Central Europeans reflect on life before the fall of the Berlin Wall
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Jana Juráňová

People thought that there is no need for feminism here and that is not true

Bratislava, Slovak Republic, 2009
Slovak English

Jana Juráňová, Feminist Scholar, Co-Founder, ASPEKT

Many people, especially men, thought that there is no need for feminism here because woman were equal during Socialism and that is absolutely not true.

Socialism gave women a formal emancipation. This formal emancipation put a triple burden on women’s shoulders. In the 1960s women did not work as much, but in the '70s and '80s maybe 80% of the female population worked. At the same time, all the things at home, the children, domestic work was up to the woman. Women were really overburdened. 

There was also no emancipation in the political sphere because the people in parliament were just put there. There was no real election. The communists said there were to be so many men, so many women, so many workers, so many intellectuals and it was like a puzzle that was put together. Nobody knew who these people were. There were a few women in higher political office and they had a terrible image. They were the very anti-feminine apparatchik that was hated very much by the population. 

We started as a group of academics, scientists, writers, artists and so on that met to discuss feminism. Then, as ASPEKT developed we began to look at issues such as violence against women. In the media the topic of woman and violence was only for the tabloids. After two national campaigns, that we did in cooperation with other NGOs, the conversation became much more mainstream. One national campaign featured posters with only the words, in red and black, that every fifth woman is abused. This was so shocking for society to discover. I remember going to a library and hearing the women there say, "We are only five here, can you imagine that one of us is beaten?"

Older women were also feeling more comfortable to talk. "Yes," they would say "it is true and it is me." Women were not so ashamed to talk about it and we discovered that actually it is every fourth woman that is beaten, and in some places, even middle class areas, it is as high as every third woman. 

A crisis center was started. Society, which previously placed the blame on women telling them that it is their fault that they are beaten, realized that it is not the woman, but the violator who should feel shame. The sensitivity to the problem is now quite high.

We have a public library, which is open twice a week. We have 2 web sites, one for ASPEKT itself and one for Education. And we are still producing projects, such as one we produced last year with other NGOs, pink and blue world. The aim of this project was to raise the low status of teachers, who are primarily women and underpaid.    

Looking back twenty years, the organization has been very dynamic. Sometimes, there are new women coming and the organization grows and at other times it becomes small. Our biggest challenge now is to find funds to keep the organization going. There is a need to educate the younger generation. There were many positive things that happened when we joined the European Union, but since we were accepted people think that the need for education is not so high and that is not true. It is still important and necessary to educate people about gender sensitive topics and to ensure that feminism, which is still a dirty word, remains a part of that education.

This interview was in English
Photo by Magda Stanová

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