[Brussels, 21 October 2016] This weekend, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) will hold its first Board meeting under the feminist supervision of the recently elected President, Edith Schratzberger-Vecsei. In this interview, Communications Officer, Elvira Buijink catches up with Schratzberger-Vecsei and her predecessor Viviane Teitelbaum.
Edith is not new to the EWL, she has taken on the role of Vice-President since 2014 and has been a member of the Executive Committee since 2013. She is a medical doctor and psychotherapist working in Vienna, with expertise in sexual and reproductive rights, prevention of violence against women and girls, poverty and the links to health. She is also a teacher, specialised in the communication with patients.
Not born a feminist. rather became one
Edith When I became a medical doctor I entered an environment which was very conservative, and I realised that although it looked like we were equal, my male colleagues had it easier. This was evident subtle and less subtle ways. We did not have equal opportunities when it came to the top positions and salaries, to climbing the ladder of our careers. When I wanted to start working part-time I wrote a letter to the Minister for Health in Austria at the time. Only some time later I discovered this was my first, successful lobby action, because the rules at my clinic were changed. I then realised change is possible and I got involved with the Austrian Medical Women’s Association, later the International one and then the EWL.
- Edith Schratzberger-Vecsei
Viviane I was born an activist. But I think, being a woman, there is a moment in your life where you realise you just have to become a feminist. In the beginning I was fighting for democratic values and equality in general but at one point I realised that women’s rights are at the core of this. I started being a feminist in in my job, in the way I was doing things, I became a member of the EWL member Belgian French speaking women’s rights association CFFB and everything continued from there. I still think the feminist I am today, I owe it to the EWL.
European Women’s Lobby
Viviane has been six years in the EWL Board, of which four in the role of President, she is a journalist, politician and one of her areas of expertise is gender budgeting. She misses the EWL a lot and has especially fond memories of the board meetings, where she felt solidarity and a shared progressive view of society, but also experienced giggle sessions, and closeness with women’s rights activists, EWL members across borders from all corners of Europe.
- Viviane Teitelbaum
Viviane It has been one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences in my life. I think I became a different feminist; I cannot look at any problem anymore without my gender glasses on.
Edith Feminism influences my daily work. I come across a lot of societal problems directly linked to the patriarchy. I am not only a feminist in medicine, it’s a society issue. You cannot be just a feminist for your own purpose, you have to be it for everyone. It’s about choosing which world we want to live in. I want to live in a feminist world, with equal opportunities for men and women. A better world for all. The EWL is a fantastic forum to work in, with lots of input and lots of new ideas. The process of finding your own opinion, through discussions and discovering new ideas is fascinating.
Viviane I agree, to me the EWL is like a pot on the fire, bubbling with ideas, getting richer and richer through time, better and better. We should not underestimate the power we have thanks to this international structure and we should use it.
The future is feminist
Edith Europe is at a critical point and we need to raise our voices now. We do not want far-right wing patriarchs pretending they are going to save the women of Europe. As the largest women’s rights network in Europe we have to have a strong voice. I see a new generation that is willing to live with equal rights and I think they are ready for that.
Viviane I have been shocked by campaigns that clearly want to get us back to the Middle Ages, such as the One of Us initiative. Before you know it, women’s rights can be taken away. We have to stay vigilant. That’s why it is important that we have clear and precise messages with the right words, stories and emotions. That we know who our audience is and have our arguments ready. I would say don’t compromise and standby what you believe in. We need a strong determination to face the backlashes and we should not accept to go back one millimeter. It’s time for resistance and action.
If Viviane could organise a feminist dream dinner she would invite Simone de Beauvoir, an Afghan woman in burqa, Nadia Murad survivor of Daesh, Simone Veil, Marie Popelin the first Belgian female lawyer, Indira Gandhi, Rachel Moran survivor of prostitution, suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, a Femen activist, writer Djemila Benhabib, a courageous woman war journalist and of course Edith.
Around Edith’s table there would be the feminist women she met, for example Doctor Waltraud Dickhaus, her mentor who pushed her to become part of the European Women’s Lobby, and also Viviane Teitelbaum. The circle is round.
The EWL secretariat and members want to thank Viviane Teitelbaum for her fantastic contribution to the European Women’s Lobby during all those years!