Excursion to Monika – Multicultural Women’s Association
In the 20th International Summer School in Social Work we did an excursion to Helsinki between 3-7.6.2017. Part of the excursion was the visit to Monika – Multicultural Women’s Association. Monika-Naiset is a Finnish NGO that operates as an umbrella organization for 13 multicultural women’s organizations in Finland. Organization has three core activities. Most importantly it provides help, support and therapy services to immigrant women and their children who have experienced violence or are under threat of violence. Organization has a crisis shelter Mona for women and their children. Mona shelter is accessible 24/7 through helpline, and it is available nationwide and located secretly. Organization also operates women’s resource center Monika which is open in office hours. The resource center offers therapy, advocacy and practical help individually and in peer groups for victims of violence.
Second, MoniNaiset space offers social activities, counselling and workshops to support women’s integration into the Finnish society. Workshops and individual counselling concentrates on job searching and mapping professional and educational paths.
Third, organization acts as an agent to produce and forward information of immigrants and discriminative attitudes and structures. It empowers member associations and individuals to reduce and dispute racism and prejudices against immigrants. The organization is a highly regarded and visible actor in matters of integration and immigration in Finland.
Organization gets its funding mainly from the city of Helsinki, city of Vantaa, STEA, European Social Fund, National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and Ministry of Education and Culture.
The Mona shelter and the resource center Monika
Past years have been time of growth for Monika as the flow of immigration to Europe and Finland has accelerated. Last year was busiest so far for both the shelter and the resource center. The number of children in Mona has doubled in past two years. There are also an increasing number of customers who are still waiting for an asylum decision. Obviously it indicates a large number of asylum seekers but also effective spreading of information in reception centers and immigrant society, according to the annual report of organization.
Violence that is faced by immigrant women can be various. Honor-related and culturally bound violence such as girls subjected to female circumcision and forced marriages are executed by community. Therefore for migrant women who are in dangerous situation the threshold to find help can be very high. Also I find it noteworthy that for example last year in 30 percent of cases in Mona shelter the perpetrator of violence was Finnish. A victim is particularly vulnerable if she/he has come to country alone through marriage or relationship.
The MoniNaiset space and Osaavat Naiset project
MoniNaiset has grown too in past years. It offers support for integration and promotes networking and social activities for migrant women. Finnish official integration program is pretty stiff. It is planned individually and takes 1-3 years, depending on person’s education, language skills and age. Women with small children and many pregnancies have difficulties to achieve decent language skills as they have to drop off from integration courses. It is often used possibility among migrant women to get home care allowance for three years after baby’s birth. It also prevents women in certain age and position to finish official integration path. MoniNaiset offers Finnish courses and wider counselling to make a plan for studies and/or to find a job. During group meetings and language courses there are nannies for small children, so mothers are able to join. Children are more than welcome to all activities so it is not a reason to leave out. People get help also in matters of residence permits, family reunion, applying of substitutes and apartments and other advices. There are only few people actually working for MoniNaiset, but nannies, language teachers and workshop leaders are volunteers.
Osaavat naiset is a separate project offering more detailed and long-term support individually and in workshops to get on track with education and working life. Volunteer mentors offer individual support for particularly academic women and they have had good results in past years.
Monika-Naiset organization is a necessary add to services for migrant women. There is no doubt that it is important to have accessible and easily reached help for women who have experienced violence or are under threat of violence. It is also undoubtable that help has to be provided in a multicultural and multilingual way. Violence, whether it was physical or psychological, often weakens victim’s agency and therefore ability to recognize and explicate the situation. The organization has multicultural competence that is needed to confront women and children with wide variety of backgrounds in situations that might be also culturally bound.
Organization’s position as a meeting place, a supporter and an integration catalyst is solid. Being an advocate and an informant between women and organizations and the government has become even more important in past years. At the moment we are living in times when funding cuts and diminishing resources are daily news. Still trust on continuity is strong in the association. Who would like to cut from immigrant women, said coordinator Marisel Soto Godoy as she gave us a tour in the premises of Monika-Naiset in Kalasatama. I truly hope that nobody!
More information about the association can be found: https://monikanaiset.fi/en/
Social work student, University of Lapland