Bringing great gifts
It is often forgotten that migrants bring with them skills, energy, determination and talent. A recent edition The Big Issue, highlighted the story of Ifrah Ahmed. She fled her country and arrived in Ireland eight years ago, aged 17. Her asylum application was accepted and she took full advantage of the educational opportunities available. She realised that she had three choices: to live as a traditional Somali woman, marrying and having children; adapt to and adopt Irish culture, or “take myself to another level where I could be educated and integrated”. She chose the third option. Being very aware of the facts of violence against women from her own horrific experience in war torn Somalia, being subjected to FGM, her one objective now is to campaign for the rights of women, not just here in Ireland, not just for Somali women, but for women across the world.
50 Million women, men and children in the world are now refugees. The only equivalent to this figure was during and after the terrible destruction of World War 11. Most long to return home if and when it is safe to do so. Ifrah, however, has made her home here for now, and is devoting her considerable abilities and energy to raising awareness about sexual and other human rights violations against women, first of all with African women refugees here, and then with the medical profession. Medics in Ireland have had little or no experience of FGM and how to relate to and work with victims. Her efforts here are gaining recognition.
She has also been active, with Irish Non-Governmental Agencies (NGOs) in education around HIV/AIDS, racism, equal rights, as well as raising money for humanitarian needs in her home country and elsewhere. She established United Youth of Ireland (UYI) in 2010 which began with a Miss Ethics Fashion Show, now an annual event. UYI now invites young people from around the world (from ages 15-25) to come here to engage in leadership training and education, with funding from a National Agency. Thanks to her determination, and with the support of President Michael D Higgins and Minister Joe Costello, the Irish government revived dormant legislation to outlaw FGM in the country and this was passed in 2012.
Reading this, we need to remind ourselves that Ifrah is still only 25 years. She has profited of every minute of her time since coming here and receiving refugee status. She has somehow dealt with and gained so much from her suffering in a way that has enriched not only herself but countless others, not only in Ireland but throughout the world. She is a shining example of what one person with determination can do to make this world a better place. “It has been a difficult journey and I always wish my family were with me” she admits. “But when….I meet somebody who says to me ‘We are so lucky to have you here with us in Ireland’ I am so happy because I believe I count in this country”. Ifrah, we congratulate you!
(excerpts from The Big Issue).