Norma Falconi: “Our fight is for migrant feminism to be recognised, within the demands of the feminist movement”

Norma Falconi: “Our fight is for migrant feminism to be recognised, within the demands of the feminist movement”

By Clara Esparza.

Norma Falconi was born in Ecuador (Guayaquil), but emigrated to Catalonia at the end of the 90s. From that moment, she became one of the leaders in the fight for the rights of migrants and against the Aliens Act, both in Catalonia and in Spain as a whole. He led the mobilizations and closures in parishes and churches in the city of Barcelona with the aim of improving the living conditions of migrants and achieving regularization of their situation. Founder of the domestic workers union Sindihogar / Sindillar, Falconi talks about the importance of recognizing the struggles and rights of those who care.

What were the antecedents of the Papers for All movement?

This movement began with the study of immigration laws, focusing on aspects such as the right to vote, making known the centers of internment for immigrants (CIES). It was at this moment that I learned what a CIE was and the horrible conditions in which the female colleagues lived there. With all this experience we started a campaign and started working together. Since the 90s we have fought together with social movements.

Afterwards, we started closing the parishes, when we learned that there were people sleeping in some squares in Barcelona, ​​such as Plaça de Catalunya or Plaça de Sants. Once we started holding the first assemblies, organizing and carrying out the first mobilizations, the problems began, because these types of realities began to become visible and began to bother, especially the administration, with the which at that time was practically impossible to carry out any type of negotiation.

They appointed me “the face of the fight”, because I knew Spanish and knew the Foreigners Act, they had full confidence in me. All our comrades who were part of the struggle at that moment left with papers, with work and, many of them, also now have a home.

Your proposal to obtain rights for working women, on the other hand, arises through the Sindihogar/Sindillar union.

After all this struggle to get papers for these people, I was left with the spine to see that there was no way out for domestic workers. At that time, many people wondered how it was possible that in this country there was no law that protected domestic workers.

We started to exert some pressure, going out into the streets, demonstrating. To make ourselves visible, to tell the city that we existed, that we did a job and that it had to be valued. It was a long-term struggle and soon after we decided to found the Sindihogar union, which already has twelve years of experience.

We currently have sixteen ongoing projects to manage ourselves, with which we are surviving. Our main goal is that female colleagues not only have roles, but that they have the same rights as any other worker in this country. That they have the right to unemployment. The most democratic government in Spain, last year, issued a law saying that we were going to have the right to unemployment, which will be fulfilled precisely this October, but it was forgotten that we domestic workers are twenty, twenty-five years of work and on the other hand retroactivity is not recognized.

You are part of and actively manage the Francesca Bonnemaison center, a cultural center for diverse women, a reference space for the exchange of different feminisms in the city of Barcelona. How does this proposal come about?

Since I arrived in the city of Barcelona, ​​I have always looked for militancy in feminism, because I was a working woman trade unionist and feminist. So, I thought: “I come from a developed country, I will find better conditions to be in the military in what I like, right?”. But no, I had a lot of difficulty getting recognized as a feminist from within white feminism.

So, at that moment, we migrant feminists told our fellow white feminists that, even if they didn’t want us, we would all take to the streets on the eighth of March. And this is the grain of sand that we have put into the feminist struggle every year, so that our demands are also recognized, which in many cases do not resemble those of white feminists. Claims such as the fact that many women do not have papers, their children – many born here – do not have papers either, they do not count on any kind of help, even if there are speeches that claim that we are taking away their work, scholarships, the food… to the rest of the people. This is a lie.

When you have no papers, you have nothing. So, our fight is for migrant feminism to be recognised, within the demands of the feminist movement. Something that still remains a problem. In this sense, the Francesca Bonnemaison space represents a safe space, a beautiful space, where colleagues can feel happy, relieved, where they can develop artistic activities, because we don’t just come to care, right?. We also come to pass on our culture, all our knowledge.

We fight for this, so that all women are taken into account, because feminism will be anti-racist. Only if it is anti-racist, you can do real feminism. Because it must be a joint struggle, because we are all women, simply because of that. There is a common goal, which is that we can all be free, we can feel safe.

How does the violation of the right to housing intersect with the violations of the rights of migrants?

Immigration in Spain has always been talked about as something “new”, although it is not. What happens is that Spain has never recognized the fact of having this population at the heart of its society. In this sense, yes, housing is a fundamental issue, it is a matter of rights. They cannot be shielded in the immigration laws since we are people who have the right to have access to housing.

However, in practice we face many obstacles. Rental prices are rising and there is currently no government that has been able to stop the ambition of real estate companies. It is not only a problem of precarious wages, of work in the underground economy, but directly you do not have a roof to stand on, when the human being must have a roof. They don’t think about the most elementary thing that is a home for a family. How will you have children if you are on the street? And if you are on the street with children, the DGAIA is taken from you and you have no chance of getting them back.

Housing is not just another chapter, it is also the center of our demands. Because if Spain does not have children, migration does have them and these children must also be taken care of, because they were born in this territory. Because this new blood, which is immigration, is what is changing, not only the colors of the city, but also the philosophical thoughts and the economy.

Why and how is it important to recognize care in our societies and guarantee the rights of people who work in this sector?

Well, the struggle of the domestic work sector, first, is to recognize the rights of babysitters, those who cook, those who clean, those who take care of dependent people.

From Sindillar, what we are trying to do is that, first of all, the work that is done is recognized, that it is valued. Because this daily exercise of cleaning, taking care of the children, ironing, having the food made for all these women who work in companies, or who play politics, is very important. Because, thanks to the women who are in the houses, they can do this work. Men too, because they get home, serve themselves and that’s it, but they don’t remember that there is a person doing this work for them. For us, it is not enough only with visibility, but also that the laws are adapted to the modern reality in which we are. It’s not possible that in the twenty-first century there are still slaves, is it? Cleaning, caring, dying, without people knowing.

Even if we take care of life, nobody cares. And then, we are the ones who have to put it at the center of the discussion, at the center of the table, which is why we turn our claims into words and phrases like “take care of those who take care”. We always tell the feminists that there is no 8-M without 30-M, because March 8 is the day of working women, but March 30 is the day of domestic workers. As long as we don’t have rights, we won’t be free and neither will feminism.