“My name is Asta, I am 22 years old, and I study anthropology at the Copenhagen University on 5th semester. I recently did my fieldwork with three other students in collaboration with the Night Light Café – a night café on Vesterbro Square in Copenhagen for Nigerian women in prostitution. We were especially interested in how the women use Christianity as a guide in life, but also as a promise of hope and salvation on the other side of fear and poverty. I had imagined, that it would be hard for me to relate to these women, whose lives are so different from my own, but to my great wonder they became more than just study objects. During the fieldwork, close friendships were formed. Here are some of my reflections:
When most of us go to bed, others begin their working day. While the streets of Copenhagen lie desolate, the shops and restaurants are long closed and the street lights are switched on, the Nigerian women, who work on Istedgade, get out into the night.
The working conditions for these women are tough and uncertain and the night can be cold. But a light is lit every Wednesday night when the Night Light Café opens its doors and welcome the women in for hot tea, a toast, a game of Ludo and a genuine conversation.
One of the women, who love to come to the café is my friend Danielle, whom I met in connection to my fieldwork. She is from Benin in Nigeria, is 27 years old, has a strong Christian faith and then she has a son. But when she is in Denmark, he is not with her, he is with her mother in another part of Europe. Despite of not liking the work, she does in Copenhagen, Danielle is one of the warmest and most cheerful people I have ever met.
When we started our project, we met a lot of doubt towards our project from both our counsellor and our social circles. We were told that it would be hard if not impossible to build the trust needed, to do a project with these vulnerable women. But we decided to try, and were pleasantly surprised, that we instead were met with warmth, openness and trust from the women in the café and on Istedgade, where we handled out tea and hot cocoa in the night-time. Our project has been both personally and professionally rewarding, and I am thankful to have been able to gain insight into a world, so different from my own and to build friendships across social divides. I think back on our time in the night café with joy! Tomorrow I am getting my nails done with Danielle.”
- Asta Staib-Jensen, anthropology student at Copenhagen University