Two days ago I participated in a diversity conference here in Malmoe, arranged for the third year in a row, called “Long live the prejudiced notions!”/Länge leve fördomarna!, which isn’t praizing the prejudiced ideas we see in society, but rather pinpointing their existence and showing on ways to deal with them properly. The conference was the idea of Yacir Persson-Chelbat and Karin Tingstedt from Malmoe Municipality. Yacir Persson-Chelbat was born in Morocco, but has lived most of his life in Europe. He came to Sweden in 1994 after having fallen in love with a woman. He was never a refugee, and has become rather successful here in Sweden. He’s head of development at Securitas, founder of NJ Consulting Group and also founder of the networks Diversity Index and Multi-Cultural Sweden, http://www.diversityindex.se. It’s Diversity Index which in co-operation with Malmoe Municipality, Sparbanken Öresund, Malmoe City Theatre, Mazars and Malmo University have arranged this conference. I was informed via Facebook and since I have a great interest for these values I decided to buy the ticket and participate. So last week I went to Malmoe City Theatre and bought my ticket. This Monday morning I went to the theatre building Hipp where the conference would be held and above you see part of the program folder. When I arrived shortly before ten we first just mingled a bit, talking to different people and had some coffee. At half past ten we entered the theatre salon and looked up our seats. Yacir Persson-Chelbat welcomed us and told us a bit about the background to this conference “Long live the prejudiced notions!”. The compére and discussion leader for this event was the journalist and TV-show leader Anne Lundberg. She was very pleased for having been given this task which she performed just as excellently as she does on TV. The first speaker was Ulrika Rogland, who’s a prosecutor and has become famous for having dealt with several hard cases. Anne Lundberg and we others first listened to what Ulrika Rogland had to say and then interviewed her shortly on stage. Ulrika Rogland decided rather early on that she wanted to study law, and she also has the heart in the right place so to speak. She told us about a little boy at five who had been part of a case some years ago and had made a deep impression on her. A 17-year-old boy who had been part of a robbery, then wanted to stop his criminal life, met a woman, became a father some years later, but was drawn back in crime by his old gang. In 2005-2007 Rogland handled the case with the so called Alexandra Man, a pedophile who lured minor girls to meetings to have sex with them, but finally got caught. He said in his chats that he was called Alexandra as an alias, tried to groom the girls and lured some of them to hotel rooms etc to have sex. Ulrika Rogland prosecuted the man and helped the girls. Rogland also told us about a killed woman whom she never met. However, even as a deceased person she had made an impression when Rogland dealt with the case and talked to the dead woman’s loved ones. She also told us about a 14-year old girl who had been sexually abused. As a prosecutor for several hard cases Rogland also has been threatened to her life, but managed to keep going, and mostly found her tactics to separate her private life from her professional one.
The second speaker was Jessica Ahldin Grundström whom you see here above. She is an entrepreneur and founder of two organizations which has had focus on social conscience. The last one is called Drivkraft Malmö/Motor Malmoe, and is a non-profit organization with the aim to help school children who need help with their school work to learn better. Some come from families who have good realization for the importance of progress in school and others come from families where the language is a blockation, or families with low income. This help is for free and Drivkraft Malmoe has now a network of people between the age of 20 and 40, mostly women, who act as mentors and school aid a few hours each month. Jessica was asked several questions and it was clear from the audience that it was a much asked for and needed organization. She might be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.drivkraftmalmo.se or http://www.facebook.com/drivkraftmalmo. After her lecture and Anne Lundberg’s interview it was time for lunch, and all of us went out in the lobby for some food. There I was talking to some new acquantainces from Stockholm: Kurdish Servan Bozarslan and her mother who came from Mångfaldsportalen/The Diversity Gateway. Servan is working at the County Court in Stockholm and is also involved in Mångfaldsportalen. I also bumped into an old acquaintance from Stockholm, writer and social-worker Dilek Baladiz.
