Another country, the same barriers?

During our three-day seminar in Piteå in May the EME project participants got an overview of the migration situation in the North of Sweden. We were introduced to several good practices and methods that strengthen the position of foreign-born women and men in the labour market. 

Kamille de Backer and Anne Willaert travelling by train in Sweden
Visiting the northern part of Sweden was a real experience. First of all, taking the night train from Stockholm to Luleå made us realize how different Sweden is compared to Belgium. Travelling 800 km by train through the wide landscapes, lakes and forests is unimaginable for us.  

It became clear that geography has an influence on how your country is organized and this in turn has a big impact on how a country deals with situations like migration. While in Belgium migrants are mainly living in big cities, migration in Sweden is spread across the country. 


After our first impression of Sweden, we learned on our first day, thanks to Git Sundberg from ABF, a very important Swedish habit: FIKA! Or in other words a coffee break. But why is it so essential? Because, paradoxically enough, we exchange the most interesting things during these breaks. 

The importance of folkbildning
Of course the importance of fika was not the only thing we learned during our study circle crash course. Git gave us a taste of different methods that can be used to get the participants of a group to get to know each other and to work together as a group.  

She also let us experience the meaning and importance of folkbildning (liberal adult education). ABF believes in every person’s equal value, human value over market value, and in increasing democracy in every sector of society. Their vision is a society and a world free from all oppression and injustice. The values and vision of ABF’s folkbildning have close ties with the ideology of EVA bxl and are definitely an inspiration for our ‘culturally sensitive care ambassador’ training.  

Starting from the competences and needs of people  

Next day we visited some ABF projects in Boden which provide different kinds of education for immigrants. Each activity is based on the competences and needs of the migrants.  

One of the projects combined language courses with child day-care, which reminded us of the start of our Elmer, the day-care centre in Brussels our transnational partners visited last December. In the ABF project, women get empowered because they have the possibility to take their children to class with them. Although this flexible approach is crucial, it is not always easy to achieve because of the restrictive and institutionalized administrative structures.

EME project group and members of ABF Boden's staff outside the ABF Norr Boden office

Why mentoring matters 

Finally, the municipality of Piteå gave us an inspiring presentation about their local ESF project Employment for migrants, which aims to implement new methods that facilitate newly arrived migrants to enter the elderly care sector in Piteå. Why the elderly care sector? Because the population is getting older and the young people are moving to bigger cities. 

Sophia shared insights on her internship in elderly care in Piteå.
Motivated candidates will immediately follow an internship of 4-6 months in an elderly care service. On the one hand, they will be mentored by a practical nurse who works in the organization. On the other hand, the participants will get support from a language teacher and a career counsellor during the training. 

The project stressed the engagement and the responsibilities of the mentors and workplaces for a successful trainee period. It is the mentors duty to not only teach the trainee the work tasks, but also to make the trainee comfortable in the entire work community. Furthermore, mutual learning is key. Trainee learns from mentor, and mentor (and organization) learns from trainee.  

This vision and the work tools presented during the seminar, inspired EVA bxl to further develop the support between mentor and trainee. Offering qualitative language and learning support at the working place is essential for a qualitative experience.  

Thanks to the several workshops and study visits we gained a better insight into the different good practices and methods that empower and employ migrants in the north of Sweden. In this way, it was easier to understand the barriers and gaps within the provided services.  

What was remarkable? The similarities between the system failures from different countries. Our strength? The motivation to reflect on the situation and to exchange ideas and good practices. 

Kamille de Backer, EVA bxl