Multiculturalism and the challenge facing young Horn of African girls

by Ferial Glaidous.

In the mid 90’s the first generation of Horn of African refugees escaped from the war torn countries of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

For this first wave of females the difference in culture and values are overwhelming and many find it a challenge to assimilate to “the Australian way of life’, whilst maintaining a strong connection with her African descendant culture. Others feel that cultural diverse ‘Australia’ allows these females to make a great contribution to her adopted country, Australia.

Recently a newly arrived refugee female from Eritrea, one of the Horn of Africa nations commented ,“Eritrea  is a beautiful place”; she says, with a strong feeling of nostalgia: and also loves Australia for the “ peace of mind and security” it offers. Living in this society and quite conscious of her own identity she has learnt to live with adversity through a strong will to succeed in a country which there is no war of national liberation, no militia activities to worry about, or famine or torture “only opportunities”.

Many women from the Horn of Africa are torn between their previous roles in the community and their roles available to them now. In the Horn of African community these women were expected to protect their families reputation or ‘good name’ above all else.

This ‘good name’ allowed the Horn of African women better opportunities in marriage, much like western cultures before the 1950s, marriage was a women’s easiest avenue to a better life. This judgment on a woman’s reputation still haunts the Horn of African refugee community and many men from the community can not comprehend and accept the difference in the way of life of women in Australia but only put pressure and demanded high expectations for their daughter or niece or sister.

Hence the fathers and the community have found a practical solution. A new philosophy that sees education as the key to success has been adopted in the emerging Horn of African communities. “working and studying” has become the new mantra, widely seen as the road to progress, then comes the husband of African decent, Samira a member of the African community laughs.

This creates quite a dilemma for the Horn of African daughters because although they have found a different avenue of success through education, their social freedoms are almost non-existent as it is their social identity that will define them.

Horn of African males on the other hand live without these high social expectations as any deviance is accepted under the simple fact that they are male. This double standards further inhibits these women and makes them question where they belong.

What the greater Horn of African community needs to embrace is that assimilation should not mean giving up ones cultural ties but to realise the Australian identity is ever evolving and becoming, Australia should not be seen as one of ‘thong wearing’ Anglo Saxon blokes and ‘Sheila’s’ going to the pub or footy. After all wasn’t that generation of Australian not migrants themselves.

Our Australian identity is actually defined by our values. To be an ‘Aussie’ means you believe in acceptance, equality, choice, tolerance and democracy and until this happens the wider Australian community needs to understand the predicament of this generation.

The Eritrean community believes, there is a way to create a better environment for these young Horn of African girls to integrate into the mainstream society. But the only way this can be achieved is through open and honest dialogue and opportunity for these young girls to find employment in the mainstream society and clear representation/voice in our multicultural media and everywhere.  For further information about the writer (Ms. Ferial Glaidous) and the challenges facing young Horn of African girls, you can contact The Eritrean community in Australia.

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Posted by on Jul 16 2006 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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