Amma Asante needs our vote for the Dutch Parliament.

10 November 2006 at 21:49 | 816 views

A black woman, Amma Asante(photo), with an African background has been nominated as a candidate for the labour party ( PVDA) in the Netherlands. If successful in the November 22 general elections, she will be the first black African PVDA Dutch parliamentarian. One of our columnists in the Netherlands, Teddy Foday Musa, introduces her.

By Teddy Foday Musa

The Netherlands is a country that has a historical record of tolerance towards immigrants and foreigners in general. This tolerant attitude has also been demonstrated in the corridors of their local politics, and under the canopy of their respect for human rights. Their asylum procedure was one of the most flexible, emulating the standards of the 1951 United Nations Convention on the rights of Refugees and Migrants. Their social laws were not only favouring the welfare needs of migrants, but also enhanced social ties between them and migrants.

However, over the past years, the Dutch culture of tolerance towards immigrants has been troubling to put it mildly. Today, there are visible frictions and tension between the Dutch and immigrant communities. Such a situation has manifested itself with clear warning signals on the wall for immigrants to stay away from them, or leave the Netherlands for another destination.

Reasons for this could be attributed to a host of growing global factors ranging from terrorism, immigration problems, religious and cultural differences. Today there is a glaring rift that has grown wider between the Dutch and the immigrants.

Amma Asante, the first ever black woman to be nominated as a candidate for the PVDA has vowed to bridge the gap between the Dutch and the immigrants. In an interview with her, I asked her to comment on the controversial views of Hirsi Ayaan Ali, a former Dutch Parliamentarian, who is known to have thrown spanners into the wheels of the good relationship that existed between the Dutch and the immigrants. This is what she told me:

"I don’t agree with her ideological views. You can’t just blame a whole religious community for everything that goes wrong in the world. Her views contributed to the hostile climate against Muslims in particular, and migrants in general. Politics to me is to contribute, not to divide, polarize and bring hatred."

Amma, who her herself is a migrant, has the credentials to speak out on behalf of immigrants. She is one of them,and has felt the pinch of being an immigrant like them. Therefore, it is the belief of some immigrants that she can use her own experiences to smoothen their troubled relationship with the Dutch.

Amma is 34 years old and was born in Ghana (Kumasi). She came to the Netherlands as an immigrant together with her mother, to join her father who had earlier on travelled to settle in the Netherlands. She has two sisters and a brother. She is the eldest child of her family. Amma is married with no children. Her husband is a pastor by profession.

Fighting such a political cause on behalf of a drowning immigrant community, one needs not only the motivation and political affiliation, but also a very strong academic background, coupled up with seasoned work experience.

Amma, when asked about her educational background, revealed to me that she is a graduate of the University of Amsterdam in International Relations. She is also a member of the Amsterdam city council, managing the welfare of over 120 nationalities. She is currently employed with “Centraal Orgaan Opvang Asielzoekers” (COA). She works at the department of policy and law. Her main duties are to design integration courses for refugees, care for refugees less than 18 years old and new social facilities such as the housing of ex-convicts and children who have problems at home and need alternative homes away from their parents.

Amma, whose passion for women and children towers above all her other qualities, was recently involved in setting up a foundation to provide information for and support parents with school children. This foundation, she told me, is still very active. Asked what her political focus be if voted for, she said:

"Children and education are my key focus. If you want to raise a nation, teach them how to fish. Education of good quality that offers equal opportunities for everyone is crucial. Our kids need role models; they need committed and supporting parents, a vision for their future and equal opportunity to develop their talents."

"If our parents have to clean offices or work in factories because of lack of education or knowledge of the Dutch language, we youths should do better and more. Our parents might decide to go back to their homeland, but what about us who have been born or raised here and who have no place to go? We have to secure our future right here and nowhere else! We have to contribute to this society because it is also our society."

Most people, when they enter politics, that is the time when they will give their best to doing things, so as to up-grade their political popularity. Amma told me that she is an exception as she has been actively working for migrant communities even before she became politically active.

"Before I got politically active, I used to be very active in Amsterdam south East where I lived because my father was one of the founders of the council of Ghanaian Organisations in the Netherlands. I used to translate meeting documents and interpret for them in some cases."

Amma, who spoke to me with confidence, eloquently outlined her political agenda, backing up with her work experience. She appears to be a round peg that will be put in a round hole if voted for. However, to make her political dream come true, she will need 1600 votes or more. Her chances though are great since the PVDA is a very popular party with immigrants.