v.l.n.r.: Edit Schlaffer, Elke Jonigkeit, Michael Y. Wiener

Women without Borders in Switzerland

20. March 2010
St. Gallen

On March 20th, 2003 the University of Applied Sciences St.Gallen/Switzerland (FHS) invited to the launch of Women without Borders in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Edit Schlaffer represented Women Without Borders. She said, “In all parts of the world, in all cultures and classes, women fight for the right to be heard and to participate, often with great risks. They work towards their own life plans, their participation in public life, their accessibility to politics and the economy, their education, equality and peace, the well-being of their families, their democratic rights and their human rights. The resistance of women became apparent in Afghanistan. The women kept the civil society alive, established secret schools and organised healthcare. Afghan women are a good example that resistance is possible in a seemingly hopeless situation. The initiative Women without Borders wants to cultivate the world-wide dialogue between women. The goal is to set up messages in in as many countries as possible. Through the construction of reliable alliances and networks, the communication of political expertise, the construction of structures for the participaton of women in society, the building of initiatives for the realization of human rights and targeted research and lobbying, we want to strengthen the self-confidence of women and further their ability to assert themselves.” Elke Jonigkeit, a film-maker from Cologne, Germany (CIRCE Film) and author of the multi-media series “Famous Female Artists of the 20th Century”, presented her film “The Women of Kabul, Stars on a Banished Sky.” The film displays the life of Afghan women in a war-torn and male-dominated country in an impressive way. Jonigkeit portrays three very different women whom she had already accompanied during the time of the Russian occupation. Elke Jonigkeit founded the self-help organization Nazo in Kabul. It enables women to achieve economic independence through traditional artwork, which then helps them become self-determining and able to make the education of their daughters possible – a key element in the liberation from suppression. Michael Y. Wiener and lecturers of the University lead the public workshop “Gender and Intercultural Communication.” “It is a goal of the University for Applied Sciences to participate in the development of civil society and to commit ourselves professionally and politically as a university. There is still quite a bit which needs to be done here in Switzerland: equality of voting privileged men and women is de jure only one generation old; politically and economically women are a strong, but still small minority. About 500,000 migrant workers are clearly still discriminated against. In regard to the daily life of the sexes, Switzerland was reprimanded in the last report of the UN-Human Rights Commission: domestic violence against women and children is still common, especially since Swiss law states that this can only be reported if the victim has suffered severe personal injury. Up until now, universities have not furthered the dialogue with different but still equal partners much. It is their duty to not only produce scientists and masterminds and their products in order to develop society, but to offer a forum for contemplation, possibilities and ways of existing, in which they make their knowledge accessible. This is especially important when the discussion concerns chances and risks of social development and processes. If we want to understand history and the present better, we have no other choice but to point out the realities from discriminating perspectives and to reflect upon the different constructions of reality. This is what we have accomplished together for this occasion in St. Gallen, as well as beginning new ways of thinking which will make constructive actions possible in the future; at least where it is in our sphere of control and we must use this opportunity!” Wasim Qadire from Afghanistan, president of the association Rösslitor Books, participated as a special guest. All in all, 200 people were mobilized through this event. Television, radio and the press were mobilized for the causes of Women without Borders. “All participants of Women without Borders in St. Gallen had and have something in common: They look closely and recognize the alternatives for protest. Protest is necessary, but what will follow? That is what this event tried to answer."


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