[Brussels, 20 December 2013] As part of the International Human Rights Day activities in Strasbourg’s European Parliament, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and the European Network of Migrant Women (ENoMW) organised an evening screening of their joint 2012 documentary This Is My Home Now. We were grateful that this event was supported by MEP Claude Moraes, who gave a speech. As the Mentees of the EWL European Political Mentoring Programme (EPMN) were already in Strasbourg to experience Plenary Week, they were also able to attend; documentary director Saddie Choua travelled from Brussels and one of the film’s three protagonists, Dil Wickremasinghe joined us from Dublin, Ireland.
This Is My Home Now follows the stories of three women of migrant background living in the Europe. While struggling for their equal rights, these women, like so many others, enrich their host communities in myriad ways. Anna is a gender researcher and poet of Russian background who owns a hotel in Lefkara, Cyprus. Dil from Sri Lanka is a successful stand-up comedian, journalist and radio host as well as an active voice for equality and the rights of migrants and queers in Ireland. Sophie from Tunisia runs a beauty salon and social institute in Marseille, France, an empowering meeting place for women from different backgrounds. The stories of Anna, Dil and Sophie break from stereotypes of migrant women and give a face and a voice to the increasing number of women of migrant background in Europe, rarely seen or heard.
In the ensuing Question and Answer session and discussion over drinks and refreshments, participants were able to gain insight into the reasons for making of the film, the different layers of messaging involved and the feedback it has received since its launch some eighteen months ago.
EWL Policy Officer Karima Zahi brought together the main common threads of the three women’s stories and, in light of EPMN’s current efforts to improve political participation rates of women, on why it is important to provide empowering depictions of migrant women participating actively, visibly and in a variety of spheres in their new communities.
ENoMW Coordinator Lara Natale stressed that timing the event to coincide with International Human Rights Day was key, because the double link of women’s rights and migrants’ rights both being fundamental human rights frequently gets lost in implementation on the ground. Moreover, Ms. Natale explained that in light of recent consultations the European Institutions were holding to determine of the agenda for the framework on migration policy for the next five years, the "Post-Stockholm Programme", the European Commission were clear that they cannot promote new legislation to help migrants while the general mood on Europe on migration was so negative and encouraged civil society to play its part in overturning the narrative on migration first. This Is My Home Now can make a strong contribution to this endeavour in ways that are very accessible and relatable to all.
Ms. Choua reflected on the filmmaking process, described her vision for what the documentary brings to the feminist movement and the positive responses she has received to it from a broad range of sources - from fellow filmmakers, to educators, to grassroots organisations, to community members.
Ms. Wickremasinghe, who was viewing the film for the first time, separated her reactions to the political and the personal aspects of the film, describing that it can be emotional and difficult to relive the recounting of one’s migration journey. She then went on to talk more about her current activism addressing the stigma attached mental health and why it is important that women of minority ethnic and migrant background also make their voices heard in these debates.
The EWL and the ENoMW thank all individuals concerned for their contribution during this session in Strasbourg, and for the financial support of the Open Society Foundations, the Network of European Foundations (NEF), the European Commission and the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM) that made the film’s production possible.
Mentees Güliz Tomruk and Kamilla Sultanova, and MEP Claude Moraes
Director Saddie Choua of This Is My Home Now