< SWITCH ME >
Nicoletta Enria is Italian, originally from La Spezia, grew up in Rome, London and Frankfurt. She graduated from University College London, studying Language and Cullture and now works as Project Assistant and Social Media Assistant at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). Follow her on twitter: @NicolettaEnria or her blog.
On the 4th of December 60 % of Italians voted against the constitutional reform package proposed by then PM Matteo Renzi, that resigned in line with his promise to step down if he did not win the referendum. On the same day green candidate Alexander Van der Bellen won the Austrian elections for President of the Republic, against extreme right wing Norbert Höfer. And it seems that in a post-Trump, post-Brexit Europe news can only be reported in binary mode, with reference to their effects on the European Union: in this case the Austrian victory stands as a positive result for Europe, while Italy’s results would be the next domino to fall in an extremely disheartening 2016, towards dissertation of our Union. Now, whilst I too fear for the great political uncertainty this referendum result presents for Italy, it is far too nuanced a situation to befit most of the polarised mediatic representations. So with the extreme parties on the rise around Europe and the world and increasingly divisive, hateful rhetoric permeating European mainstream discourse, what do the Italian referendum results mean for Italy, Europe and the world?
Having been an EU migrant in the UK for almost the majority of my life, Britain’s Brexit aftermath never ceases to torment me. Since the UK voted to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June, it has been dominating European headlines, with more and more controversial content. The unexpected outcome of the Brexit referendum shocked people across Europe and the globe, despite exit polls having already pointed to this result – nobody wanted to believe the turn that the UK was about to take. With cries and promises for curbs on immigration by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Prime Minister Theresa May, my anxiety for the future in a country I was so used to calling my second home has been growing. The truth is, we can discuss the growing xenophobic, racist comments permeating the Conservatives’ rhetoric for days, but what does this all actually mean for migrants in the UK?
Our editor Nicoletta Enria points you in the direction of a few articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about refugees who revive a small Italian village in Calabria, the growing trend of “voluntourism” and how European countries deal with non-physical abuse.
Nicoletta, Baby and Legs editor
A non-conventional Refugee story
The other day I had a rather depressing conversation, or more precisely argument with some people I went to school with about the refugee crisis and more specifically refugees in Italy. This really reminded me of the importance of fair representation of refugees, reminding people that they are not just a mass of displaced people making their way through Europe but are humans coming from a variety of cultures, countries, religions and social backgrounds. This article and photo reportage by Al-Jazeera’s Thomas Bruckner really fit this criteria by representing refugees as humans and casting a light on the positive impact they have had on some societies. In this reportage he casts a light on the story of the mayor of the village of Riace, Domenico Lucano who saw the presence of refugees in Italy as an opportunity to save the shrinking community of Riace and thus started the ‘refugees welcome’ project. I found this article particularly important in standing against the majority of articles about refugees that focus on depicting refugees as a mass of people on rickety boats and the societal problems they cause in society. The photographs show the community of Riace which is not ‘hosting’ refugees but rather incorporates them, reminding us that refugees are humans seeking safety. This really made me think of the importance to keep stories like this circulating to fight against prejudice and diminutive stereotypes. When reporting on a phenomenon like the refugee crisis today, it is of vital importance to keep the bigger picture in mind
|Photo: SignorDeFazio (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0
As the Cirinnà Bill is currently debated in Italy, Nicoletta Enria spells out what this legislative text is about and explains why civil union is such a contentious topic for Italy
I distinctly recall observing the beautiful scenes of jubilation when the US Supreme Court ruled gay marriage as legal nation-wide; I couldn’t help but wonder if this could ever occur in Italy. Italy remains the only country in Western Europe that does not recognize civil unions or gay marriage. Italy fosters a deeply catholic society, probably due to the Vatican and the Pope residing in the heart of Rome and a long Catholic history that came along with this. Despite Prime Minister Matteo Renzi having promised to pass a law on civil unions, this never seemed to be a priority. With the European Court of Human rights (ECHR) condemning Italy for failing to provide enough legal protection for same-sex unions, sentiments yearning for change were in the air. The controversial Cirinnà Bill seems to finally be paving the way for Italy to legalise civil unions.
With Euroscepticism on the rise, what can be done to get Europeans to start debates around constructive criticism about Europe? E&M editor Nicoletta Enria met Paola Buonadonna, director of the Wake Up Europe! campaign run by the Wake Up Foundation for a chat about the challenges of creating a transnational discourse, Brexit and how to create a conversation about together building a Europe we want to see.
|Photo courtesy of Paola Buonadonna|
E&M: Hello Paola! To begin with can you let us know what the Wake Up Euope! campaign is?
Paola: The whole thrust of the Wake Up Foundation is educational and awareness-raising, the starting point is that there are trends that threaten our way of life that we don’t realize yet. The motion of these tectonic plates is something that we should be aware of now and be talking about now and you know Europe is one part of this.The idea behind Wake Up Europe! is to get people together to start thinking, talking and acting about Europe. It’s an interesting mix, we want to use the Great European Disaster Movie to promote this transnational conversation and this will happen for most of the time online on various channels such as social media. The interesting thing I think about it is that we don’t just want people to download the film and watch it, we want people to organise events so that they can meet face to face with other people and talk about these things. The idea is that it’s the face to face sort of activism of that kind that is slightly missing at the moment. Europe is what the media, politicians , think tanks say and they give you a version of what Europe is about and they interpret and percolate for us how we should look at Europe. Depending on where you live and depending on what’s in the news that can be a very highly skewed or narrow perspective or you’ve got, as my colleague James, calls it, click activism – various petitions websites that send you constant requests for very pointed, limited action. But you sit on your own in your house and you click a button, you are not really connecting in any meaningful way with anybody else. The idea behind this is to use the film to bring people together both physically, face to face, and with an online conversation that continues after they watch the film, we ask them to get back in touch with us, tell us what they thought and tweet throughout with the #WakeUpEurope.
