Black women play a crucial role across the EU and deserve to be recognized and respected, and have equal opportunities, organizers of a black European women’s congress said Saturday.
The three-day gathering, which ended Saturday afternoon, drew more than 80 black women from 16 European Union countries, as well as from Switzerland and the United States.
The conference was deemed the first of its kind by the co-organizers, the Vienna-based, nonprofit International Center for Black Women’s Perspectives, also known as AFRA, and Tiye International, a Dutch umbrella NGO aimed at promoting equal opportunities for effective participation of black and migrant women. It was held under the patronage of Barbara Prammer, the speaker of Austria’s parliament.
I think one of our messages is that we don’t want to be invisible, Hellen Felter, director of Tiye International, said at a news conference at a Vienna hotel.
Conference delegates including activists, academics and other black women of all ages focused on themes such as identity and empowerment, challenges faced by the young, political participation and access to the labor market.
AFRA Director Beatrice Achaleke said black women looking for jobs were often discriminated against because of their skin color, negative stereotypes and the general population’s unwillingness to accept them.
It doesn’t matter if I speak German perfectly or not we have to take into consideration that we are a visible minority,” Achaleke said.
On Saturday, delegates adopted a series of recommendations to the EU, including one that stated companies and employers should be required to implement human resource measures and tools designed to recruit black personnel, reflecting the diversity expressed in their missions statements.
We are demanding equal access, we want to enjoy our full rights as citizens of Europe,” Achaleke said, adding that the EU had designated 2007 as the “European Year of Equal Opportunities for All.
Both Felter and Achaleke also said a direct dialogue with, and specifically focused on, black European women was necessary and has been lacking.
When people talk about women in Europe, they mean white women, Felter said.
In an effort to initiate a dialogue with European lawmakers, delegates plan to launch a network in 2008, the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
We don’t want to protest, we want to participate, Achaleke said.