Anne Waithira Burke
Migrant Internship Scheme should be ongoing for migrants, the benefits are tremendous!
Anne originally comes from Nairobi- Kenya “the city in the sun” as she calls it, perhaps a bit nostalgic of the lovely weather they enjoy in Nairobi. “There is no need to give out about the Irish weather,” she says “it is what it is and besides I am used to it, I have been living here since 2007. As a naturalised Irish citizen I am happy where I am living now and want to make positive changes, including raising the voice of migrants in political participation and representation in the local council.”
Anne started her activism back in Kenya where she was involved in the Student Union at Nairobi University where she was studying political science. She has two Irish-born children, a boy and girl aged 11 and 10 years old. She campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and other issues which highlight the gender imbalance for girls.
She continues to campaign against FGM and uses modelling, music, dance and art as mediums to empower girls from a migrant background to tell their stories. Through modelling in traditional African attire she teaches young African girls to be confident in their own skin. She currently lives in Greystones and is running for the local elections as a Labour candidate in the Greystones electoral area.
Anne took part in the Immigrant Council of Ireland’s Councillor-Migrant Internship Scheme in 2018.
Where did you hear about the scheme?
“I heard of the political internship scheme through AkiDwA’s network on civic and political engagement. I saw it as an opportunity and applied for it. I always wanted to run and represent the voices of the marginalised vulnerable groups and hoped the internship would give me the knowledge on the Irish political system.”
What was your experience of the scheme?
“The internship was an absolute amazing experience! I learnt a lot and met a lot of local people; this confirmed my desire to want to engage in politics. I discovered that people like me are not represented at local level. There are subtle racisms and inequalities of opportunity that reduces migrants to do mediocre jobs, despite being overly qualified to do better ones. I want to break barriers and
inspire all migrant children to go for jobs that are out of reach. I want to be a migrant voice at the council but also represent all my constituents fairly. The internship taught me a lot about the work of a local councillor and I realised that a lot of people do not appreciate the work that is done by the local representatives- like fixing the famous potholes!”
Best bits of the internship scheme?
“The best bit was meeting people who were generous with their kind and encouraging words as I accompanied Councillor Joe Behan in his outreach work. It was really funny on one of the canvassing days when a dog barked at me, which scared the lights out of me. I suppose it’s because in Kenya some dogs are trained to be vicious towards strangers. I got over it and now I just ignore when they bark as long – as they don’t chase me down the road.”
Most challenging bits of the internship?
“The most challenging bit was the timing of the internship because I was unwell, but I pushed myself hard with full commitment and engagement with the internship. I wish I could have done more, especially meeting constituents from minority community groups. We still have no clinics for migrants in my area but hope to lobby to get one set up if I am elected.”
Most memorable learning?
“The most memorable and valuable thing I learnt was how the council works, for instance how decisions are made and the number of times they have to vote on various issues. I noticed women and migrants were not represented at council. This reinforced my decision to run in the 2019 local elections so that I can bring that needed migrant voice to the council. Please keep your fingers crossed for me!”
How did the Immigrant Council support you?
“I am thankful to the Immigrant Council for the opportunity to participate in the internship scheme. I was paired with Councillor Joe Behan, who is a well-seasoned politician with a lot of experience in the area. He inspired me with his commitment and plethora of information and knowledge of the area he represents. I commend the Immigrant Council for the frequent check-in meetings
and helpful support whenever I needed it. They were always at the other end of the phone whenever I needed to consult on anything.”
How did the Immigrant Council inspire you to run for the local elections in May 2019?
“The Immigrant Council supported and encouraged me in my decision to run in the upcoming May elections. Through the Immigrant Council I developed contacts with political parties and was able to work with one. I will be running as a Labour Party candidate in the forthcoming elections.”
Would you recommend it to someone else?
“I would definitely recommend the internship to anyone interested in knowing more about local representative politics and how local politics works. Sharing my experience is important in encouraging migrants to participate and make their voices heard, so I’m glad a report was produced which I hope will be distributed widely.”
“These local political internships should start early and be ongoing as part of civic and political education and empowerment. This would allow migrants plenty of time to get acquainted with the Irish political systems and to get involved with political parties that match with individual and community hopes, needs and resources.”