Article by Pearl Odigwe.
(5 mins read).
Migrants all over the world are striving to make a better life for both themselves and their families in new countries. While some people are still very averse to migrants and foreigners living in their countries, without a doubt, migrants constantly contribute to the economies they live in, while directly investing in their country of origin through remittances.
We are going to be putting a spotlight and amplifying the voices of some African migrant personalities in Italy.
- Osas Egbon of “Donne di Benin City” has been very instrumental as founder through her work and engagement with the Association. In Palermo, she has been able to help many prostitute migrant girls or those forced into sexual labour find shelters to stay in, as well as provide mental health support. She also provides relief materials for vulnerable women, encouraging discussions and open interaction with these groups and constantly advocates on their behalf by working closely with the Commune in Palermo and regionally in Rome. Find out more about her work here: https://donnedibenincitypalermo.wordpress.com/
- Meet Gerald Mballe, originally from Cameroon, he arrived in Italy as a minor in 2015 after almost being killed in his home country. Today, he holds a refugee status and has lived legally in Turin for 5 years now. He is studying Political Science and International Relations at the University, a Red Cross volunteer who has worked with the organisation as part of a rescue team on zthe Mediterranean providing translation support on quarantine ships. He also renders assistance at reception centers. He is a professional Cultural Mediator and at the same time, an active spokesperson for the Special Olympics movement and promotes the ways in which the latter’s +inclusive sports programme called “Unified Sports”, has helped provide him and many others with a chance to learn from athletes with intellectual disabilities. In 2021, he will be a Consultant for UNIFIED SPORTS WITH REFUGEES and he states that the overwhelming welcome he has gotten from athletes with intellectual disabilities during moments of extreme challenges in his life, made him see the world as a place where everyone belongs, where individuals with intellectual disabilities lead the way in educating the world, and what what it means to include, accept, celebrate differences and mankind’s common bond. You can connect with him here: https://www.instagram.com/volontario_ge1998/ https://www.linkedin.com/feed/
- Ezenwa Nwaokoro is the pioneer and brainchild behind “Nigerian Union Milan” (NUM). He has lived in Italy for over 25 years now and earlier on, created the organisation in order to help more Nigerian citizens resident in Milan have access to more opportunities, build a community of practice and ensure all members of the organisation are able to put their talents to good use through interactive meetings. Henry Ngadiuba, another collaborator, also kick-started a platform with similar objectives “Nigerian Community Portal” (NCP) but with focus on economic opportunities and advantages for this group. Follow the links below for information on both initiatives. https://m.facebook.com/pages/category/Community-Organization/Nigerian-Union-Milan-407681525949930/ https://m.facebook.com/Nigerian-Community-Portal-Italy-100881951602526/videos/
- Igbinosun Prosper is the owner of not one, but two hair salons in Milan – “Prosper Hair World” and “Anapenda Prosper Hair World”. She started operating the first one in 2019, eight months after saving some money and working as an apprentice for 4 months. In 2020 during a pandemic, despite challenges, she managed to open the second one as her clients expanded. Both salons employ migrant girls as workers creating job opportunities. Prosper also manages to hold training sessions for girls interested in learning more about hair-dressing when she has free time. Connect with Prosper and learn more about her entrepreneurial journey on her personal page: https://m.facebook.com/igbinosun.prosper
To also commemorate this day, we have asked the MAMA team to share their sentiments on what it feels like to be a migrant in Italy.
Sharon: As an international/migrant student, with prior experience living abroad before coming to Italy, integration has always been a problem. With Milan being a multicultural city, I was able to meet and interact with people from different cultures but knowing Italian still comes as a major key to getting around easily. Securing a job or even an internship is a hard task. From my experience, it’s pretty much biased. It’s also hard to know the kind of opportunities you can access without knowing the right people. But all in all, it’s been manageable staying here.
Daniel: It means starting a journey. A journey that involves learning a new language to live and communicate. A journey that still continues after the first step of the language to understand the culture. It means leaving your comfort zone and everything you have known all your life to reach a destination you believe will turn your life around. It means going with the flow of the storm and trying to make the best of every situation and opportunity presented your way. It means calling a new place home and working hard to keep your home. To be a migrant means different things. But to me, being a migrant in Italy is a never ending call to the humane side of every individual.
Elizabeth: As a migrant in Italy, it can be somewhat identity challenging. On one hand, you’re either too African to fit into the Italian mentality, on the other hand, is a daily struggle to stay true to your cultural core values. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Italy gives a lot to migrants, but not the total freedom of self-expression or ability to explore their hidden talents.
Mohammed: Being a migrant in Italy has been a great experience mostly being in a University environment. I have come to know so many people and cultures coming from all over the world and that helps a lot. Learning Italian has also been a very nice way to interact easily in the Italian society much to my advantage and career prospects.
Fati: Hmmm…..I have seen and been a witness to a lot of “razzismo”. The difficulty many blacks, especially African people face when they come here is not having valid documents. Even when they do have a good story that should warrant their asylum seeking status in the country, I feel discrimination and marginalisation plays a major role in the refusal of these documents to migrants coming from Africa.
Pearl: Migrants generally leave their home countries for the better. Whether it is in terms of the quality of life, education, a great job, relationships, etc. In Italy, there is a general willingness to help migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Initiatives to help integrate them into the fabric of society to ensure these people get opportunities here is the biggest challenge.
James: Being a migrant in a country like Italy can be very challenging, especially when you need to learn a new language in order to communicate and have opportunities come your way. In Italy, this is the struggle for most migrants who come here. When there is no willingness from the host community to properly engage foreigners, social life and healthy interactions with citizens are also inhibited.
We salute and celebrate migrants all over the world on this special day!