Leaving the seat empty

Text and photos by Frohar Poya

The European Election is anticipated to take place in June 2024 across all European member states. However, at the local level, many are either unaware of this election or do not take it as seriously as the regional elections because it’s not sufficiently promoted locally.

In Belgium this year, the European, Federal, and regional elections are scheduled to occur on June 9th, 2024. Recent polls indicate that the far-right party Vlaams Belang is gaining momentum. One of their main campaigns is “stop the immigration”. While immigrants are a great asset in Europe specially in the labour force, campaigns advocating against them are gaining popularity.

Migrant women face many challenges and obstacles to integrate into the host country, understanding their rights and being able to participate in politics gives them a sense of citizenship. Take Abeda, an 82-year-old doctor from Afghanistan who arrived in Belgium and sought asylum in the early 1980s. Despite facing institutional barriers preventing her from working in her profession, she has never missed a vote since gaining her rights as a Belgian citizen. When the voting day arrives, she dresses her best and heads to the polling station with a smile and a sense of pride.

Then there’s Cecillia, a 30-year-old accountant from Senegal, who arrived in Belgium through family reunification. This year marks her first vote, and she’s incredibly excited to participate in the elections and to cast her ballot.

It will also be the first vote for 20-year-old Didem, who came from Turkey with her family through her father’semployment in Belgium. Having spent her teenage years in Belgium, it has become her home. Didem sees Turkey as a holiday destination to visit her extended family, and Belgium as her place of residence. There are many women who areeither born in the EU or grew up in Europe, viewing it as their home, and voting means deciding on their future life in Europe.

Despite strong emphasis on nominating an equal number of women and men for elections, many elected women often step down from their seats due to threats and feelings of powerlessness in decision-making.

As a woman and a migrant woman, regardless of whether you are 20, 30, or 80 years old, and irrespective of whether you come from Turkey, Senegal, or Afghanistan, and regardless of whether you arrived in the EU through family reunifications, as a student, sought asylum under humanitarian protection, or came on an employment visa. if you have the right to vote, it’s vital that you exercise it by participating in the European and regional elections. As women, if we do not put our hands together and support each other, we will always be reflecting on our past, and our seats will remain empty. 

For more information about European Elections in Belgium click here: Belgium – How to vote (europa.eu)

For more information on federal and regional elections in Belgium click here: https://www.belgium.be/fr/la_belgique/pouvoirs_publics/democratie/elections