Momodou Jallow ( Equality for Afro-Swedes, Malmo, Sweden) - 30 March 2009

It was frustration born of repeat rejection that transformed Momodou Jallow into a campaigner against discrimination in Sweden.

''I couldn’t get a job,'' he explained. ''I applied for more than a thousand jobs in Malmo, in Sweden and even in Denmark and I didn’t get a single interview.''

There were no issues with Jallow’s residential or work status. Age was not a factor either. The Gambian-born computer engineer spoke Swedish and English to a high standard and possessed a thorough knowledge of Microsoft systems. He expected his academic success and positve spirit to deliver a good job with career prospects.

It was not to be. Jallow even telephoned companies to find out why he was not shortlisted. He was offered little in the way of a convincing explanation, allowing only the conclusion that his ethnicity worked against him in the Swedish job market.

As the months passed, Jallow’s consciousness of racial discrimination and its impact heightened.

''I thought that if I go to school, I struggle and keep myself out of trouble, I was going to get a job,'' he added. ''I did everything right but I was fooled. Then I started thinking about activism. I started talking to people. I couldn’t give up and sit at home.''

Jallow returned to university to complete a Masters programme in Social Sciences and soon became active in student politics, earning himself a fulltime job with the country’s influential Students’ Union.

Now as a board member of 'Equality for Afro-Swedes,' with a brief to challenge anti-discrimination, Jallow is determined to encourage Sweden towards a more inclusive society. He cites tackling police racism and discrimination in the job market and in housing as priorities. Equally, he believes that Sweden can only move forward when it faces up to its past as a slaveholding country and engages positively with a new community of non-whites who by birth and education see the country as home.

''People are angry,'' he said. ''People born and raised in Sweden feel they are not being treated equally. Sweden is a very segregated society. The country doesn’t want to open up to people who are not ethnic Swedes.''

''I would be a sell out if I said that everything is ok. There are lots of people just like me who do not have the opportunities to get jobs. I have kids in Sweden. I don’t want them to grow up and have the same problems that I have just because of their skin colour. ''Black people are part of Sweden’s history. They are not just here because they want to make a good living.

''I want equal rights for everyone in Sweden. I want everyone to have equal opportunities and feel that they are a part of the country and society. It’s a basic human right. That’s not asking for too much.''


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