Talking about refugee women: phew, those poor women!

Refugee women are absent from a debate of the integration administration about "Refugees as experts of themselves".

They are all experts: Integration Senator Elke Breitenbach (Left) with a refugee Photo: dpa

The first finding: refugee women have different needs and problems arriving than men. The second: So far, women have often been given short shrift in public discussions. The Senate Department for Integration and Social Affairs is therefore not the only organization currently addressing the situation of refugee women.

For Monday, it invited to a discussion on "Women and Flight". Experts and "refugees as experts of themselves" were announced. And that would be the third insight: namely, that the women affected by flight bring with them a great deal of knowledge about flight and arrival, that it is worth listening to them, and that they could make many suggestions about how to tackle the obstacles that have so far massively limited their opportunities in Germany.

But this third insight, of all things, only made it as far as the invitation letter. On the podium were employees of the administration, aid organizations and counseling centers, as well as an integration counselor – because they all work with refugee women. The moderator wanted to know from them what needs refugee women have. The expert knowledge of refugee women thus found its way into the discussion only around the corner.

Of course, language courses with childcare, rapid recognition of qualifications or long-term vocational training, protection from violence, access to the health system, family planning and housing are important aspects on which the experts on the panel put together some clever ideas. But in their answers, the focus was very much on what refugee women do not know.

Equal interlocutors do not only make suggestions. They also make demands

In addition, it was forgotten that not all women have to deal with all these problems at once. People from the audience also spoke up, introducing themselves as volunteer language teachers or social workers in shelters. The only person who spoke not in German but – thanks to a language mediator – in Arabic was a man who explained how the patriarchal system oppresses women. What stuck in the mind was: Phew, those poor women.

The event thus fell short of the claim formulated in the invitation, because not a single refugee woman spoke as an "expert of herself". In order to not only talk about them, but to talk with them, the Senate administration should have had the courage to put these experts on the podium. But that can quickly become uncomfortable: Equal interlocutors do not only make suggestions. They also make demands.

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