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My mentor is my first Danish friend


Anne is the first Dane Sherin has ever had a close personal relationship with. A friendship has blossomed between the two. This friendship and visits with Anne’s family have proved to be Sherin’s ‘way-in’ to a Denmark which previously was a closed country. This has now given Sherin the courage to move into the Danish job market and Anne has gained access to a whole new world.

Sherin came to Denmark in 1989. She is 41 and was born in Iran. She is a qualified garment machinist and has studied as a designer. In 2004 she was paired up with Anne who was born in Frederiksberg and is educated as a teacher, tapestry weaver and holds an MA in Gender and Cultural Studies. In accordance with their own wishes, the identities of the two women have here been changed.

To begin with, their common professional interests was a huge plus for Sherin and Anne. It meant that the had shared likes and had something to talk about. Using her network, Anne helped arrange work experience for Sherin with a well-known Copenhagen designer.

More than anything else, it has been the desire to get to know each other socially that has been the driving force behind their relationship. From their very first meeting, conversation turned to each other’s families, eventually leading to visits to each other’s homes. Sherin has actually met Anne’s parents and friends and Anne has heard about Sherin’s family and her visits home to Iran.

For Sherin, her friendship with Anne represents her first close relationship to a Dane. It has helped her to feel more at home and she has since made more Danish friends and is building up a network. She also believes that it has made her stronger mentally. She has more courage to look for a job and to make something more of her life in general.

Sherin always wanted a Danish friend but she found it difficult meeting Danes. “With a mentoring programme,” she explains, “you dare to make contact because you know the mentor is a woman who herself has volunteered. You don’t need to hold back which means you can be more open and free.”

The way refugees and ethnic minorities are discussed in the media has had a strong effect on Sherin. Everyone has an opinion about ‘foreigners’ and the press is often negative. This led Sherin to feel isolated. She never dared approach Danes and ended up finding friendships with other foreigners who were in exactly the same situation as she was. It can be hard when they have the same problems and as Sherin explains “you really don’t have the energy to carry the burden of your own pain and theirs, too.” The meeting with Anne, who has fresh reserves, has given Sherin’s life many new dimensions.

Both women have benefited from their mentoring relationship. As Anne explains, “The thing that’s so good about the network is that being a mentor is like being given a gift. You get to meet a person who you otherwise would never have got to know.” Through Sherin, Anne has gained insight into another part of the world – insight into life as a woman in Iran and insight into life as a refugee in Denmark.

The visits to meet Anne’s family have led to exiting political discussions over the dinner table. Sherin can tell about the regime in Iran and the situation for women. So today it is Sherin that Anne’s father rings up when he wants to hear a reasoned and objective opinion about what the newspapers are writing about Iran.

Both Anne and Sherin have experienced first-hand that the better you know each other the easier it is to use each other. Anne understands what Sherin needs and Sherin knows how to make use of Anne’s experience. Neither is in any doubt today – the greatest reward of all is the friendship they have built with each other.
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Background, case stories and more in KVINFO's
Theme: Mentoring

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