Opening Speech – Building Bridges Festival

We, Women in Exile & Friends from Berlin/Brandenburg welcome all of you to our “Building Bridges” festival. We welcome you together with sisters from Stimme der Frauen from Magdeburg, FLIT Solidarity Africa from Munich, Frauen in Aktion from Göttingen , NINA from Hamburg, Activists from Halle, Nürnberg, Kiel, Mecklenburg Vorpommern, Sachsen-Anhalt and refugee women* from all over Germany. Welcome!

This festival will take place for the next three days here in Oranienplatz, a square which is of historic significance for the self-organized refugee movement in Germany. As some might know in 2012, seven years ago, refugees marched by foot from Bavaria to Berlin. Right here, they set up a protest camp to protest against the oppression of refugees in Germany.

We, Women in Exile & friends and other self organised groups in Brandenburg organised a big demo in Potsdam to welcome the march and walked together with them to Berlin and we were part of the demonstrations, meetings and workshops in this place. Therefore Oranienplatz is a symbol of resistance against laws that violate basic human rights, such as the freedom of movement, proper accommodation, right to education and work and we are proud to be part of it. Then, the feminist perspective was not very present but now we are coming back to make visible the situation of refugee women* and their fights.

We decided to organize a festival on the theme of “Building Bridges” because we believe in equal rights for everybody. Most of us identifying as “refugee women*”, we don’t feel part of “the feminism movement”. May it be because we don’t know about it or may it be because when “ism”-words are used, we are left wondering how this western “isms”-culture is connected to our daily struggles. If we build feminism together, it has to be a feminism which is inclusive and inter-sectional, a feminism that gives voice to all women* and puts an end to racist, sexist and discriminatory structures.

Calling our festival “Building Bridges” was intentional because we are aware of the existing gaps between illegalized people, refugees, migrants and German citizens; gaps within the society which ends up weakening our movements like the refugee, anti-racist, or the feminist movement. But in our festival we will be able to see how our fights are connected and find out ways on how we can join and fight racism and sexism together.

To quote one activist: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” This is why at this point, we would like to thank all refugee women*, friends, supporters, groups and or individuals working with refugee women* who have participated and supported the national wide actions we have continually been organizing since the year 2014. Same, same but different.

Our thanks also go to all the supporters who have put a lot of time and work into the preparation of this festival, those who will be translating, cooking, taking care of children, taking care of techniques, drivers, the neighbouring community who will have to bear with us in the next days and of course the participants.

We call upon all of us to participate in this festival with an open mind, reflecting on our own prejudices and privileges as we enjoy different festivities which you can find in the program.

Welcome, enjoy and take care of each other !

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