Faduma Dayib will not abandon her own culture

Trade Union News from Finland, 21 August 2003

Helsinki (21.08.2003—Juhani Artto) How are immigrants treated in the Finnish labour market? The size and character of Finland's immigrant population has now reached the point at which it has become possible to draw a realistic and diversified picture of the labour market situation. Despite various well-meaning efforts to improve the status of immigrant labour over the last few years, the situation is generally poor. The picture painted by immigrants themselves is gloomier even than the Finns care to admit.

This was well illustrated at the weekend seminar of the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland (SASK) in the southern Finnish city of Lahti in April. This event gathered some 600 union activists from all parts of the country and from all industries. One in ten of the participants were of foreign origin but living permanently in Finland.

While immigrant speakers at the seminar gave crushing testimony of both covert and open ethnic discrimination, the descriptions of their individual and collective struggle also gave cause for some optimism. Several speakers were also able to report successes in the fight against ethnic discrimination.

One high point of the weekend was a presentation from Faduma Dayib, who came to Finland as a refugee from Somalia thirteen years ago. After completing her studies as a health care worker with distinction she did not—unlike her fellow students—secure employment. She therefore continued studying and graduated as a nurse, and has since then secured corresponding work.

Many immigrants still face the same struggle, commented Faduma Dayib, who has been a union member since the very beginning of her working career in Finland. She is currently a member of the Trade Union for the Municipal Sector (KTV), and says that she feels comfortable as such. My dream is to work in the elected bodies of the union. What could be finer, as an immigrant, than to be able to assist other immigrants?

Faduma Dayib emphasised that she wants to be treated as a Finn in working life, as she a Finnish citizen and speaks excellent Finnish. But this does not mean that she has abandoned her own culture. In this society I want to have an impact as I am. If you expect me to become fully western and identical to other Finns, then you are going to be disappointed, she commented, drawing the loudest applause of all the speakers over the weekend.

Other material from the SASK solidarity seminar in April 2003 in Lahti, Finland: