Home Expats in Prague Natallia Allen

Natallia Allen

Text and photo: activecitizenfund.cz

We strongly believe that our lives will be better if we cooperate, have a dialogue with each other, and try and understand the diverse population of the CR

This year, InBaze came up with a platform for civic participation of migrants – a project which attempted to map the needs of Prague residents with a migrant background in the area of civic participation. The project, completed by a final conference in September this year, sought to raise awareness of this group of inhabitants by informing them about the possibilities of involvement in Czech civil society and public affairs. It also aimed at strengthening the migrants’ ability to express their opinions and needs, to defend their rights, to put their ideas into practice, and to cooperate with local active individuals and communities. The MigAct initiative, established as a part of the project, transformed into an independent MigAct z.s. association. ‘MigAct empowers and inspires people with a migration background to become an integral part of Czech civil society,” explains project leader Natallia Allen.

The motto of the Active Citizens Fund programme is With Courage. What do you think courage is needed for in today’s society?

We live in a fast-paced, highly interconnected and complex world. People and resources are constantly on the move. Migration, a natural phenomenon that has accompanied humanity since its beginning, is a key issue in almost all societies. It is essential to acknowledge this fact and to take courage and look for ways for people to live together, enrich each other and benefit from their diversity. We need to truly join forces in building local communities and take an active role in the development and enhancement of the functioning of the whole society.

How does your project help the Czech society gather courage?

The MigAct initiative actively seeks to create a more open and inclusive civil society in the Prague capital. Its aim is to expand and open up opportunities of civic participation for inhabitants with a migrant background who make up about a third of the Prague population. People who move to Prague from different countries and for different reasons often remain on the margins of the society, without full access to political and, to some extent, even civil rights, and encounter many obstacles and barriers on their way to civic participation. Sometimes they need a great deal of courage to enter civil society at all, even though they are an integral part of it.

How do you personally benefit from your work on this project?

I’ve been lucky enough to have met a lot of inspiring and courageous people with incredible life stories. I benefit from being part of MigAct every day, it is a great challenge as well as a great source of ideas, creativity and inspiration.

How do you see the role of civic activism in today’s society?

I think the role of civic activism and civic participation is extremely important. It represents a path to positive change, an effort to take responsibility for the world around us, and it also opens the door to dialogue and cooperation. I would like to see civil society benefit more from the diversity and variety of people and organisations that make it up. At the same time, it also deserves more respect and recognition in the society. There are still a lot of myths and misunderstandings associated with NGOs and community initiatives and we need to be active in overcoming them.

How does your project reflect the motto With Courage?

In the MigAct project, we pay a lot of attention to building capacities and empowering people to be active in the society, to gain self-confidence and be able to fulfil their potential. We try and break down stereotypes and we want to interconnect individuals and organisations. This requires courage almost all the time: both at the level of interpersonal communication – which means stepping outside of one’s bubble, talking to someone who speaks another language or thinks differently – and at the level of institutions and organisations that often do not perceive people with a migrant background as fully-fledged citizens.

Why do we need active citizens interested in public affairs in the Czech Republic?

They are a cornerstone of democracy; democracy cannot work without them. And there isn’t a better political system, or it hasn’t been invented yet. Life in an undemocratic society is completely different, marked by oppression, fear, insecurity, apathy and violence. I know this from my own experience, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. However, not just active citizens need to be involved: we need to count in everyone who lives here and values our society, regardless of their nationality.

How will your project contribute to a better life in Czechia?

The MigAct initiative contributes to greater openness, humanity and cooperation and strives to overcome prejudice. We strongly believe that our lives will be better if we cooperate, have a dialogue with each other, and try and understand the diverse population of the CR.


InBaze – platform for civic participation of migrants – InBáze, z. s. (inbaze.cz)
MigAct – Support of Civic Engagement