"Strengthening women" was the focus of this year’s Integration Prize, which was awarded on Monday in Berlin. Chancellor Angela Merkel started with a Kurt Tucholsky quote. "There is no success without women." When women with a migrant background feel at home in Germany, when they share the fundamental values of the country, then their children will find it easier to develop well, stressed Angela Merkel. "In integration work, women account for the majority," said the Chancellor. They are involved as volunteers, but also full-time in nurseries and in schools – many of them doing this work on top of their regular duties, pointed out Angela Merkel.
Integration, of course, is also unthinkable without men. "Whatever their gender, I would like to thank everyone for the work they do here to foster cohesion," said the Chancellor. "The idea of cohesion among everyone who lives here is a very important idea."
The National Integration Prize is awarded in recognition of exemplary services in the field of integration. The prize-winner is also to serve as a role model, an example of successful integration, and is to inspire others to get involved. The prize was awarded for the fourth time this year, and was presented by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration Annette Widmann-Mauz. It comes with 10,000 euros and was awarded at the Federal Chancellery.
The winner of this year’s National Integration Prize is Bjeen Alhassan, who operates a learning platform on Facebook. It addresses displaced women in particular and helps them with their careers. Bjeen Alhassan’s Facebook group "Lernen mit Bijin" (Learning with Bijin) offers online German language instruction and social work services. "I would like to use this group to help women, and give them hope and courage," stresses the young woman. She fled from Syria to Germany in 2014 and now lives in Hamburg, where she graduated in 2019 with a master’s degree.
Now, she addresses other women every day with her Facebook group, and helps them with advice and practical assistance in a wide variety of areas relating to life in Germany: from learning the language to enrolling at university or writing a job application. Bjeen Alhassan speaks German, English Arabic and Kurdish and helps Kurdish- and Arabic-speaking women to find their way. "Speaking the language is the first precondition for genuinely finding your feet in Germany, and that is why I am happy to pass on my knowledge," explains Bjeen Alhassan.
A total of ten projects were nominated for the National Integration Prize. The focus this year was on projects that have helped integrate women with a migrant background. One of the short-listed projects was Kaiserslautern University Institute for Development through Qualification (EQUAL) project "Aim – displaced women graduates in STEM subjects on the labour market". It offers in-person and online teaching as well as a self-taught course of study and a mentoring programme. The platform "tünews INTERNATIONAL" was also nominated. Since 2015 it has been publishing articles in German, Arabic, Persian/Dari and English. The magazine’s detailed articles aim to help foster public discourse on integration on both sides. It is run by the not-for-profit association "KulturGUT".
The decision is taken by an independent jury made up of pubic personalities, who are appointed for three years. They are the Berlin integration expert Naika Foroutan, the author Ahmad Mansour, the professional football player Sami Khedira, Cologne’s Lord Mayor Henriette Reker and the former director of the Federal Employment Agency and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Frank-Jürgen Weise, who also chairs the jury.