Spain receives hundreds of immigrants, many of whom are women. They come from all over the world, but mainly from Africa and Asia. They arrive with their families in search of new opportunities. Many of these come from cultures where the husband is the one who works and the wife stays at home doing housework and taking care of the children. This situation makes it more difficult for them to integrate into Spanish society or even to look for a job in the future if necessary, as they do not learn the language well or it takes them longer. The Spanish National Women’s Institute provides two programmes specifically to help women to avoid this situation of social exclusion: SARA program and CLARA program. SARA program aims to improve immigrant women’s life by helping them with their social integration. And CLARA program’s main goal is to increase the employability of women at risk or in situations of exclusion. Both programmes seek the best for migrant women.
On the other hand, the majority of immigrant women work to be able to feed their children. It is possible to know that since a study carried out by Red Acoge (2017) shows that 89,22% of them are active in the labour market. From this percentage, 37,75% have one or more jobs, and 51,47 are without a job or looking for one. Nevertheless, the ones who have a job, it does not correspond with their formation, as they have a higher level of education.
Immigrant women, due to a segregated and racist labour market, are linked to domestic employment such as caring for the elderly or cleaning the home. This happens regardless of the education they have. Instinctively linking immigrant women to these jobs can lead to them missing out on many opportunities for better paying jobs and therefore a better life for themselves and their families.
The language, as mentioned before, is also an essential factor for the integration as it determines access to public services, employment, etc. (Red Acoge, 2017). According to Red Acoge (2017), 47% of non-Spanish speaking immigrant women say they need to improve their Spanish. However, lack of time, due to the fact that they have to dedicate themselves to tasks traditionally assigned to women, makes this impossible. Language learning is also influenced by the level of their education. Women with a higher level of education learn the language better than those who do not.
Integration is not only influenced by having a job or not, but also by the subjective assessment of the personal situation in the attitude and interpretation of reality, which generates a new reality (Red Acoge, 2017).
Immigrant women state that there are some negative and positive elements that affect their migratory experience. The negative ones are personal relationships, social and family relationships, in other words, those elements that are close to the sentimental and emotional level. Concerning the positive aspects, they affirm that the quality of the public services, such as education and healthcare, are better than in their country (Red Acoge, 2017). An important positive aspect to highlight is that they feel they have more rights as women after immigrating to Spain.
Despite all the hard times a migrant mother may go through, she always has the support of her children and her partner, unlike women who migrate alone. This makes the situation easier for them. However, it is not always like this since there are a percentage of these immigrant mothers that have to leave their children behind, so they can come first to assess the situation, look for a job and, therefore, a house. According to surveys carried out by Red Acoge, these mothers tend to be mainly of Latin American origin.
A good advice to facilitate their integration is to get them to interact with people who are natives of the country, in this case Spain. This will help them understand the culture and learn the language quickly. The problem comes when they do not interact with anyone from outside their culture, as it will make it more difficult for them to live in the country, and may even affect their mental health.This is also a negative aspect for their children, as parents pass on these feelings to them.
Unfortunately, despite living in the 21st century, these women continue to suffer discrimination both as women and as migrants. They face this in the workplace, as well as in everyday environments such as the street.
These women can suffer what is called ‘migratory mourning’. This can be defined as the pain or sadness suffered by people who migrate because they have left their country, their relatives, their customs, etc., behind. This does not always have to be bad, it will depend on the personal situation of each individual.
This migratory process can have a huge impact on health, especially in mental health. This can be a factor of exclusion as they feel that it is better to be at home than to be outside. It should be borne in mind that for many of these mothers it is a big change that they have been forced to make in order to have a better future for themselves and their families. In addition, these health problems can also be caused by the expectations they have of the new country and then finding out that the reality is totally different from what they imagined. Fear is another factor. The fear of not knowing how you will be treated, whether you will be accepted or not. Especially the fear that your children will not be accepted and that they will have a bad time. All of this affects the mental health of these mothers.
Nevertheless, this process can also have some positive impacts: personal growth since they are living an experience in which they can learn so many things; they see life from a new perspective. They learn to value everything that they didn’t value before; and even a greater self-esteem. They have achieved a lot and have gone through hard times. They are stronger women (Asociación Mujeres Opañel, 2020).
Not all the effort to integrate these women into society should fall on them. The natives of the country must make an effort to respect the cultures and origins of these women. Raising children in racial diversity is beneficial for future generations of migrants.
In conclusion, it can be said that mothers are the most affected in the immigration process. This is due, as seen above, to the fact that they have more difficulties in finding work; they suffer greater discrimination, as they are women and immigrants; they are at greater risk of exclusion, as they are often in charge of household tasks and do not interact with other people. It should also be added that everyone must make an effort to ensure that social exclusion does not occur. Not only them but also the native people of the country.