After lunch at one o’ clock we assembled again in the theatre salon for the continuation. An actor from Malmoe Theatre read an extract from the play “Jag ringer mina bröder”/I’ll call my brothers. Then his bosses from the theatre, Petra Brylander and Jesper Larsson gave us a presentation of the local stages gender equality and diversity work. That is also why they have one woman and one man to work with two aware minds with these issues. Brylander and Larsson also told us of the project “Malmoe The True Story” initiated by the local former Social Democratic politician Luciano Astudillo. It’s about involving school kids and gather stories from their lives which will be composed into a theatre play which describes the life for young people in Malmoe today. When they were finished we got a very different presentation of diversity within the banking and industry worlds. Tord Wigren, one of the leaders at the company Huawei and Mats B Nilsson from Sparbanken Öresund. Wigren told us how the development of cellphones has changed over the years, that the looks of the phones were much more diverse some years ago, but look more or less the same nowadays, but also that they encourage creativity among their inventors and employees in order to come up with new concepts. Nilsson from the Sparbanken Öresund told us that they are involved in and encourage the project “Football against racism”. There football teams from multicultural east Malmoe meet teams from more homogenic “Swedish” parts of town. Then they play matches in places like Hörby in central Scania. Anne Lundberg continued her questioning and did so with warm interest.
At a quarter to two the next speaker entered the stage. It was the Lebanese journalist, feminist, author and magazine owner Youmana Haddad. She had started an Arabic magazine in Lebanon called Yasin/Body. It deals with the topic of sexuality and especially female sexuality. She has been fighting for feminism all her life, which her religious Catholic family and the Lebanese society haven’t always appreciated, but Youmana Haddad has gone her own way. She has taught her two sons to respect the opposite sex, even if it isn’t always easy for them. She has written ten books and is fighting patriarch values and religion in Lebanon. According to her the patriarch values and religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam contain much too much of misogyn values and content to be taken seriously or be accepted in a modern society. She also talked about Lilith, the first woman in the Bible before Eve, and Lilith refused to be subordinate to Adam. Youmana Haddad got lots of questions, both from Anne Lundberg and from people in the audience and it was evident that many loved what she said. She then was also asked to participate in a small discussion with the prosecutor Ulrika Rogland.
After a new 30 minute coffee break it was time for a panel debate on stage. In the panel were Petter Bragée, chief of the children’s section at Swedish Television, Rakel Chukri, Chief Editor for the Culture pages at the newspaper Sydsvenskan/The South Swede, Petra Brylander, one of the bosses at Malmoe City Theatre and Yacin Persson-Chelbat from Diversity Index. The topics discussed were different forms of values in media and the society as a whole, their different experiences of diversity and equality work, prejudiced notions and racism in society. Rakel Chukri from Sydsvenskan is born here in Sweden by parents of Syrianic origin. Rakel has several brothers and grew up with both a rather typical Syrianic Christian upbringing and a more secular and modern one. She’s a fervent feminist, has high salary, but experienced great racism in her class when she grew up in Jönköping, but also as a grown up woman. She now and again experience the racism, sometimes aimed at her, sometimes in general. Petter Bragée from Swedish Television was the one who had most positive aspects in his inclusions, while Brylander and Persson-Chelbat made statements of both good and bad experiences concerning gender equality and racism.
At a quarter to four it was time to hand out prizes for splendid diversity work. It was handed out to hardworking individuals and companies for work in seven different categories: The first prize in the category “Ethnicity” was given to the corporation of women in Rosengård called Yalla Trappan/The Yalla Staircase. These women sell handicraft material they make themselves, run a café, a restaurant and have a catering business. The second prize for Gender/Gender Equality was given to the company called Rättviseförmedlingen/The Justice Agency. A very emotionally moved Rebecka Hagerfors recieved the prize for “Religion”. She’s not religious herself, but she runs the inter-religious Fridens Hus/The House of Peace, to create bridges between the religions. The lesbian police officer Jeanette Larsson got the prize for “Sexuality”. She has been fighting both against racism and sexism within the police force, and in the society as a whole. FIFH Malmö/The Sport Club for Handicapped Malmoe recieved the prize in category “Handicap”, Seniorbolaget and then also added Juniorbolaget who work hard to get both older and young people on the labour market got the prize for “Age”. For “Gender expression” a trans-sexual man called Claes Schmidt recieved the prize. But it was his beloved wife Anita who recieved the prize, while Claes participated over the phone. All these seven people were then photographed and the third conference “Long live the prejudiced notions!” was ended with some Champagne drinking in the theatre restaurant. At five ‘o clock I went home pleased with the day, despite the rain that now was drizzling down in distinct drops. Despite the rain I was in a good mood after having got more proofs of all the good work that is done in this city.
Anders Moberg, September 11th 2013