Immigrant women’s participation in a voluntary organization. A tool towards empowerment, recognition and social capital?
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In Norway, many immigrant women from Oslo lack inclusion in mainstream society and employment (NOU 2011:14, p.82). This thesis was set out to explore how these struggles can be met through participation in a voluntary organization. The main research question was to investigate if participation in an organization called Stella –Red Cross Women’s center, have helped women increase their (1) competence, (2) social networks, and (3) recognition, that might help them to feel more included in the mainstream society. The study findings are based upon a random sample of registered participants and volunteers from Stella – Red Cross Women’s center, since August 2012. As I was interested to shed light on the women’s center from different perspectives, a mixed method research was conducted. Hence, quantitative and qualitative data was gathered between January and April 2016, through an online questionnaire and in-depth interviews. The thesis draws on Robert Putnam’s theory of social capital and Axel Honneth’s recognition theory. The findings suggest that most immigrant women have good experiences from their participation from the women’s center. This is illustrated through the collected data, where many women claim that their participation on Stella have helped them to increase their competence, social networks and confidence. Based on my findings, I argue that voluntary organizations might work as an alternative integration arena for immigrant women and as a channel for participation and inclusion in society.