am proud of the Black Women of Europe for pulling this convention together. We need a global perspective on black women (and black people in general) worldwide. Through your voices, we will discover that we have the same problems originating from the same sources. We will realize that our fight is a global fight.

Black Women in Europe said...

Thanks Eddie. It was really powerful being together and it was said several times that we want to build alliances with our sisters around thw world. Imagine the day when we are all truly united with one loud voice!

Michael Fisher said...

Hmmm...

I do have a question.

How is it that a Black Women's congress is held under the patronage (and financed by institutions controlled by her) of a white woman, Barbara Prammer, and with white women sitting on the dais?

Wouldn't that more accurately be described as a white women's congress of black women?

Black Women in Europe said...

Michael, it is good that you have a question. It means that you are reading and thinking.

The event was organized by and for Black Women in Europe who understand that to initiate and implement fundamental change in the policies, hearts and minds of Europeans and at the EU level, the Euroctratic powers that be must be involved.

The first day of the congress was open to the public, meaning that you could have attended if you so desired. It was at the opening session where a white woman, Barbara Prammer, and other white women (EU and local politicians) sat on the dias to speak to and answer the questions of their constituents.

However, the working sessions where, obviously the real work was done, was closed to the public and open only to the registrants, who I can assure you, were Black Women in Europe.

Michael Fisher said...

Hmmm. Ok.

Were either or both Sis. Katharina Oguntoye or Sis. Marion Kraft in attendance?

Black Women in Europe said...

Michael, first let me say that I was incorrect when I said that Barbara Premmer was in attendance.

The non black Eurocrats that addressed the congress on the opening day were: Christine Marek (State Secretary, Austria, Nicole Krotsch (City counsellor, Vienna/Austria), Alev Korun (City counsellor, Vienna/Austria), and
Christa Prets (MEP, Austria/Brussels).

As for confirming if Sis. Katharina Oguntoye or Sis. Marion Kraft where there, I will have to do that when I am home and can look through the list of attendees.

May I ask that if you know them or can contact them that you ask them if they were at the congress, and in either instance, refer them to this blog so that they can post comments?

Thanks!

Michael Fisher said...

Well, I haven't spoken with Katie in many years, is I don't know how to get in contact with her, and I have to see whether I can reach Marion.

In any case, thanks for putting up the Declaration it is very informative.

If you would be so kind and answer another question for me.

What is "gendered racism"? I don't understand the term.

Why is the English version of the Statement non-reflective of the German statement?

The German statement starts out thus:

"1. Identit├Ąt und Empowerment
• Trotz vorhandener rechtlicher Rahmenbedingungen existieren weiterhin unterschiedlichste Formen von Diskriminierung wie zB. Sexismus."

The guaranteed accurate translation to English...

"Despite existing legal frameworks there still exist most diverse forms of discrimination as, for example, Sexism."

The official English version says:

"Despite the legal framework, forms of multiple discrimination, including gendered racism, continue to exist."

Why is the English version saying something completely different from the German version?

Why was the term "gendered racism" instead of the English word "Sexism" used for the German word "Sexismus"?

Also, why was the term "racism" never defined in the statement?

Thanks

Black Women in Europe said...

Hej Michael. Thanks for pointing out the differences in the translations on the Vienna Declaration. Contact the AFRA office: http://www.blackwomencenter.org/index.php?option=com_contact&Itemid=3 to address this.

And if you can tell me whcih European countries Sis. Katharina Oguntoye or Sis. Marion Kraft are from I can scan the list of attendees.

And as for a definition of "gendered racism", this may help: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism#Black_feminism

Michael Fisher said...

"And if you can tell me whcih European countries Sis. Katharina Oguntoye or Sis. Marion Kraft are from I can scan the list of attendees"

Germany

Michael Fisher said...

Sorry, I have not been able to find a definition for "gendered racism" on the link you provided. Perhaps you could give me the definition yourself?

Also, I understand you were a member of the working group that authored the Declaration. In that case maybe you could explain why the word sexism was not used in the English version when it was used in the German version.

I mean, wouldn't it make sense to use as a primary example of the "diverse forms of discrimination" te term "racism" ("Rassismus") rather than the term "sexixm" ("Sexismus") at a congress of Black women?

Unless, of course, it might be the view of the organizers of the congress that sexism is the primary scourge of society rather than racism. That is that racism occupies a second or third, etc. place.

Also, why was there no definition of the word "racism"?

Thanks

Black Women in Europe said...

Michael, I don't sister the sisters you asked about listed as attendees.

Sexism and racism as equal weights on Black Women in Europe is definied in the term gendered rasicm.

Again, please address you question of the differing translations to AFRA as they produced the translations and will be receiving additional translations from participants in French, Portugese, Arabic, and Swedish (possibly other languages as well).

EU Article 13 defines racism. Do you feel another definition needs to be included in the Vienna Declaration?

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