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On Wednesday March 1st Safia and Michael from V-consult were invited to meet with the Norwegian Prime Minsiter Erna Solberg. The topic to be discussed was integration, gender-based violence and female genital mutilation.

The Prime minister welcomed us in heer office close to the Aker Fortress. It was a heartfelt greeting between Safia and the Prime minister. After a short round of introductions the PM was interested in learning about the work V-consult is doing in Somalia with Mogadishu University, for women’s rights, and against gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. The university has 14 faculties and over 7.000 students, making it the largest educational institution in Somalia. It is working actively to eradicate FGM and almost all of its staff have signed a pledge to do the same in their private lives.

The conversation shifted over to integration of newcomers to Norway. What challenges does Norway face when receiving refugees from war-torn countries? What are the challenges and opportunities our new countrymen and –women face when integrating into Norwegian cultures and society?

V-consult is establishing a national network of health and social care workers with immigrant backgrounds that can help out in their local communities and workplaces when newly arrived refugees face difficulties in understanding the Norwegian welfare system and hospital services. Safia has many experience and many years of working as an activist for gender equality. This is something more people can learn from. We want to establish a national network where Safia can play a role as mentor, so that the number of competent social and health care workers who actively take part in helping new arrivals to integrate steadily increases. Experience shows, unfortunately, that many newly arrived refuges, especially women, hesitate to openly discuss intimate health problems with Norwegian health care workers. This is something Safia has experienced time and time again during her 25 years in Norway.

Our conversation also touched on immigrant youth and the need for activities that can prevent the development of parallel communities.

Our allocated time of 20 minutes stretched to 45 minutes before the PM had to rush off to another meeting. On our part we felt that the PM was attentive, curious and looking for good solutions and approaches so that newly arrived refugees can be successfully integrated into Norwegian society.

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