Needed: more powerful stories from refugee women!

I was excited about how many women would show up to the two storytelling workshops at the Finnish multicultural center, Gloria, in the end of November. The target group was asylum-seeker, refugee and immigrant women from the Jyväskylä-region. It was not easy to reach out to such a broad group that does not know to read or become motivated by written announcements. However Gloria’s staff and volunteers did a great job through the grapevine. Enough participants came for both the Finnish and English-speaking workshops.

Suomen 100-vuotisjuhla Gloriassa. jpg

Celebration of Finlands 100-year anniversary at Gloria on December 5, 2017

The participants told thoughtful stories about their past after the introductions and warming up exercises. What struck me most was how strong and resourceful the women sounded. Some of them had experienced horrible abuse, violence and other hardships like having to flee from their homes at a short notice or been forced to engage in sex slavery. Even after coming to Finland one woman had been treated in humiliating ways and called a monkey because of the color of her skin. However, she recounted these experiences in a comical way: she might even make a great stand-up comedian! Heaven knows how badly we need more female comedians in the all too dark and serious Finland…

These women did not behave like typical victims feeling sorry for themselves, in sharp contrast with some of us western world women. One modern movement that is going too far is the American-originated “#Me too” one. Now some women even accuse men for sexual harassment just because a man has touched them or asked for their telephone number. I wonder why they didn’t shout out at the time when one of the previous presidents was taking advantage of a young trainee in the White House and for a long time denied having had sex with her? If the movement had started at that time, a lot of women would be better off today.

During the short workshops over two evenings we managed only to scratch the surface of good storytelling and how stories could be used to create a greater understanding for diverse cultures.  My hope is that the participants gained an increased understanding that their stories are worth telling and listening. Maybe the Gloria-center can arrange some continuity in connection with the International women’s day in March or later in 2018.

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