A whole series of subjects involving women’s issues were handled by a whole series of women journalists and broadcasters of and for the Deutsche Welle in the run-up to March 8. Here a round-up.
Women demonstrating in Frankfurt on International Women's Day, March 8, 2006
The “celebration” began on March 2, 2006 when Edith Koesoemawiria reported on child prostitution in South-East Asia, commenting that “it’s mostly the victims who get punished”. She quoted UNICEF statistics to the effect that “more than 30 million children have been traded over the last three decades in Asia and the Pacific” and that “a combination of poverty, globalization, organized crime and discrimination against women encourage(d) the trade”.
She did not fail to mention a TV-film in the popular German “Tatort” series entitled “Tatort Manila” which was “based on a true story about a 15 year old girl from Manila who was kidnapped and brought to Cologne by a German couple and hired out to a prostitution ring for three months”.
Monika Hoegen was reporting the same day about the coming German Female Entrepreneurs Conference (March 18, 2006, Essen) under the motto “Invest Cleverly”. Hoegen had such interesting stories to tell as the one about the BDI or the Federal Association of German Industry which went on record as late as 1954 as declaring that “female entrepreneurs are a post-war apparition and will disappear in a couple of years’ time”. Among the 3.7 million self-employed persons in Germany today around 1.6 million are women. Further, the type of female entrepreneur has changed radically in the past 10 years, since the Female Entrepreneurs Conference was created. “It’s no longer the widowed spouses of deceased male entrepreneurs… but mainly women who set up firms on their own”.
Female entrepreneurs have problems with “investing”, usually involving large sums of money – and the banks do the rest, with their outmoded attitudes regarding women and money. Hence “Invest Cleverly”.
Money and power
March 3, 2006. Henriette Wrege sent from Ankara her interview with Professor Yakin Ertürk, a sociologist of the Middle East Technical University in Ankara and a special correspondent of the UN on human rights. Ertürk is happy about the successes of the international women’s liberation movement, but just as sceptical about the fact that “money and power have retreated to areas where women are excluded, such as in the private sector”. She mentions the goals of the international women’s conference in Beijing in 1995 – especially the demand for greater sexual freedom and birth control – and records that “the attacks came from the conservatives of all religions and cultures in the world”, and that “misogyny is not a cultural specific”. Worse, “we’re experiencing a backlash… The policies of various governments are directed against the goals of the women’s liberation movement, such as in the area of birth control”, the reason being that “the control over women, over their lives, over their fertility has always been an important issue”.
Same day, Ursula Berner reported from Vienna about the gender gap on the basis of an interview with the Austrian feminist Edith Schlaffer. Schlaffer is known for such bestsellers as “The Physics of Love”, “The Emotional Trap”, “The Lonely Cowboy” or “The Absolutely Everyday Violence in Marriage”. She is bothered about “the gender gap, this chasm between the sexes where power and money are concerned”. That’s why she demands projects for the empowerment of women – world-wide.
March 6, 2006. Ulrike Mast-Kirschning considered the problem of Turkish women in a male-dominated society, especially the issue of domestic violence.
Same day, Susanne Poelchau reported from the inauguration of the “Institute for Women’s Health” in Baden-Württemberg, which is the first of its kind in Germany, established with the aim of “creating a network for on-going activities in research, information and consultation in the area of women’s health”, or, in other words, “to place women’s health as a whole in the foreground and release it from the gynaecological context”.
And that such an effort was necessary is shown by the fact that “most standard medicines have never been tested on women before they are brought into the market”.
Same day we have Monika Hoegen reporting about domestic violence against women in Ghana, the country of “chieftaincies” and “queen mothers”. But the most startling example of male backwardness is perhaps provided by the foreign embassies. As Yaa Peprah Agyeman, a women’s rights activist from Ghana told Hoegen in the interview: “You go to a foreign embassy for a visa. If you are a married woman, they ask you for a letter from your husband. If it is a married man, he doesn’t have to bring a letter from his wife.”
Agyeman talks about “sexual assault within and outside marriage, which some people call marital rape”. And then there’s the special problem of AIDS: “With our culture… men have more power than women. And the women depend on the men for their survival. So most of the women cannot refuse sex with their husband… you know, your husband is moving with many women… you cannot even force your husband to put on condom. So because of that HIV in the villages is very difficult.”
Same day, Nada Steinman reported about the “new” international women’s day in erstwhile communist countries: Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania. After all, women’s day was celebrated officially for the first time at the second communist women’s conference on March 8, 1921, and made into an official holiday in most communist countries after the Second World War. Today, it’s turned into a kind of unofficial “Mother’s Day”, which actually upholds the image of women that a patriarchal, male-dominated society has ordained for them, whereas women continue to pay the price for the on-going transition to a democratic, capitalistic system.
March 7, 2006. Monika Lohmüller interviewed one of the leading woman entrepreneurs of Germany, Angelika Aschenbrenner, who declared that she wished that there were 48 hours in the day, because that’s what “all working women, who have to look after the household and the children as well”, need.
Same day, Kathrin Erdmann reported her encounter with three generations of women from the same family - 71 year old grandmother, 46 year old divorced mother and the 16 year old daughter – to show how far women in Germany have changed, at least so far as their attitudes are concerned.
It is to be hoped that the rest of German society will soon follow suit.