Panel 6


Eva Zillen: We Need to Make Sure That Ten Years Work is Not Forgotten
Kvinna till Kvinna
It is not easy to be asked to talk a few minutes about memories of women organising…it is ten years of memories that completely flooded my brain and as my organisation, like many others, hasve a  ten years anniversary this year, it sort of multiplies the ten years cycle of memories.
The importance of memory has been discussed here – we need to make sure that ten years work is not forgotten. To constantly remember how we got to the spot where we are today, and be constantly aware of the gender images we are fed as to be able to create a new set of standards.
During this day I have been reminded of a lot of episodes. I remember when I was in Banja Luka when it suddenly was possible to make a phone call from Republika Srpska to the Federation. The feeling of freedom, to be able to decide when to call someone, made us phone everyone. Most phone calls was just to say “Hi, you can never guess where I call from” – but it shows the importance of COMMUNICATION.
And I remember the stories how the bus from Belgrade, going to the women’s conference in Sarajevo in 1996, smuggled in other people in the bus who had difficulties going back – the way women find NEW SOLUTIONS. Then the conference in Zagreb in 1996 (I think) “Women and the politics of peace” where I sat together with Vjosa from Kosovo and how she kept nodding her head when listening to women from Northern Ireland talking about the problems of cooperation, saying that they told almost her stories – the strength of NETWORKING.
But I have chosen to start with the very first time Kvinna till Kvinna came to this region.
It was in September 1993, we were exited to finally get here, and a big step in our own organisation’s development had just happened. We had managed to get money for a full time salary for one person for three months! This person was me, so I quit my job and started to get paid for the work with Kvinna the very same month as we came here. Shortly before we arrived an “incident” (as I have learned that it is called) happened close to the airport, so the Zagreb airport was closed and we had to land in Graz instead of going with bus to Zagreb. For us that still had problems not saying Yugoslavia, or at least former Yugoslavia, it became clear that countries were separated as we passed the border to Slovenia and then the border to Croatia.
The bus took us to that big hotel that all internationals were staying in, cannot remember the name anymore, and Đurda was waiting for us to take us to the hotel. We were going to stay at Astoria, but no one could find the hotel. We asked taxi drivers people on the streets; it took time until we finally met someone who knew…ah! You mean old hotel Belgrade! It was definitely several different countries here now.
The Centre welcomed us, as so many others, letting us into their space, meeting after meeting. “I am sure you want to meet this woman, you should meet that woman too”. Sitting in the meeting room with one, two or more women sitting in front of us. Women who told what they had planned to do and answered all our, I guess quite stupid questions, women who then went ahead with their plans and so B.a.B.e., Women’s Studies and other organisations were born. The Centre was always a place for information, and recreation. A spider in the web – and a place that gave birth to other organisations.
And as to women organising:
We went to Osijek on that first trip, and outside Osijek I went on my first visit to a refugee camp. The camp was awful, big, not really houses for all, so some had to live in tents. It was raining and there was mud everywhere. We went there with an organisation, (not a woman’s organisation and I do not think that it exists anymore), it was an awful visit. We came as tourists. Looking at the poor people who had to live there. We who were the lucky ones who had not been touched by war stood there and looked, said hello, embarrassed and then left, relieved that it was not us who had to stay.
Next time I went to a refugee settling, it was with the Centre for Women War Victims. We were allowed to come with the volunteers to a group session, but only after the women from the Centre had checked with the group if this was OK. Here we met no anonymous group of refugees, number in the war statistics, but women with names and history. Women who were expecting us, women who were not used and who were met with respect, at least from women from the Centre. I have later been to numerous camps and settlings with other organisations like Women in Black, Žene Ženama and others, and even if I never was in the tent in Cegrane camp in Macedonia, run by Motrat Qiriazi, I have memories from that as well as I have heard so many stories. All these meetings and visits had one thing in common. It was women organising for and with women, it was built on respect and it was never “we” and “them”. And it made me sure that this is how it should be!
On the same first trip we met peace activism everywhere, people (women) who spoke about antinationalism, being the “necessary traitors” as Orly (Lubin) said. For me, having been a peace activist for many years but never challenged in my views by the political situation in my country – well, it had a great impact. These women had the strength to chose peace in wartime. And as said in the “Zbornik”: feminists are against war – no matter where they are.
This strength, that for me is part of women organising, was something that was one of the strongest overall impression that I took with me from the first trip. And that just stayed with me, and became stronger for every single visit. To sleep in the space of Women in Black, listening to endless discussions and never be able to go to bed until really late as the activists were still there working. Coming to Kosovo for the first time and meeting with women who could not actually have big meetings, as Igo said, because it was not allowed, but who always managed to do so anyway. Just kept finding new ways of getting the word spread. Or in Bosnia were I have seen so many “first meetings” with women who decided to cross real, created or imaginary borders just because they had no more time to sit back and wait.
Another thing with women organising: 8th of March in 1993 or 1994 Women in Black sent out a fax saying “No one asked us”. I think that the time for no one asked us has well passed in this region. Last night, when we were together here, welcomed by Morana Paliković – a feminist in a high position, talking about the percentage of women in the city council, and with Lepa saying that this was once only a dream, and now it had become a reality. Well, this is one clear result of women organising. The knowledge of women NGO’s is a source for changes in the laws, and lobbying politicians – the efforts that have been put into training female politicians, and to, through the trainings, getting contacts with them.  This networking can lead to real changes – this is one reason for the time of no one asked us to be over with.
I remember a “tribina” in Modriča in Bosnia several years ago, it was about women and politics. There was a male journalist there who asked for the floor and said “ All this talk about women and politics, I do not get it, women do not have time for this, they have to take care of the old people, the children, that they get care and schooling. They do not have time for politics!” The women from Budućnost and United Women and hCa that organised the tribina just asked him: “And where are the decision taking place about these issues – schooling, medical care – if not in politics? Then you see – we just have to be there to make the right decisions!”
So women organising here are stubborn, intelligent, and have worked with a lot of passion. Have found new ways to communicate when no one thought it possible, and have brought up issues that have not been on the political agenda (like violence against women). So, were will we be ten years from now? No idea, but I guess several steps further. Kvinna till Kvinna will not be here, but you will,  Hopefully we will, still be in contact. Because for me, this last ten years of women organising has been many, many hours on buses, sleeping in offices, or in people’s homes – and nowadays in our own office, drinking thousands cups of coffee, singing more than in my entire life before, dancing and realising that women here know how to have a great time, listening to stories of sorrow and joy, discussions about the power of women and how women will gain power….. Well, it has been an honour to be here. Being welcomed by you – even when we disagree and fight. Because that is just part of life, and of strong headed women coming together with the same aim: To change the power structures of today and make our voices heard.

Panel 1

  Vesna Kesić: Gender Dimension of Memory – Gender Dimension of Conflict and Reconciliation

Panel 2

  Reana Senjković: Gender Images of War

Panel 3

  Tea Škokić: Remembrance as a Place of Self-Understanding

Panel 4

  Mojca Urek: Why do We Tell Stories: Using Stories in Psychosocial Work

Panel 5

  Mojca Dobnikar: Memories of Women’s Organizing

Panel 6

  Eva Zillen: We Need to Make Sure That Ten Years Work is Not Forgotten

Panel 7

  Slavica Stojanović: Women Between Đinđić and Sugar