Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Internationaler Frauentag

[ International Women's day ]

One particular holiday/day of political action that I have learned about this year is "International Women's day" that takes place around the world on March 8th. I find it ironic that this day goes largely unnoticed in the states [ since it was one of the nations of origin for this day during the movement for women's suffrage in the early 1900's]. Even so, the date has stuck and retained a important meaning for nations especially in South Asia, the middle east and former Soviet-Block Europe in present day.

For some countries, it is a day to buy flowers for a mother or wife to show them appreciation - in defense of the states, often compared to our Mother's day. For other countries, such as Turkey - which I have heard some heated speeched in my German class with many Turkish exchange students - the day holds many marches and publicity movements to raise awareness of the stark gender inequalities in the country. More common in Eastern Germany, the holiday is still recognized in the entire country, and has become a day to publicize Germany's own unique inequalities between men and women still present in the culture. I have written about it before, that Germany's stance on woman's rights has drastically changed and improved for mothers, female workers and students over the past two decades. Even so, there are still visible differences, especially with percentage of male bosses, and pay between the sexes.

On March 8th, doing my Praktikant duties, I was sent off on a little side project to capture one of the Aktion campaigns of the Grünen party. Some members of the Green party as well as the Grünenjugend [the young Greens] set up a stand in the center of Göttingen around other woman's day themed booths displaying what the Green party see as still an everpresent problem in German society - unequal pay for men and women.

Taking pictures of the booth, I caught on to the message of the campaign. With women in Germany earning statistically 22% less than men on average, information was passed out to address the issue, and some cookies as well. However, if you were a woman you received a whole cookie - men... something close to a quarter less [ made to just half a cookie ... so I was slighted nevertheless ].

I found the event to be a creative idea, as well as a look into some of the projects and views of the party I am currently working for and learning about, some of the political holidays in Germany and the rest of the world, and how these messages radically change on different country's interpretations.


[ Town hall meeting ]

The Grünen office that I work at in Göttingen is a kreisverband büro – essentially serving as a local satellite for representative politicians that travel between the capital and their home regions. Daily work includes reading newspapers and compiling important articles, formatting these documents, contacting other party members, sending emails, letters, posting flyers etc. preparing for meetings and discussions in the area central to the Green party’s motives and ideas.

[ I don´t know if it is just a Green party thing, or a German thing, but I find the beer at a meeting discussing political agendas and treasury issues quite funny ]

The other day was the Kreisvorstandsitzung which was similar to a party meeting at the Grünenbüro to prepare for the Kreistagsitzung wich is a local parliament meeting or town hall meeting, a political assembly I was also able to attend. All local politicians in the area ranging from the CDU, SPD to the Linke were circled in the room, a podium set up for speeches and delegations over topics.

For being local politics, the debates were still heated, and the remarks and speeches passionate. Upon subjects such as reducing the size of regional factions in order to create more efficient bureaucratic government had its fair share of scoffs, outburst, and even laughs when some views resulted in being too ridiculous for the sitting majority. The long procession of hand raising and debating was admittedly hard for me to follow – I caught the pieces that I could, but the rapid debate with some specific German vocabulary had me limited and constantly striving to understand. Other topics included the idea of building a new highway in south Göttingen - definitely opposed by the Green ideals - as well as further discussion on the ever-debated issue in current German politics, the Harz IV bill. This policy will regulate how much social welfare assistance unemployed citizens will receive from the government and has become a very interesting debate revealing much about what the German people expect from their government.

The experience to visit and sit in the observers rows amongst other prakikanten, co workers of other party’s, public views as well as the press, was an interesting one. For one thing, I definitely came out of the Neues Rathaus with a new perspective on my host city, and the government that takes place within it. Ready to head home after the work day, one of the chefs – bosses – at the SPD Büro that I had met while visiting Herr Oppermann caught my attention and had an offer for me. The SPD party was making a party-sponsored trip to Berlin the following week for three days to introduce current party members to the government and representative politicians in a city tour. There was an extra spot now open – travel and hotel included – and being the PPPler represented by Herr Opperman, the offer was now being givin to me. 3 days in Berlin, travel and hotel paid, visits to the governments buildings with speeches and behind the scenes looks – I don’t think I have to give much of a foreshadowing to explain the next adventure coming up for me in a week!