African migrant women decide to form a cooperative

December 12, 2015

PRESS RELEASE: Cooperative Arbre a Palabre U.A

[cml_media_alt id='740']Cooperative - Joining Hands Together[/cml_media_alt]

African Migrant Women decide to form a cooperative; an experiment within the re-integration process of job seekers in the Hague, The Netherlands.

Alderman Baldewsingh gave the starting signal for a new cooperative of African Women.

Many African Women experience financial strings of their benefit as restrictive. There are many rules, policies and procedures that are and continue to impede their development. These policies and procedures must be revised and re-designed.

Antoinette Mutesa came to the conclusion: “There are a lot of African Women who have years of similar experience. It is very difficult to get back to work coming from welfare system. Within the cooperative, we join forces and knowledge. We’re going to work together enterprisingly and ask the municipality assistance and trust.”

With five (5) women and a large backing, they founded the cooperative Arbre a Palabre on. The cooperative hopes to sign the lease for a place where an incubation could allow the different initiatives to mature to full businesses. Additionally, the Cooperative will open a restaurant, a designer boutique and various other plans are yet to be revealed.

The naming of the cooperative Arbre a Palabre – The Palaver Tree – does justice to a form of meeting which is deeply rooted in African culture. “Under this tree African Women get together to exchange experiences and discuss practical issues with respect and trust to build and strengthen each other,” – explains Mutesa, chairperson of the newly formed Cooperative.

The Deputy Mayor, Rabin Baldewsingh, Alderman in charge of Social Affairs and Employment, Neighbourhood Approach, Integration Policy and Sport: “I think it’s wonderful to see how people take the initiative to improve their living conditions. It is consistent with the new policy where we are increasingly, at the municipality level looking for customized solutions. The Municipality wish is to help to become a success. In the coming months we will see how we can enable a framework within existing legislation in order to support such initiatives.”

During the last two years, Ms. Mutesa conducted extensive research among African refugees and migrant women in The Hague. Her findings point to the fact that their position on the Dutch labor market is undervalued. “Although some of the migrant women have had opportunities to “move forward” in the labor market they still remain burdened and sometimes faced with the lengthy financial/administrative strings of government”. In addition, they are often discriminated against and are victims of adverse selection by employers. Ms. Mutesa wanted to do something to “stem the tide”; as a result, Arbre a Palabre (The Cooperative) was established.

In October Cordaid convened a national conference with the theme “Working within the welfare must be allowed in the Netherlands.” The underlying piece in the theme is that formal work is encouraged but new ways of obtaining the employment must be sought. Also, Alderman Baldewsingh indicated that finding new venues for employment is always welcome.

As the State Secretary of Social Affairs and Employment, Jetta Klijnsma stressed that nothing stands in the way of the municipalities in order to facilitate innovations and initiatives from below.

The Participation Act provides specifically for this purpose in space for experiments [83]. She left in plain language that councilors themselves above all need to look up the space: “Every man stands alone, and customization must be possible.” “A good Alderman seeks and finds space in the law, others will hide behind the rule of law,” said the State Secretary.

The new Cooperative offers African women and other migrants a safe environment where they can develop skills and abilities, develop their own networks, professionally proficient, and participate in the cooperative to work focused on financial independence and building a social dignity.

The initiative Ms. Mutesa has established gives hands and feet to the words of the Deputy Mayor. In implementing the welfare policy, she has asked the Alderman for cooperation to provide pathways/opportunity to members of the Cooperative receiving benefits to be allowed for a maximum period of two years to work on their businesses.

Cooperative Arbre a Palabre U.A.

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