"Exhibiting You" - Story

Neither Faceless nor Defenseless

By: The MiRA Centre
Submitted: 02/14/2008

We, at the MiRA Centre for Black, Immigrant and Refugee Women, work to unite the women of Norway. As the drawings in our "Say No to Violence Against Women!" pamphlet reflect, minority women in Norway are active agents in their own lives. Not only do we show these women as empowered community members, we also arm them with resources that can help them network with peers and seek legal and social services along the way. We offer conferences for women and girls, youth activities, self-organizing groups, and meeting places for young women. Our pamphlet and other materials are offered in many languages, so that women speaking languages other than Norwegian can access our resources and seek assistance.

One issue we encounter consistently at the MiRA Centre is women struggling with the three-year rule. When immigrating to Norway, a woman's citizen status depends on her husband's. She can't get a permanent resident permit until after she has been married and living in Norway with her husband for at least three years. This rule has lead to a high number of women enduring domestic abuse during that three-year period out of fear of deportation. Not to mention that the Norwegian government requires evidence of abuse if these women actually do decide to divorce their husbands. Given that many women come to Norway because of its renowned reputation for valuing civil liberties, it is ironic that many feel they must tolerate unhealthy relationships in order to avoid being sent back to less stable places. What can we at the MiRA Centre do to help?

Follow these powerful young women in the panels as they discover the resources they need in face of domestic violence. They're shown reporting cases of domestic violence to the police, getting medical aid, seeking help at crisis centers and organizations, and sharing their stories with neighbors, friends and social workers. As you can see on the left, we encourage women to begin an active dialogue both with appropriate medical and legal services, and between friends and neighbors. Norway can indeed be a haven for social justice, if, as a community, we listen to each others' needs and provide the best support possible.

We want to show that women of color in Norway identify themselves. In a country  renowned internationally for its high standard for civil rights, it may seem surprising that many women refugees and immigrants of color in Norway still struggle to find a public voice. Although the government has made great strides to include women in policy-making positions, there is still a degree of innate exclusion when it comes to immigrant and minority women's inclusion in Nordic politics: Women of color rarely get to represent themselves politically. We, together with the women and families that frequent our Centre, aim for change. Together we can sketch out the possibility for a new reality for refugee and immigrant women in Norway.

We do this for, and because of, the women of Norway.

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