The story I would like to share with you, dear migrant women, will try in a way to deconstruct or at least reconstruct the borders between the private and the public. It is the story about the CV, Curriculum Vitae, also known as das Lebenslauf.
Each and every one of us, I believe, had to create in her lifetime, at least once, her own CV. At that moment, each and every one of us, had to face the fact of split identity. Who I used to be before I came to Switzerland and who I want to be since I am in Switzerland.
Who am I in this world? A question, that is especially important for us migrants and women, who are forced to re-identify themselves in a new context. How much do I worth? It touches the question not only of identity, but of self-value as a person and of a market-value as product. And as such it has a huge impact upon our self-esteem.
But let me tell you what happen to my professional identity since I live in Switzerland. I hope that my example will inspire you to meditate upon your own “professional story.” Are you perfectly “fitting” into the Swiss market of professionals or are you much more than that?
I came to Switzerland to do cultural studies at the University of Bern. During the studies, I had to find a way to survive in this crazy-expensive country. By accident I found a job as a care assistant for a woman in a wheelchair. It was hell of a job, but I had to accept it because it required no German.
Later, the destiny wanted that I get married and move away from Bern. Therefore, I decided to make a course for Medical Care Assistance, so that I can certificate my 2-years of working experience. The course was short and effective, and it provided the necessary minimum certification. The course, however, was so expensive that it took me 2 years to pay back the money. Since then, Pflege or Care was the only professional area that I could apply for a job. The only valid reference for the job-market in Switzerland was the reference that actually made in the past 2 years as a care assistance, and the only valid certificate for the job-market was the one certified in Switzerland.
My CV, on the other hand, speaks of many different professional experiences and skills, which I bring with me, such as: graphic design, event management, organizational and coordination skills, promotional work for media, copywriting and marketing etc. It includes list of publishing houses, names of magazines, public lectures, media and public promotions. In Switzerland, however, there is only one valid reference: the experience which you have in Switzerland and the schooling which you have in Switzerland.
This is a point where we, the migrant women, stand low. We are forced to begin from the lowest level of the job market and to climb many unnecessary stairs to common professional success. I can confirm this because I had to collect and unify the CVs of Lucify.ch staff members.
Lucify.ch’s staff is created by highly educated women, who in their own countries: Brasil, Iraq, Columbia, Italy, Syria, Macedonia etc. were pro-active in creating the public opinion while working as teachers, writers or journalists. However, for many of them, the professional experience which they bring with them from their native countries, is worth for nothing. Same as in my case, they are forced to work as cleaning women, in der Pflege, to do voluntary jobs without any loan, etc.
Yes, someone would say, that’s how life is. You have to fight for survival. That’s what will make you stronger. But is it really like this? My experience says that this bare fight for survival made me only weaker. Made me feel less worth than I actually am. Made me feel expelled at the margins of this society; it made me feel desperate about my own life. It made me suffer from depression. Because the fight for survival is without scruple. It’s exhausting and takes the life energy away from the soul. It makes the soul weaker, rather than stronger.
What made me actually stronger is Lucify.ch. A place where I together with my colleagues can raise my voice. Where I can actively participate with all the variety of skills that I bring with me. Lucify.ch is a place where we create our programs and activities on our own and finally where we take the fully responsibility of our actions. A place that gives space for representation of my identity. As I really am. Bringing decisions, bearing responsibility and taking action – is what makes us stronger and gives us the right to say: “yes! I am part of the Swiss society.” That’s what makes my integration successful. And not the bare fight for life.
The fact that I have changed my professional identity in order to survive, does not speak of my defeat in the world of professionals. It rather speaks of a gray-zone of a multicultural country which is not able to provide the adequate instruments for successful integration for migrants. It rather uses the instruments of passive aggression and forces the migrants to diminish their qualities and capabilities. To make us small, however, in a wider range, I believe will bring even bigger problems.
On the other side, projects like Lucify.ch are able to create real possibilities for action. Unfortunatelly, although we feel the genuine nature of this kind of project, Lucify.ch is still fighting to get the necessary financial support. The fight however, is much more inspiring, because here our CVs are in line with our real identity. The identity of intelligent, skillful and powerful women. With or without good German.