Women helping women – an appeal for donations for a good cause
All of us at WHITE CONCEPTS love the magical spirit of Christmas time: decorated streets and houses, the intoxicating smell of waffles and mulled wine, the anticipation for a few quiet days with our loved ones… The year is ending and we are looking back on all the special moments, all the highs and lows, the obstacles we overcame together and the amazing women we got to meet in our showroom. This year we feel especially humble and thankful. This time last year – like so many others – we thought “next year all this will be behind us, we will return to the normal state of things.” and yet 2021 was so much more further away from normal than we could have ever imagined. Still our business is suffering under the restrictions of this ongoing pandemic and we are far far away from a point where we could say “we made it through”.
It is safe to say we are not alone with this sentiment and to be quite frank – it could be a hell of a lot worse. We are healthy, happy, vaccinated, full of thirst for action, we have a roof over our heads and a job that fulfills us and brings us so much joy. We were spared by the biggest catastrophes of last year and we have an amazing network around us: family, friends, colleagues, supporters. Many women are in far worse positions. They have a great number of obstacles to overcome in their everyday lives, maybe they aren’t even integrated into our society properly, they have to overcome language barriers, are single mothers or in abusive relationships… Their everyday life is made even harder by the pandemic. Suddenly their don’t have access to helpful institutions, childcare can hardly be dealt with and the huge burden of home schooling is a nightmare for a lot of these women. The organization “Frauen helfen Frauen e.V.” (women helping women) has been standing up for and supporting these women for 43 years now. They try to get these women the help that is needed, which has become an even harder task during the pandemic. Angelika Gey of “Frauen helfen Frauen” was kind enough to take some time and answer some of our questions to better understand the necessary work done by her organization. Want to know what her and her colleagues do everyday to help women and girls and what you can do to help? Read on:
What do you typically do everyday at “women helping women”?
We offer open consulation hours 4x a week where any woman can visit us without an appointment. We also offer appointments of those hours don’t suit someone or of a woman prefers to talk to the same social worker each time. The women come to us with different issues – poverty, relationship issues, forced marriages, child care troubles, emotional troubles… We then determine how we can help or if another institution’s help is needed. Sometimes women come to us in need of talking and reflecting a certain situation they are in.
At the intervention agency we actively get in contact with victims of domestic violence who agreed that the police shares their Compact information and case files with us. We consult them based on the violence protection act concerning prohibition of approach, prohibition of contact or quick provision of the apartment. A lot of the time those women really need a constructive talk about where to go from here and what steps they can take to get their life back.
What makes your work so special?
The work we do is not black and white and no woman or story is the same. This requires a lot of expertise but also compassion, creativity and flexibility. Since women often have made a lot of mad experiences – individually as well as structurally – we often manage to achieve a very trustful cooperation quickly once they realize we are here to help them and try our best to understand them and that they are not judged by us. It is especially important to us to not patronize them – they always remain the experts of their own lives.
Is there a special moment you like to think back on?
One woman got in touch with me a while after her consultation and told me I gave her the strength and support to change her life and that she did it. It often happens that women get in touch and tell us about the positive developments in their lives – these are amazing and special moments for all of us.
What do you like most about the work you do?
We do not merely see the “case” or the “problem” but the unique and special person in front of us. That means we do not only see the pain and hurt but also the power and joy of life. We do laugh a lot with our women and girls – it often helps both sides to take the heaviness away from it all and move on. But is is important to stress that this is only possible once the women are ready to feel joy again.
Which obstacles do you have to overcome everyday?
It is always bad for us to feel powerless because we cannot change every problem – especially the ones caused by societal circumstances. For example when a woman has made the decision to leave an abusive relationship and can’t find a new place to rent/live that matches her financial possibilities. Or if her residency permit is threatened should she leave her husband.
We also often hit our professional limits, for example if a woman needs a trauma therapy urgently but there is a long waiting list for a therapy spot. Since we usually deal with really heavy, traumatizing situations we do also have to take good care of ourselves.
What advice would you like to give any woman out there? What appeal would you like to make to the public concerning the safety of girls and women?
I wish that each and every one of us walks through life with open eyes and courage – the courage to go ahead and ask if everything is alright when you see a woman who is not alright or possibly the victim of domestic violence. There often is a line of shame or we feel those things are private. But let me tell you: violence is never private! I don’t mean a conflict or fight between partners who are equal. Violence always comes up where there is oppression and an imbalance of power. There is still a massive imbalance of the sexes and I do wish for more civil courage – without endangering yourself of course.
Apart from that I wish for confident, empowered women, who don’ let anybody get the better of them and know how strong, special and capable – even when things are not the way they would wish them to be.
How has the pandemic changed your work? What new issues/obstacles have surfaced?
We do in fact do roughly the same number of consultations as we did pre-pandemic. That however is in no way a positive development, because a lot of women do not have access to public help centers and assume that we are closed as well. So our same number of consultations as pre-pandemic speaks to the fact that there is even more demand now. Reports of violence have gone up and we expect that a lot of them remain in the dark, so we only get to see the tip of that iceberg.
A lot of women have struggled massively with the German school system in the past year and felt a massive despair with political decisions concerning child care. Especially single mothers have been put in unbearable situations with home office, home-schooling etc and that has massively added to their everyday stress level. A lot of single women have dealt with loneliness and depression during the pandemic.
What can we do beyond donations to help your cause?
Place our flyers at your place of work or institutions where it is possible. If you come across someone needing our help in your circle, let them know about our organization and what we offer. If you suspect domestic violence you can call us and get some advice on how to handle the situation. Sometimes we also need women who volunteer to translate or accompany other women to official institutions, help with moving houses etc… We always appreciate the help.
We want to thank Mrs. Gey and the entire team of “Frauen helfen Frauen” for the amazing work they do. We hope we can create some awareness with this blogpost for their organization and how important it is for women to look after one another. Maybe you feel inspired to donate to the cause – just follow this LINK.