As the final election day of this year’s municipal elections in Finland is fast approaching, the campaign for votes has intensified in all the municipalities. The candidates are using all forms of media to reach out to voters. Some of the campaign messages for this election tackles immigration, migrant integration, equality, and health care.
Espoo is one of the municipalities in Finland, where 732 candidates from 14 political parties are contesting to become councilors for the municipality. However, only 75 of them will be selected. The municipal councilors are elected by direct secret vote by the residents of the municipality to serve for four years.
Adwoa Brewu is one of the municipal candidates of Espoo, being actively involved in this year’s campaign. She stands on the ticket of the Christian Democrats. As a candidate with an immigrant background, Brewu says she is distinct in two different ways: to serve as a mouthpiece for immigrants and as a bridge between native Finns and immigrants. “I have that advantage to look at both sides of the coin Brewu says. She explains that she can look at issues from the perspective of both an immigrant and a native Finn.
One of the main themes outlined by Brewu is to support the well being of children and youth, and limit inequalities among them. “I want to fight for their education and help them in their relationship with other people,” Brewu says. According to her, there are many children and youth who are marginalized and who do not feel part of the society. Perhaps they have no friends, they have limited social networks and they only rely on electronic equipment to keep company. Brewu anticipates that if the city does not help these people, the future costs for the city will be high.
Other themes highlighted in Brewu’s campaign message include promoting migrant integration, promoting sense of community and preserving societal values. Brewu believes that in the long run it will be the society that suffers if the inhabitants are not able to communicate in Finnish language. Communication between teachers and parents becomes difficult when parents have no language skills to understand issues that teachers might raise about their wards. Brewu acknowledges that the city is providing opportunities for immigrants to enroll to Finnish language course, adult education courses and other vocational courses; however, she thinks there is lack of information that hinders immigrants from taking advantage of the opportunities and thereby leaving them out of the integration process.
According to Brewu, the immigrant population is currently concentrated in certain areas in the city, which might enhance the development of social classes in the country. She says when children don’t develop intercultural knowledge and cultural sensitivity at an early stage, it could be difficult for them to cope in their future work environment.
Promoting a sense of community among residents in Espoo is necessary for an open municipality where people are bold to ask and receive help from each other, Brewu says. She narrates that once standing at a bus stop, she had a severe stomachache; she had held her stomach and bowed down her head. According to her, none of the people at the bus stop cared to find out what was wrong with her. The bus arrived and they all jumped into it, leaving her behind. . “In fact I was surprised – we cannot live in a society like that,” she says.
Brewu started her political career at Central University in Ghana, where she stood for election as a secretary in the Student Representative Council (SRC). Although she lost the elections, she became active in student affairs at the University. In her early years in Finland she wanted to join politics to influence the way immigrants integrate into the Finnish society, but at that time her language skills were not good enough to communicate with people.
She joined the Christian Democrats and decided to stand on the ticket of the party in this year’s municipal election. According to her, the values of the party and her personal values are the same and she does not have to change who she is in order to fit in. She feels this is the time that people with immigrant background should be active in the political arena to influence decisions that concern their future and the future of their children.
In Ghana, Brewu studied Economic and Business Administration at Central University and she majored in Human Resource Management. She worked as Customer Service Personnel with Barclays Bank Ghana as an intern and did her National Service with City Savings and loans, now Inter-Continental bank. She later worked as an Assistant Consultant with PsyconHR Ltd, an HR consultancy firm in Accra, Ghana.
Brewu arrived in Finland in 2007 to study Management and Organization at Hanken University in Helsinki. She graduated in 2011 with a master’s degree in Economics and Business Administration.
After graduation she enrolled in a Finnish language course to improve her language skills. According to her, in order to work in the field of human resource management in Finland, it is key that one knows the language to be able to communicate with other people. Learning Finnish was not easy for her; what she learnt in the classroom was different from what was spoken on the streets. Besides, she had no friends to practice with after lessons. “I could write and read but I could not speak,” she says.
Brewu joined a mentorship program organized by Väestöliitto (Family Federation of Finland) to help her to get in contact with people and to force her to improve her Finnish language skills. She was fortunate to have a Human Resource specialist as a mentor. “We mostly communicated through email and my mentor corrected the mistakes in my text, and that is how I learnt”, Brewu says.
In 2013 she joined the Red Cross as a voluntary worker and worked as a multicultural coordinator in the Central Espoo unit. The Red Cross organised activities, which included helping kids with their homework and organizing friendship activities for old people. Other aspect of the multicultural work included organizing language café for adult immigrants and story time for their children. The idea of the program was to allow the parents to discuss topic of interest together with native Finns and improve their language skills while the children enjoy listening to stories.
After the voluntary experience, Brewu worked for the city of Espoo as an office assistant. She had the opportunity to familiarise herself with the HR operations in the sector. She also worked as a replacement Assistant in the language and culture unit of the City’s Finnish Education department. After this she moved on to work as Coordinator for multicultural affairs in the City’s youth department where she gained insight into some of the challenges facing migrant children in the city. Currently she is a Coordinator on project aimed at integrating unemployed adult immigrants into the city through culture.
Church Activities and general recreation
Brewu says she spends most of her time with her family as well as doing the work of God. “The work of God is on my heart and a lot of my time goes into it,” she explains. She is originally Methodist but served in the Church of Pentecost, Finland as the leader of the residents of Espoo. She led the campaign to engage immigrants in the church in learning Finnish language. She initiated a mentorship program in the church, which attracted the attention of the city of Espoo. She says the multicultural board of the city saw the program as a good idea and bought into it and made it open to all residents of Espoo irrespective of religious affiliation. Currently, Brewu serves in the Methodist Church in Helsinki as a Coordinator of the English service. She also coordinates youth activities of the church.
“Native Finns and migrants are happy to hear what I am doing,” Brewu says. Migrants are happier to see someone with immigrant background in politics. “You become like a role model to them. For Finns, they are happy to see immigrants as active participants in the society and not just sit on the fence and expect to be fed,” she explains. “The overall reaction has been positive. I believe I can win, even though I am a first timer,” Brewu says.
Source: GH Diaspora