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updated 9:18 AM EEST, Jul 30, 2014

Finland: Integration programmes bypass Thai women

  • Published in Finland

 Pro Centre Finland (Pro-tukipiste) is a non-governmental organization that protects the rights of sex trade workers in Finland. Image: Yle Lahti

Non-governmental organizations are calling for more long-term projects aimed at promoting the integration of Thai women. Several years ago NGOs proposed new methods for supporting the adjustment of Thai women to their new homeland. However some ventures have been plagued by sporadic funding.

According to Statistics Finland some 5,500 Thai women live in Finland, the vast majority of them married to Finnish men.

About five years ago the Interior Ministry funded a project "Myanyuban/Kotona" (Home) run by the Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Its aim was to determine how Thai women are faring in Finland.

The resulting report proposed a slew of measures for supporting Thai women in Finland. Because they are married to Finns, many Thai women are often overlooked by integration programmes.

“Since then the whole matter has been buried. And then we also got a report and its proposals, but no money to implement the measures and do this kind of work,” said Minna Huovinen, head of the Helsinki branch of Pro Centre Finland (Pro-tukipiste, a non-governmental organization that protects the rights of sex trade workers in Finland.

Help begins with a place to meet

Along with the Multicultural Women's Association (Monika-Naiset), another government-funded NGO devoted to supporting immigrant women, Pro Centre Finland agrees that long-term programmes are needed to support Thai women.

“Everyone recognizes that Thai women are a special group that should receive integration support services, and that short-term schemes don’t produce any results. It requires long-term work,” Huovinen said.

One short-term project is the Multicultural Women's Centre (MoniNaisten Talo), a meeting point for immigrant women run by the Multicultural Women's Association. The project has financing until the end of 2013.

Deputy head of Monika-Naiset Jenni Tuominen said that helping Thai women – or any group of immigrant women – should not depend solely on funding.

“We just need a place where these women can go. Some accessible location, so they don’t have to stay home alone,” Tuominen explained.

Finland’s Interior and Economic Affairs Ministries have assumed responsibility for immigrant integration into Finnish society. The Economic Affairs Ministry has admitted that integration programmes may appear to be fragmented. Last autumn government sought to combine these fragments into a comprehensive integration programme.

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