We constantly hear it somewhere: women’s quotas, equality, … Somehow I was not able to hear it anymore. I was wondering how my generation got along without all these things and felt that all those actions on the subject of women were unnecessary. By the way, I am a woman myself and a single mother of a now grown-up daughter. That life isn’t always easy hasn’t passed me by, of course, but I would never have thought that I would have it harder, let alone be disadvantaged because I am a woman.
Now the editorial office said: “The next journal will be a booklet about women in Kiel. So it was only natural to extend my feelers towards the equal opportunities representatives and find out exactly what it’s all about. So I asked Helga Rausch, the Equal Opportunities Officer of the state capital of Kiel, for an interview. No sooner said than done! And so one day I was sitting in the New City Hall with lots of questions on my mind. Since I had no expectation, I immediately liked the open and friendly manner of Ms. Rausch, who made it very easy to talk about her quite complex work. That in sequence though.
I wanted to know the difference between a women’s -and an equal opportunities comissionar. Surprise: there is none! Only the name has changed, and an equal opportunities commissioner also advises men who are disadvantaged. But then again, the fact that a man cannot become an equal opportunity commissioner in Schleswig Holstein confused me. However, this is what the Schleswig Holstein State Labor Court decided in 2017. This position must be filled by a woman, since women are still structurally discriminated against.
From a population of more than 15,000 people, the municipality has to appoint an equal opportunity commissioner to realize the basic law of equal rights for men and women. The purpose is, for example, to create working conditions that enable both genders to combine family and career. Good, that’s settled. But what does an equal opportunity commissioner deal with on a daily basis? With the equality of all citizens of the city. That doesn’t sound dramatic at first, but it is diversified and comprehensive. Certainly, until I started to deal with this topic, I lacked the awareness that there is still a lot to be done to eliminate grievances. Ms. Rausch told me that this is also part of her work. To sharpen the view for the many grievances that still exist in people’s minds – which one simply overlooks because it has always been like this. For example, women who work in the same positions as men still earn less than their male colleagues in the liberal economy. At the same time, it is not always appreciated when a man takes paternity leave. This is where justice has to be established and this is one of the most important tasks of an equal opportunities commissioner. Here she gets involved through discussions with the parliamentary groups and individual members of the council as well as the employees of the administration and the department heads. In this way she can react to gender-specific discrimination, support in the planning of measures and support with constructive criticism.
Violence against women and girls is still a major issue. For this purpose there is the working group “Violence against Women”, which meets regularly in the Department for Equality to exchange views and organize events. People are to be made aware of the injustices that still exist and encouraged to bring about change.
Two of the events take place annually: The autumn celebration in the labyrinth in the Volkspark as well as “Gewalt kommt nicht in die Tüte” (eng. violence does not come into the bag), which takes place on the International Day against Violence against Women at Citti-Park Kiel. Here hundreds of buns are packed in bags, donated by the bakery Steiskal, and distributed by politicians, women from specialized women’s facilities, organizations and associations as well as the equal opportunity commissioners. On these bags, besides the motto of the campaign, addresses and telephone numbers of shelters are printed where distressed women and girls can turn to. Among them is also the help telephone for women in 17 languages, which can be reached 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
All this is only a fraction of what an equal opportunity commissioner deals with, and what was previously taken for granted is, as I am just now realizing, thanks to the years of work of all these women. And I have come to the conclusion that our society needs women like Ms. Rausch in order to defend and further develop these rights and the freedom that we women have today. Especially today in these times, when there is a clear rightward political shift in our country, we need women. Women who advise, help and point out when political parties would like to see women back in their old roles: At home at the stove and please not in leading positions and certainly not equal to men.
It was a very interesting topic for me and I am glad to have met Ms. Rausch and to have gained an insight into her work. I think that it would certainly have helped not only me as a young single mother, but also for single fathers, in one way or another.