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Women20

Women around the world: Latvia

In collaboration with EyeEm, DW invited photographers to share images that offer an insight into the lives of women around the world. This one was taken in Latvia by Zelma Brezinska.

DW: Where did you take the picture?

Zelma Brezinska: This photograph was taken in Latgale, in southeast Latvia on the border with the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.

Who is in the picture?

This photograph is very personal to me, because the woman in this picture is my mother. When I think of her, I always picture her like this – sitting in the kitchen and gazing through the window. She likes to tell stories about her life and unfulfilled dreams. She doesn’t want to leave this house, which she and her husband built by hand sixty years ago. This is her life, her memories and usual environment.

What does your image say about the culture of women in your native Latvia?

When addressing this photograph, I want to speak about elderly women in rural Latvia. Latvia was part of the Soviet Union for many years, which meant women in the countryside had to do a lot of physically demanding work to take care of their families. Women proved themselves in that society, did all the work that man do, like digging ditches, driving tractors and so on.

They didn’t have the same education possibilities we have here today and hard labor ruined health. When Latvia reclaimed its independence, these women lost their financial savings and now they get a pension, which in most cases, is not enough to pay for medication. With this photograph, it’s not my intention to show the situation of Latvian women as a whole, but to shine light on how hard it is for the elderly.

How important are gender issues to you and in your country?

Living in Latvia I have never felt discrimination against me for being a woman. 
Gender equality questions are a relatively new concept in Latvia. In the year 1990 Latvia regained independence, that time was pretty chaotic and gender equality was not high on the list of priorities. However, in recent years, this topic is receiving much more attention.

Do you think women are fairly treated in your country?

I think in Latvia, it’s every woman’s self-motivation that dictates the education she gets, the career she builds and what she achieves in her life. There are no limitations set on the basis of gender.

We have a lot of smart, educated women who successfully work in finance, run their own businesses or successfully work in politics. Latvian women are excellent mothers who can take care of their families, work and study at the same time. Our women are proof that gender equality is possible.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

EyeEmis a Berlin-based community of 18 million photographers from all over the world.

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