In this week's edition of Good Reads, the new editor of Sixth Sense Nicoletta Enria shares some articles about reversing gender stereotypes in Lithuania, the "rescue" mission Triton in the Mediterranean and the importance of appreciating street names when visiting a city.
Nicoletta, Sixth Sense editor
"They won the lottery"
The tense geopolitical atmosphere in Lithuania due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has meant that the government has reintroduced conscription, which had been previously outlawed in 2008. I found this article from the Guardian’s Nadia Khomami particularly interesting, as it deals with a moving photography project by Lithuanian photographer Neringa Rekašiūtė and actor and TV host Beata Tiškevič-Hasanova in response to the reintroduction of conscription entitled "They Won the Lottery".
The photographs are truly arresting, portraying men in tears as a result of having been called up. However, what I found most fascinating is the reversal of male gender stereotypes, whereby the men in the photographs appear to be crying due to societal pressures for them to “man up” and not be cowards in the face of conscription. This piece casts a light on the rigid male stereotypes in Lithuania, which can be compared to those of many other European countries, and the aims of the project are to subvert and criticise them.
In the past women have done a variety of jobs: from working in factories during war periods to steamming tobacco leaves.
Women's employment is one of those evergreen issues in the agenda of the old continent. Besides dusty stereotypes that still relegate women to few sectors of care and other social needs, the problem of women's employment has been worsened by the recent economic crisis. E&M author Nicoletta Enria approaches the topic and unveils European trends when it comes to women's education, wages and their presence in decision-making positions.
In the past couple of years, issues regarding gender equality have entered mainstream discourse with cries for gender parity by the likes of American actress Patricia Arquette in her Oscar acceptance speech and British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign calling for men to join the battle. Although proposals for gender equality in the economic, political and cultural spheres seem to have become popular again, how far has this actually gone in providing concrete progress for women? With a backdrop of financial instability bringing forth a rise in unemployment and austerity measures, what is the European job market looking like for women nowadays?
The European Commission stated in its 2014 Report on Equality between Men and Women that gender equality is not only a fundamental right but is also essential for economic growth. Needless to say, the financial crisis affected a whole generation, resulting in a sharp rise in unemployment, especially for young people. However, the proportion of inactive young women remains double that of young men. Austerity measures in countries such as Greece have led to cuts in public, health and care sectors — all sectors which normally employ women. This is leading to a rise in women unemployment and a rise in unpaid care work for women, with currently 45% of Greek women living below the poverty threshold. This also casts a light on the problem of occupational segregation, which is when your gender defines what ranking or job you get based on gender stereotypes deeply engrained in our society.
Italian vespa in Durham, UK
Immigration is a hot topic in the UK and the current political campaign is no exception. In the run-up to the general election, scheduled for 7 May 2015, politicians from different wings are getting tougher on EU migrants. Focusing mainly on migrants coming from Southern Europe and, especially, on the Italian community living in the UK, E&M's author Nicoletta Enria takes us through some of the scenarios about how this election could affect EU migrants and their lives in a country where they don't have the right to vote.
From the time of the Roman Empire to Ellis Island and now taking to the streets of London, Italians have always been known to migrate and make their presence known throughout the world. As youth unemployment in Italy soars, hitting a staggering 43.9% in November 2014, young Italians cannot help but feel anger, disappointment and resentment towards a system that offers them no hope and begin to look for a brighter future abroad. This swarm of educated youngsters, the "escaping brains" as they are known in Italy due to the fact that many of them have university degrees, are now predominantly settling in the UK. Officially, there are said to be 600 thousand Italians today in the UK, of which 60% are under the age of 35. What is life like for all these hopeful young Italians in the UK and how will the potential outcomes of the UK General Elections in May affect them?
In Italy, partially due to the role of the press in glorifying the UK and Germany, young Italians are brought up believing that all hope lies in migrating there. More and more hopeful Italians are travelling to the UK and finding themselves living in squalid, cheap hostels to avoid transport costs and expensive rent. Paid minimum wage, sometimes even less, they are ideal for low-income jobs as they provide big companies with cheap labour. In their dream for a better life not just Italian migrants, but also Portuguese, Spanish and Greek youngsters are facing this similar unexpected economic hardship, in an attempt to escape the financial crisis in their home countries. There is also a large community of young Italians studying at British boarding schools and universities in an attempt to profit from one of the best education systems in Europe and broaden their opportunities to obtain jobs in more places around the world. With a growing anti-immigration discourse in the UK, seen in articles such as this one by the Sun referring to Portuguese, Italian, Greek and Spanish migrants as "PIGS [that] are here to stay", integration is a privilege that not all of these young migrants have. Despite this, plenty of Italian migrants I have spoken to, myself included, thoroughly enjoy living the UK and feel fully integrated in their home away from home.