Updated: Apr 4
By Stephanie Nourse
Sunday 8th March marks the occasion of International Women’s Day, or as it is known in Germany, Weltfrauentag.
The day has been celebrated annually since 1911 in Germany, first established as a day to commemorate working women by social democrat Clara Zetkin, who remains a key figure in the German women’s rights movement. On Sunday, many Germans will make use of the day by campaigning for feminist causes such as wage equality and better working conditions for women in the workplace. Such campaigns will have particular emphasis in Berlin, the first of Germany’s sixteen federal states to recognise Frauentag as a public holiday since it was ruled as such by the Berlin House of Representatives last year.
The group Frauen im deutschen Gewerkschaftsbund (Women in the German Trade Union Confederation) are one of the main organisers of such campaigns and publish a new slogan for Frauentag each year. The motto for 2020 encompasses a drive for equality as it is based on the concept of fairändern, a play on the German verb ‘verändern’, meaning to change.
As the Bundestag debated the matter of gender equality ahead of Weltfrauentag, the discourse suggests such change is imminent.
SPD politician and Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Franziska Giffey, emphasised that women are still underrepresented in many sectors in Germany – namely in government - and campaigned for the quota for women in parliament to be increased to 50%. Currently only 31.2% of MPs in the Bundestag are female, fewer than in the previous legislative period. Having launched a draft for a national gender equality strategy earlier this week, Giffey stated that “2020 is the year of equality”.
Franziska Giffey (SPD)
Nadine Schoen, member of the Christian Democratic Union, also called for the 2020 to mark the start of “the decade of women” and praised the success of fixed and flexible quotas in increasing the proportion of women in senior management roles.
However, this stance was not met with enthusiasm by AfD MP Mariana Harder-Kühnel, who spoke out against gender quotas, stating, “no woman wants to be qualified as a quota woman". Harder-Kuehnel also took issue with the focus on gender-neutral language and unisex toilets, calling such matters “phantom debates” and stating that "they make women victims where they are not, but remain silent where women are increasingly victims". She instead called for better protection of women against violence.
Josephine Ortleb of the SPD followed up on this statement, claiming that raised awareness, the expansion of women’s shelters and better victim protection would ensure that women will be protected against harassment and attacks. The party’s stance was made clear in Ortleb’s statement, “Women belong and have a voice on executive boards as well as in parliament. Women are not objects of violence. We are strong and self-determined”.