Many of Europe's countries have been ranked high on the list of the world's best countries to live in as a woman, according to US News & World Report. Despite this, the need for women's rights organizations is great. FUF meets Erika Korn, one of the initiators of the German Terre des Femmes, who looks critically at Europe's political efforts for violence against women.
On a rickety garden table is an overflowing cake tray surrounded by coffee cups and a
organic milk package. The high summer sun shines gently against the skin and it is unusually easy to
ignore the gravel that for the thousandth time so stubbornly stuck in the sandals. It's a peaceful scene
which takes place for the passers-by, but despite that the mood is dull when I meet
the founder of the German women's rights organization Terre des Femmes, Women's World.
We have convened a meeting to discuss women's rights issues, gender power order and politics - in
the shadow of the grinding media noise that so tirelessly debates the European elections.
Erika Korn opened her eyes to the theme of violence against women in a time marked by hope for the future.
- As a teenager during the post-war period, there was room to challenge those in power and explore
the breeding ground for today's feminism, she says.
A few decades later, with a completed professional life behind it, the time was ripe to start it
the local organization Terre des Femmes in southern Germany. Over the course of 40 years, the independent activity has grown into the largest women's rights organization in the country with around 3000 members and premises in over 25 German
In the first place, Terre des Femmes acts as an agent who helps vulnerable women to
get qualified help from violent relationships and oppression. However - as
the organization expanded - the organization works to reach a wider audience through
to illustrate women's rights issues through seminars, open debates and art installations.
Regardless of the organization's obvious success, Korn is not happy with how politicians and
those in power act. She wants them to pursue a more aggressive gender equality policy and struggle
against violence in close relationships.
- There is no doubt that domestic violence is taboo, she says and tells that she women
encounters tend to reduce the abuse they have been subjected to.
Despite this, it is no news that Europe is repeatedly named the world's best
continent to live in as a woman. The positive development that is reflected in women's rights
the labor market and at home is a steady trend whose results have come as a result of decades
However, gender equality in Europe, which has been repeatedly hailed, seems to be difficult to discern
all parts of society. The gender distribution in Europe's political sphere testifies to the structural one
imbalance that continues to characterize the formal institutions.
- That the tools on which our democratic bodies rest live in a bygone era
has been noticed by many and yet the development is slow, says Korn.
And the statistics speak for themselves. At present, the proportion of women in
The European Parliament 36,2 percent. The skewed gender distribution may not
only due to gender-based discrimination in the political sector - there are arguments
which suggests that men tend to choose political professions more often than women. Whether that is true
or must not be examined by independent research, but regardless of the veracity of the claim
the fact remains that the European Parliament has failed to represent Europe
population in a proportionate manner.
In the following weeks, the new leader of the European Commission will be elected.
So far, the Commission has been led exclusively by men.
The question that inevitably has to be asked is whether there is a connection between proportional
top-level representation and societal development in general. If a zero tolerance towards
discrimination, gender-based violence and unequal conditions can be achieved as a result of equal
much female as male representation remains to be seen. But regardless of the answer
the issue remains women's need for initiatives such as the Terre des Femmes.
The knowledge that Europe, with Sweden at the forefront, has climbed high on the equality ladder should
not reduced. But to assume that gender equality permeates all formal and informal
institutions is to ignore the fact that we seem to have a long way to go before we reach
- With the European Parliament elections behind us and the statistics that so unequivocally testify to women's
relative absence in Europe's political government, the time seems ripe for change, says Korn.
She believes that the appointment of the first female leader of the Commission could be one
significant step in the fight for a representative political system.
Suddenly a cloud of rain pulls in over the small table where we sit and philosophize about the future. The
It's time for us to pack the coffee pot and the cake pan. When I walk away
the crackling gravel road, I hear Erika Korn jokingly shout that it's time to pack up
the unequal gender power order and men's violence against women as well.