I couldn’t just look at them and do nothing: these children could as well be mine

Author: Feminfo Original title: Nem nézhettem tétlenül, azok a gyerekek akár az enyémek is lehetnének
Publication: 444.hu Date: 18:59 05/09/2015

 I couldn’t just look at them and do nothing: these children could as well be mine

Hungary, 2015. Refugee crisis. Volunteer helpers, hundreds or maybe thousands of civilian men and women look after the refugees instead of the Hungarian State.

In our society which traditionally puts the men in the centre of everything and insists on traditional gender roles, it’s men who lead, make decisions and control, whilst women ensure uninterrupted everyday life.

If men decide not to help people arriving in just a few clothes with more than they need just to stay alive, it seems that at first and for sure we can rely on the women’s humanity.

Women do the lion’s share of the work

In the present crisis, helpers created their own communication channels. What’s more, they established a website and a mobile app helping refugees get the information they need in multiple languages. Next to Migration Aid, several online communities and Facebook groups (such as MigSzol [Migration Service – transl.] or Segítsünk együtt a menekülteknek [Let’s help the refugees together – transl.]) post updates about what is most needed and where the donations should be taken.

As we have no official statistics, we rely on our informers who consistently say that the overwhelming majority of those who work on site and organizers work on the lowest levels are women. They do it almost unseen, they do it because they are needed: refugees need food, provisioning, medical attendance and help.

Lot of these women help regularly or permanently at the key zones, others come without registration, when their timetable lets them, they pop in and do what is always necessary: they sort out and distribute donations, they make and wrap sandwiches.

According to those who spoke with us, the biggest difficulty is to cope with hate. On the Internet, one can unfollow or block people (probably everybody has already unfriended a friend on Facebook for this reason), but on the street it’s inevitable, hard and difficult to process when one’s called a slut, a traitor, or – and it happens often –  when one’s threatened with physical violence.

Helpers with children

Volunteer women are of all kinds. Their age, religion, marital status and even their nationality vary. A lot of Hungarian mothers (and fathers, of course) help despite the beginning of the academic year, or they organize the volunteer work at home, in front of their computer. A lot of people say that as mothers or parents, they can’t not help.

Most of Hungarian women don’t leave their home even on an uneventful day with a baby in their belly or in their arms, as they know too well that their place is at home and that public transportation in Budapest is not baby-friendly. Compared to that, labouring in an underpass and taking care of a baby (according to our information, there are almost new-born twins in an underpass in Budapest today, too), or marching in a forest for days with a baby in their arms, starving and sleeping wherever it is possible, fearing that the family can be separated seems an astonishing undertaking and an almost inhuman burden. All of the above often without talking to unknown men and not let a man doctor check on them because these women were raised differently.

However, the proportion of women and children among refugees grows every day, and according to UNICEF’s data twelve percent of fleeing women are pregnant.

So, a lot of helpers arrive with their children, and those who are old enough participate in distributing food and clothes. That’s what happened on Friday night, too: we saw a lot of children carrying cereals and clothes along the motorway. The show must go on… A lot of families understood that if they want to go and help people who are ready to walk to Vienna with babies in their arms, it would be ridiculous to stress about bedtime or that they arrive home too late.

’I just…’

What shocked us most was that a lot of volunteers who helped us to write this article said that

’… I just do this or that, the real hard work is done by others.’

Now, don’t be angry with us, but this is just bullshit. You borne the brunt of the work, while our men-dominated (= composed only by men) government played its tactics, was on holiday or organized a football match.

If women had been represented in helping the refugees as much as they are represented in the government’s decision making, then we would have ended up in a humanitarian catastrophe weeks ago.

There is one thing we must admit Rózsa Hoffmann [Secretary of State for Public Education – transl.] is right about:

’What politics have become not only in Hungary but everywhere in Europe is not at all something we can be happy about. It’s full of passion, screams, viciousness, lies and aggression. We should handle human problems with sympathy.’

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