My Oulu: A city of opportunities for people from abroad – the Migrant Council got off to an enthusiastic start
The diverse voices of immigrants are involved in the city’s decision-making, as different genders, professions, and ages are being represented on the Migrant Council.
Anna Litewka-Anttolainen is the Chair of the Migrant Council of the City of Oulu. She is a cultural producer by profession and works as a diversity agent as well.
“Equality and avoidance of stereotypes can be achieved through art and culture, for example in the European Capital of Culture project. Through our networks, we can also identify discrimination and intervene when it occurs,” says Litewka-Anttolainen.
Emphasis on communication
Kamal Singh has a Master of Science degree in engineering from the University of Oulu. He works as a project manager for Startup Refugees, an association for immigrants cooperating with companies and employment services.
“The main goal of the Council is to prevent the exclusion of immigrants and promote their employment,” Singh says. “We also try to influence the attitudes of employers. We look for the channels of influence, such as different organisations and companies. We want to spread the message of the importance of immigrants as a resource, and that is why we have a strong emphasis on communication.”
Singh adds that many immigrants do not know about the Council.
"There are a lot of opportunities for immigrants in Oulu and I don’t want them to leave."
Catering company opened the doors to employment
Xiaowen Xiong supports Singh's views. She is an economist from the University of Oulu and has lived in Oulu for 14 years. Xiong works in the IT industry in management of software product development and in customer service.
“Here people with an immigrant background are a talented crowd and their importance in the job market will increase in the future,” says Xiong.
Holly Conolly is self-employed: she runs a catering business in Oulu.
"While I got to take advantage of my own talents, I feel like I'm giving a chance to others as well. My business has also been my own path to work here."
A rising topic: the well-being of young immigrants
Heidi Dinh states that all members of the Council have a strong desire to participate in the local life and promoting it in a positive way. She is a school counsellor who wants to showcase the world of young people.
"A rising issue in Oulu is the well-being of young immigrants and the cooperation between schools and families."
Tony Rice-Perttunen works in export marketing. He gives an example of how the Council has planned to develop multilingual meetings.
“At the last Council meeting we decided to buy an in-ear translation device for testing. It represents very unique technology with which we can increase understanding between different immigrants and immigrant communities.”
We live in a smart city
Juan Castillo points out that Oulu is a multicultural city already.
"It does not need to be promoted separately, but multiculturalism should rather be developed and reflected in the operations of the city."
Castillo is a Doctor of Theology and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Murcia in Spain. He explores pluralism and multiculturalism. Castillo also serves as pastor in the Oulu Pentecostal Church.
"Oulu is like the Barcelona of Finland," Castillo mentions. “This city is not just about technology but different from other Finnish cities in other ways. Oulu is efficient. After all, Business Insider magazine ranked Oulu among the ten smartest cities,” Castillo recalls.
Council members elected through motivational letters
Juan Miguel D. Castro emphasises the importance of the Council as a democratic body.
“I personally feel that being an immigrant is an important part of my identity, but I am also a teacher, an active member of the teachers’ association and the Kuivasjärvi community association, and a parent."
The Migration Council has 11 members and their deputy members. The members of the Council were elected by motivational letters which each candidate wrote to the City of Oulu. Each elected Council works for a four-year term.
The new Migration Council had its first meeting in November. The official meeting languages are English and Finnish.