The Highlights of 2014

The end of the year can be strange mixture of merriment and mayhem and in the rush to wrap it up, we can lose sight of the many things that have already have been accomplished.

And we’re not just talking about the countless household chores done, shopping lists ticked and work plans completed. We mean the achievements and milestones that make us want to give each other a collective pat on the back. Immigrant and refugee women rejoice!

So in tribute to gifts that can’t be gift-wrapped, here are our top six gifts that 2014 gave to immigrant and refugee women around the globe.

Photo Iman Tahbaz
(Image Iman Tahbaz)

1. Pride

Whatever you might think of marriage, weddings are celebrations of the power of love and the joy of expressing it publicly. Sahar Mosleh and Maryam Iranfar’s wedding made world news when it was blessed by an Imam during Stockholm’s Pride celebrations in August. The couple who met nine years ago were expecting their first child and have overcome many prejudices in order to be together. French-Algerian Imam, Ludovid Mohamed Zahed, who is also gay, said “I’m glad that this is a happy couple who can now form a family after many years of struggle. It’s a long journey to leave your homeland, come to a foreign country and manage to form a new life together.’ When we heard about Sahar and Maryam’s wedding in August, we felt jubilant and proud of what these two women have achieved in the name of love. And in terms of political clout, for us it trumps that other much-reported wedding this year (Amal Alamuddin and who?).

Santiago Times Pro-choice March 25 July 2013
(Image: The Santiago Times)

2. Affirmation

In July, the U.N. called on both Chile and Ireland to revise their restrictive abortion laws and in November, the United Nations Committee Against Torture discussed the discriminatory laws blocking reproductive health services to immigrant women in detention centres and the lack of access to abortion for low-income women of colour in the United States. U.N. member states have been urged to heed this message: reproductive rights are human rights. It bolsters the spirits to know that the UN is ready to stand up and demand the sexual and reproductive rights that so many women around the world fight for on a daily basis.

UMKC PRIDE Lecture featuring Laverne Cox cropped
(Image: UMKC: PRIDE Lecture featuring Laverne Cox)

3. Visibility

This year Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender actor to be nominated for an Emmy. She is also African American. At a time when Australian television continues to be largely bereft of people of colour, and still not really comfortable with portraying characters from LGBTI communities (token appearances and characters don’t count), Laverne’s nomination is truly trail-blazing.

Elizabeth award
(Image: MCWH)

4. Recognition

Closer to home, our own Elizabeth Mazeyko MCWH bilingual educator received the Heart Foundations’ President’s  Award for her significant contribution to improving the heart health of Victorian women. The award is much more than validation (we always knew Elizabeth was a world-class educator), it’s also a sign of public respect and recognition of the often invisible and tireless contribution immigrant and refugee women make every day.

(Image: Sarah-Ji: Out of the Shadows, Into the Streets)

5. Rights

Last month, President Obama announced an executive order that will protect up to 5 million undocumented migrants living in the U.S.A. from deportation.  The step is tentative and conditional (there is much more that can and should be done for immigrants who are not citizens), but some of the reasons behind the President’s decision should give Australia pause for thought: America is a land of immigrants and always will be; America is a country where everyone has the right to have a chance. What a difference it makes when the basis for policy and action is not fantasy and fear, but reality and rights.

European Parliament A Heroine, a survivor Malala Yousafzai receives the 2013 Skaharov Prize(European Parliament: ‘A Heroine, A Survivor’ on flickr)

6. Conviction

When Malala Yousafzai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October, almost two years to the day after being shot for campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan, it seemed a fitting recognition of the power of her convictions and the strength that comes from standing up for what you believe in. In such a short space of time, 16-year old Malala has become an iconic figure for girls’ rights worldwide, and her ordeal has only strengthened her determination and her voice. Her commitment and confidence that she can and will make a difference in Pakistan is inspiring. And it’s inspiring because she shows us, just by being Malala, that conviction is all it takes.