What it means to be a woman immigrant

Nothing much has changed in recent years for women who have been uprooted from their homelands. Irrespective of what educational level they may have reached in their home countries, their lot in life as immigrants is, for the most part, as domestic workers. Most have come here prepared to work hard in order to make money to send back home to their husbands and children by doing housework that we ourselves don’t have time for or to look after our aged and infirm. The majority of these women are from Albania and Poland, according to a survey presented at a recent conference at Panteion University by Professor of Sociology Koula Kasimati, director of the Center for Social Structure and Policy, and carried out within the framework of IAPASIS, a three-year inter-state program. Kasimati heads the program in Greece. The study found that women make up the majority of the immigrant population from the Balkans, apart from Albania – women comprise 40 percent of immigrants from that country. They are usually young – 73 percent of Polish women immigrants are aged 25-49, as are 51 percent of Albanian women. Twenty percent of Polish women have completed a university degree and 37 percent high school. The same percentage of Albanian women are high school graduates, but only 14 percent have been to university; 18 percent have attended a technical college. If they have entered the country illegally, they are subject to various forms of exploitation and extortion and live in fear of deportation. They are usually isolated from Greek society, keeping to their own compatriots, and frequently form a negative image of Greek society, as they are often discriminated against in their work, social life and contacts with the authorities, who treat them with disdain. Nevertheless, despite «worrying observations regarding cases of xenophobia found in most sectors of public and social life,» Kasimati is optimistic. She believes that Greek society has developed pockets of resistance to these phenomena and that another point of view is being put forward by those who believe that, in the age of globalization, the coexistence of peoples is unavoidable. The main conclusion reached from the survey’s findings is that «a society without cohesion is… vulnerable. It is in everyone’s interest to accept that we have to learn to live with foreigners.»