A Kenyan expat has been selected to represent the Irish Labour Party in the forthcoming local elections following her participation in a councillor-migrant internship.
Kenyan Anne Waithira Burke was among the expats taking part in the programme, facilitated by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in which five migrants worked as interns alongside councillors in five local authorities for four months.
Anne, who works as an administrator and young women migrant leader for an NGO called AkiDwa (National Network of Migrant Women), was raised in the slums outside Nairobi. She has been especially active in fighting for the rights of women and young girls and as an advocator and voice against racism, prejudice and bullying, she says she is a firm believer in the importance of community development and integration.
The mother of two, who moved to Ireland from Kenya 12 years ago, was paired with Councillor Joe Behan of Wicklow County Council for the scheme whose findings were released in a report yesterday.
Among the report’s recommendations are for the scheme to be rolled out on a larger scale and for political parties to do more to create opportunities for migrant involvement. The success of the scheme has been highlighted by three out of the five interns, including Anne, deciding to run as candidates in the upcoming local elections.
During the internship, Anne assisted with calling door to door in the Greystones area and assisted Cllr Behan with social media upskilling. She attended a number of council meetings and provided valuable feedback as to the content and management of the meetings as well as assisting Cllr Behan in understanding the immigration system in Ireland as it affects new immigrants.
“I got enormous benefit from the scheme as it opened my eyes to the barriers that migrants face in becoming active in political life in this country,” Cllr Behan said.
“I now understand more fully the need to have schemes such as this Councillor-Migrant Internship Scheme available on a widespread basis throughout the whole country. This would ensure that our new citizens can contribute to the welfare of the entire population as well easing the path for newly arrived immigrants. I suggest that it is publicised in every county by the Immigrant Council. One way to do this is to ask to make a presentation to every County Council in Ireland, explaining the scheme and the benefits which flow from it for everyone.
“I was highly impressed by the dedication of the participant I was working with (Anne) and also the professional approach of the Immigrant Council of Ireland in the way they supported Anne and myself to ensure the internship was a success. All in all, I consider this scheme to be a magnificent initiative and I would welcome its extension throughout the entire country in the future,” he added.
Along with what she learned from the experience, Anne said what she enjoyed the most was meeting so many new people.
“I’m here over 12 years and for the first time people have started saying hello to me around my area. I feel like I am accepted in my own community. Some of the benefits I got from the programme include – how to represent yourself, how to show confidence, how to work, how to place yourself in the market so that you are able to maximise your election chances. Cllr Behan talked me through that step by step,” she said.
The experience inspired Anne to enter politics and at a Selection Convention held on Friday the 29th March in Kilcoole, the Labour Party in the Greystones Municipal Area selected Anne as their candidate for the Local Elections in May 2019.
Speaking about her selection, Anne said: “As an Irish citizen and a mother of two amazing children, I am immensely proud of Ireland and how it has developed and changed over the past 12 years I have been here. I am very hopeful that Ireland will continue to flourish not only for our future but our children and their children’s futures.
“It has been a struggle to educate myself and I continue to do so and work hard to build a life for my family. I see great resilience and optimism in the Irish people, and I believe that helping each other and building a future for our children starts at local level.”