Maria Angeles Sallé is the president of Fundacion Directa, which works to improve female immigrants’ integration. In partnership with the Orange Foundation Spain she set up the Hola Fabiola project, a serious game to introduce the women to digital technology. She tells us about what she does.
What led you to dedicate yourself to solidarity, and women’s solidarity in particular?
I am a middle class woman, which allows me to see (and live) life from a privileged position. My horizons are limitless but I have strong roots. I leanrt this as a little girl, and I have nothing but gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had. I want to help people who haven’t been as fortunate as me. It is something I want to do, but I also consider it a duty. And why women in particular? Not only because it is women who face the greatest injustices and inequalities, but also because they constitute the half of the population who are the fundamental players in life processes (reproduction, feeding, health, education, care, etc.), and recognising this fact, and its independence and strength, is the only possible way to overcome the inequalities that are increasingly affecting life.
Can you tell us about the Hola Fabiola project, supported by the Orange Foundation Spain , and its impact on women?
Fabiola is a training initiative to help integrate female immigrants into a digital environment. What is special about this programme is that we employ people the woman can identify with (women from different countries). At the same time, the training has a common theme that enables the women to learn to use the digital tools in a way that is specific to their own needs. For example, looking for work, interacting with their peers, defending their rights, communicating with their families, and even improving their knowledge of the country and the language. Fabiola, from Ecuador, is the main character. By using the word Hola (hello), we wanted to convey the double message of welcome, both to Spain and to the internet. For the women who have participated in the programme, there has been a visible before and after. That has been their experience. This is because using digital technology, even at a basic level, opens doors to their social and professional integration.
What have you learned from the immigrants you work with?
I have learned lessons in being resilient, generous, and in making sacrifices. I have learned how they take care of their loved ones who are far away, all while taking care of the ones they have by their side. They always give the best of themselves (their knowledge, love, strength and smile) on both sides of their lives. And they do all of this while rebuilding their identity by piecing together all they have learned, and what they have lost.
>>> Women accompanied by Mari Angeles during Hola Fabiola training sessions.
What are the challenges facing women in the new millennium?
The main challenge is not so much "changing ourselves to adapt to the world", but rather "being ourselves in order to change the world". This means strengthening our individual and collective self-esteem, to place greater value on who we are and what we do. It also means gaining economic, political, social and technological power to change the rules of the game. This has to be done by focusing on human relationships based on new equalities, by colonising technology in order to transform it into a catalyst for well-being, and lastly by stimulating talent, diversity, inclusion, and participation as essential tools to manage complex societies in which the only sure thing, without a doubt, will be rapid change.