The Value of Gender Equality

The migration challenges of gender relations and equality was the topic of A World of Neighbours zoomcast in March. In the panel was Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy, a social anthropologist with a PhD in International Migration and Ethnic Relations from Malmö University, Sweden and Anna Wilczyńska,  a specialist in Arabic and founder of SalamLab, Poland.

– Integration literally means to become part of a whole, right? But what does this whole consist of and for whom does it function? said Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy who centered her time slot around two concepts, integration and gender equality.

Over the last years she has studied how the value of gender equality is understood in integration work in four different countries Germany, Hungary, Poland and Sweden. It is a research project within the European project Norms and Values in the European Migration and Refugee Crisis.

The team has studied gender equality as a value, something we see as worth striving for, an ideal that has to do with our self image as an individual and as society. 

– It is about how a nation state is constructed. Who “we” are in relation to “them”. What do we value and what do they value, said Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy. 

The value of gender equality, though a value treated very differently in different member states, is an important factor in integration work in European countries. 

– It functions as a line drawn between society and the newly arrived. It can also function as a way in, right. If immigrants are perceived to adapt to the value of gender equality in the correct way then that might increase their chances of being perceived as integrated, said Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy.

Anna Wilczyńska related two individual stories, describing the stereotyping of refugee and migrant women and the harassment directed towards migrant women and Polish female activists. One of the stories about a middle aged lawyer and human rights defender from one of the post Soviet republics:

– Sadly with all the great knowledge and experience that she has, she is in no way a top priority to be integrated in Poland. She is seen as having a lower economic value. As a lawyer she is not treated as a real female, and as female she is not treated as a real lawyer. 

Ingrid Jerve Ramsøy and her research collegues conclude that gender equality is a universal value, not national or local. 

– We should recognize the different ways that people struggle for this value across the world and implement whatever is needed in a particular context. Communication and reflexivity is key. Spaces that allow for discussion about central values should be made available. These spaces should include newcomers and long term residents. We are all responsible for constructing the “functioning society” that we want, as we are all part of the whole, whatever we define that to be.