Cécile Kashetu Kyenge is a Congolese-Italian politician and oculist by profession. She was the Minister for Integration in Italy between 2013 and 2014. She was a Member of the European Parliament from 2014 until 2019.
Her Contributions In The Community
In 2002, Cècile founded the cultural or preferably, the Intercultural Association, “DAWA” which in Kiswahili means “medicine”. The primary aim of the association is to promote a common understanding of different cultures and to develop a process of awareness, through integration and cooperation between Italy and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Cécile focuses most of her attention.
Since September 2010, she has been the national spokesperson of the Italian association “March 1st”, which works to promote the rights of migrants. In the March 1st of 2010, the movement made big news for creating the first strike of thousands of migrants and the Italians alike, spreading across various regions in Italy. The protest was against the exploitation of migrant labourers in the country.
“At least 300,000 people filled the streets of dozens of Italian cities: from Trieste to Palermo to Turin, including large demonstrations in Milan, Naples, Brescia and Bologna.” This was according to the article “March First: Courses of Action Leading to an Unexpected Strike.”
It is not very clear if the March 1st Movement in Italy is in any way inspired by The March 1st Movement in Korea, one of the earliest public displays of Korean resistance during the rule of Korea by Japan, from 1910 to 1945.
In addition, Cécile has been collaborating with various organizations and associations in national campaigns on the rights of citizenship. She collaborates also with many Italian magazines, including Combonifem and Corriere Immigrazione, an online newspaper and weekly journal on the cultural dynamics in Italy.
But how did this Congolese woman came to Italy and strike out a road for herself both within the Italian/European political spectrum and the social fabric in general? Let’s find out more.
Cécile was born in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 28 August 1964. In 1983, she came to Italy with a student visa. In 1994, she got married to an Italian engineer, Domenico Grispino, and they have two daughters, Giulia and Maisha.
Cécile is an oculist specialist from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and she is also a graduate in medicine and surgery from Catholica, Rome.
For your information, Catholica with its five affiliated campuses is the largest private university in the whole of Europe and the largest Catholic University in the world. Its main campus is located in Milan, with some satellite campuses in such cities as Brescia, Piacenza, Cremona and Rome.
Personally, I can say that Cécile do have a strong opinion on a diversity of issues and she is not afraid to share them at the right opportunity. This, I noticed during a long interview I did with her back then, when I was researching about Blackness and African identity in contemporary western society. Actually, it is one of my earliest research projects in Italy and with which I won an award at the Verona African film festival in 2011.
Her Political Career
Cécile was first elected into political office in 2004 in a district of Modena for the Democrats of the Left or “Democratici di Sinistra”. She later became the provincial head of the Forum of International Cooperation and Immigration.
In June of 2009, she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for PD (Partito Democratico) the Democratic Party and joined the committee Welfare and social policies. Much later, February 2013, she was elected member of the Chamber of Deputies for PD in Emilia-Romagna.
Now that she has gotten a good political experience and footing on the ground, she made her first major move that will send her name into the living rooms and coffee bar across Italy: The Ius soli law or her plan proposal to for granting citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil. This was shortly after her election to the Italian Parliament and with the support of other signatories as Pier Luigi Bersani, Khalid Chaouki and Roberto Speranza.
This is definitely not a small fight, and for most Italians and in a country where immigration can be anything but positive. Many they rather accept the ambiguity of asking a child who is born in the country to tender a residential permit than granting the natural right of citizenship by place of birth.
Well, the fight is worth it and for the sake of our children and the future we are trying to shape today, those who believe in this natural right of a human being will eventually win.
Cécile knew this quite well, and she equally knew that many of her co-politicians do not like her, but she was determined to go for it, for the sake of the future that will come.
Italy is a democratic society, no doubt about that. And there are really great people around, you know. You simply cannot write that off. But then, there are those individuals who are unable to see beyond the hill of their noses and who always see anything bad in everything and everybody, except themselves.
Even though this fraction of the population do really benefit from the contributions of migrants to the national economy and therefore to them also, they would rather spit on anything that has to do with migrants. And they happily brainwash others like them to do the same, through their numerous propagandas and political theories, many of which have been disproved over and again.
Some of these gentlemen and women are equally in politics and were co-parliamentarians and TV guests with Cécile and they made her seat very hot for her. And what did she do? She kept an unwavering focus on her objective and thanks to her supporters nationwide, though not the majority, she manages to excel in her political career.
Between 2013 to 2014, she was the Italian Minister for Integration, and from 2014 until 2019, she was Member of the European Parliament.
What Can You Take Away From This Story?
Well, consider it like this: It will rain; it will storm and the road might be blocked too. But if you know where you are going and you are determined to endure those discomforts along the way, you will get there and with time.
So where are you going and what are you willing to sacrifice when they call you names, and you call for a meeting and no one shows up. That is when the growth really takes place, not when everything is rosy and all your friends are there to support you. When you remain the only one standing with nothing more but your vision and what you want to achieve in your life. At that critical moment, will you stand until the end of the storms or run away just like the rest? You get the point.
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See you in the class.