The final days of the second exchange-visit of the #ExchangeForEquality project saw the 14 participants from Kenya and Germany busy with building their digital stories. "Is this a good angle? Can we do the voiceover again? Yeah, now it sounds great! And just look at our make-shift film studio in our hostel room!"
One of the main goals of the project is to digitally document our experiences from two exchange visits - one in Nairobi and one in Berlin - and address topics such as catcalling, period poverty, economic empowerment of women, FGM (female genital mutilation), or intersectional violence. By publishing our stories we would like to make a contribution to the UN 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign 2022. Our message: Equality Now!!
After a beautiful first encounter in Nairobi in April 2022, it was wonderful to welcome our Kenyan friends at BER airport in August. Our spirits were dampened, though, as two team members were missing from the group. Unfortunately their visa for the visit to Berlin was not issued on time, and despite many attempts, the German embassy in Nairobi declined our requests to let them join the program. We do not know why, and suffice to say, the entire team was deeply disappointed. There is a lot that can be said about the unequal and unfair visa rules of international travel... For now, we'd rather focus on highlighting the admirable spirit that our two friends brought to the project: throughout the second exchange visit they joined the team online, contributed professionally, and worked on their own digital story from afar with dedication and creativity. Kudos to that!
Our 16 days in Berlin together were filled with workshops on Sustainable Development Goal SDG5 and the fight for global gender justice. We visited the NGOs BDKJ Berlin, Boxgirls Berlin, and Hilfe für Jungs, that all do incredible work to shed light on gender issues. We learnt about femicide, street harrassment, prostitution, and the intersectionality of gender inequality, racism, and homo- and queerphobia.
Just like in Nairobi, we enjoyed the culinary delights of an intercultural exchange by doing some food tasting: Berliner Currywurst, Pfannkuchen, and, as pointed out by our Kenyan friends many a time, a whole lot of potatoes and bread were on the menu. For our goodbye evening's meal even Sauerkraut made it on our plates. Even Everline was happy with that. And that means something, believe us!
We're also grateful to the Archbishop of Berlin Heiner Koch who hosted us for a delicious vegetarian picnic in his house set in the green in Lichterfelde. Also, thanks to our very own Sister Ethel Mary, who took us to her beautiful countryside place Christian-Schreiber-Haus, where the group got to enjoy some canooing and swimming. Benson, we're sorry your tripod took a dive, but the fun of seeing you row around the lake was worth it! And Faith - we'll never forget the sight of you involuntarily dipping your head in the water!
We're also grateful to MP Hanna Steinmüller and her team, who hosted us for a discussion on women in politics at the German Parliament. We were impressed with the views and the architecture of the glass dome, and not so much with the anecdotes of harrassment she faces as a young woman in a male-dominated Bundestag. In discussion with Lisi Maier, director of the recently founded Bundesstiftung Gleichstellung, we learnt that it's a long way before Germany can speak of achieving gender equality. For example, in regards to GBV, there are alarming numbers of femicide: every third day a woman in Germany is killed by her (ex-)partner. Very often, the acts of violence by men against women are trivialized as "private tragedies" or "dramas of jealousy" and are not adequately prosecuted in court.
What else did we do? Lots and lots of walking and catching trains! We thank the BVG for the wonderful special summer 9€-ticket, which made it possible for us to criss-cross and explore the city.
It was during a city tour that we decided to make our mark with slogans of "Peaceful elections in Kenya", "Stop GBV", and #ExchangeForEquality on a graffiti wall at the iconic Mauerpark.
There's a lot more we could tell you, and we'll make sure to keep you updated on the next steps in the #ExchangeForEquality project. Curious? You can soon watch all the #ExchangeForEquality digital stories on gender equality on our YouTube Channel, and help us spread the message far and wide: "Equality Now!"
A huge thanks to our partners at IYCS Africa, Jane and Annah for your help with digital storytelling, coaches Pepe, Didem and Edna from Boxgirls Berlin, Stefan from Hilfe für Jungs, and every kind soul we met along the way. We appreciate this time we got to spend together and will cherish the memories forever.