Gisela Notz: An extraordinary relationship

Excerpt from pages 177–178 of our book „Breaking Borders to Build Bridges“ available through Edition Assemblage

Gisela Notz is a social scientist and historian. She researches and teaches on women*, the labour market, family and social policy, alternative economics and historical women’s* studies. The situation of refugee women* is particularly near to her heart. She was able to support them through her work on the board of trustees of the Bewegungsstiftung foundation (2002-2014) as well as through her activities in the Alliance for Sexual Self-Determination.

Bethi asked me to write a few words about our “unusual relationship” of 10 years’ standing. Yes, perhaps it is unusual, but it’s also extraordinary. It was indeed ten years ago that there was to be a party in a forest lodge in Brandenburg – I don’t remember exactly where – and a friend from my political circles “took me along” because he thought Women in Exile, as a group of refugee women*, would interest me as a feminist. Bethi was one of the founders and has been a friend ever since, and Women in Exile is one of my favourite projects. I still remember the small lectures and arguments with the women* who would later become Women in Exile & Friends. Back then, as today, the focus of attention was on the degrading conditions in the Lagers, healthcare and the violence women* are subjected to. After the party, Bethi and her friends visited our women’s* project, showed films and discussed with the women*, who thus received information that was previously inaccessible to them. One or another of the women* was certainly gained as a supporter. What impressed me most was that you never lose heart; you don’t just lament individual fates but also denounce the structures of the asylum system that need to be changed.

We also met at the demonstrations for International Women’s* Day on 8th of March and at the Alliance for Sexual Self-Determination, where you present your concerns on an ongoing basis. One experience I remember is when we picked you up after the boat tour in the summer of 2014 and partied with you at SO36. Several of you stayed the night with us in Beginenhof and we were able to have breakfast in the sunshine on the roof-deck the next morning. I was really proud of you when you were awarded taz’s Panther Prize in the autumn of 2014 and Bethi and her fellow activists convinced the crowded hall of your formidable work with their emotional acceptance speech. After all, I felt it was a gift to be able to accompany your project over a long period through my involvement in Bewegungsstiftung. Our cooperation has also given me courage and strength for my own work. I just watched the documentary about life in the Lagers during the Corona pandemic again and found that it confirms your key demand: “Abolish all Lagers!” I’m sure our work together will go on because the goal of a just society without exclusion and discrimination, with equal rights for all people, no matter where they come from and where they are going, has not yet been achieved. We will keep fighting until then: For everyone! No borders!

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