Sherin and Anne

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Before, Sherin did not dare to seek contact to Danes because of negative public debate about immigrants. The fact that Danish women volunteer as mentors made a difference to her.

Anne was the first Danish person with whom Sherin established a personal relationship. A friendship quickly developed between the two women. This friendship and visits to Anne's family have been Sherin's first access to Denmark and Danish society, which would not have been possible before the two met. This has given Sherin more courage to move into Danish society and the labour market. But the friendship is not a one-way street as it has also given Anne access to a better understanding of different worlds.

Sherin came to Denmark from her native Iran in 1989. She had experience in clothing and accessory retail management in her home country, and had later studied fashion design.

In May 2004, Sherin was matched with Anne, who was born in Frederiksberg and trained as a teacher and as a weaver. Anne also has an MA in Gender and Culture.

Initially, the mentoring relationship was based on professional affinity. Anne and Sherin had many interests in common, and via her network Anne managed to get Sherin an internship with a fashion designer in Copenhagen. However, the foundation of their relationship was the desire to get to know each other better as friends.

Sherin had been influenced by the way refugees and immigrants have long been discussed in the Danish public sphere. As she saw it, everyone seemed to have an opinion about 'foreigners' and the references were often negative. Because of this she had not dared to seek out Danes, but had spent her time with foreigners like herself.

Sherin knew that the Danish women who sign up for KVINFO's Mentor Network do so voluntarily. She felt she did not have to be as shy with Anne as she was with everybody else, she could afford to be more open and free. She was right.

Just a few minutes into their first meeting, the conversation turned to their families. Soon, and as part of a very natural process, they started visiting each other's homes.

When visiting Anne's family, Sherin could have an interesting political discussion over dinner and freely share her views about the regime in Iran and the status of women in and outside the country. For Anne, getting to know Sherin was enlightening, as she began to get truer insights into the expectations of women in another part of the world and their lives when they decide to go into exile.

When asked about their story, neither is in any doubt that their friendship has been the biggest gain for both of them.

Anne and Sherin are not their real names, which have been changed at their request.

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