MHB gender equality commissioner: Women’s Day is a day to make demands

8 March 2023

Today, Germany celebrates the 112th International Women’s Day. “I wish we wouldn’t need this special day and we all would be respectful and empowering in our dealings with each other. But until this is achieved we will have to mark this date,” says Georgia Fehler, Gleichstellungsbeauftragte at the Brandenburg Medical School (MHB).

Initiated by Social Democrat Clara Zetkin, the first Women’s Day was organized in Germany and neighboring countries on 19 March 1911. In 1977 the UN General Assembly recognized 8 March as International Women’s Day. The commemorative day has been established in now 28 countries worldwide. It is a general public holiday in only two federal states in Germany - in Berlin since 2019, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania since 2023 – and still a subject of controversial debate in Brandenburg. The fact that the date is not a national holiday, so Georgia Fehler, highlights the current extent of gender equality in Germany, and not because imbalances in gender identity do not exist.

Which goals would be achieved with a nationwide holiday? It might help to recognize facts: in this case the fact that even in 2023, women are still victims of violence because they are women. Or that women continue to be underrepresented in executive positions and are paid less than male colleagues, and that considerable gender-related discrepancies exist with regard to good health care.

According to Georgia Fehler, general awareness of the problems involved has fortunately increased; but Germany only holds place 20 in the United Nation Gender Inequality Index. The focus on 8 March highlights the imbalances that exist at all levels in terms of equal opportunities and diversity; the date therefore is not so much a holiday as a day to make demands.

Evidence and causes of inequalities are manifold and have been thoroughly investigated. In 2022 the MHB expanded its library by a collection of materials and documents including basic literature and additional special information on disparities in society, science and practice. A centralized Equality Committee across functions and locations was established last year at the MHB with the assignment to increase awareness of gender-specific inequality and abuse and to develop concepts for prevention and abolishment.