Strong women. A gallery for International Women’s Day

On my travels, I often meet women with exciting CVs and extraordinary careers. I write about their creativity, their courage, their perseverance and their successes. With every well-written story about a woman, the internet becomes more feminine. This also applies to women of the past. The writing of history is still male-dominated today. Women have been systematically marginalized.

The known unknowns

There is good news from culture about women who were famous during their lifetime but have been ignored in historiography. The world-famous pianist Lang Lang presents five female composers of the French Romantic period on his new album. The Arp Museum in Remagen opens the Maestras exhibition with works by 51 female painters, offering a comprehensive insight into female art over the centuries.

Posing mit Schmuck aus Plastik. Hier Mädchen vor dem Memorial War Tower in Lilongwe nach einer öffentlichen Kundgebung / © Foto: Georg Berg
My creative power women 2023. We met the girls in front of the Memorial War Tower in Lilongwe, Malawi, after a public rally. They want to make jewelry from plastic rings from the caps of disposable packaging and then sell it / © Photo: Georg Berg

International Women’s Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8 to recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. Every year, this day commemorates the progress made towards gender equality while also highlighting the work that still needs to be done. In 2024, the campaign theme Inspire Inclusion emphasizes the importance of diversity and empowerment in all areas of society. It calls for people to take action and create an environment in which all women are valued and respected.

Women Empowerment

Women often receive support and encouragement from women. This also applies to the women I present in my gallery for International Women’s Day. Mothers encourage their daughters, businesswomen encourage rural women, grandmothers inspire their granddaughters and women’s organizations support girls and women.

Lois Cemal – pioneer of ecotourism

Lois grew up as the daughter of missionaries in India, later became a Canadian citizen and trained as a midwife. She worked in Australia and then moved to Northern Cyprus with her husband Ismail. Back in the 1990s, they introduced tourists to traditional rural life in the northern Cypriot village of Büyükkonuk. Lois recognized the potential of ecotourism for the women in the village. In 2005, Büyükkonuk was officially recognized as a pilot ecovillage. In 2007, they celebrated their breakthrough with the first village festival, where the women sold traditional food. For many women, it was the first time they had earned their own money in their lives. The financial success led to greater acceptance among the initially skeptical husbands. This was followed by training in marketing the products. Many women in the village, who had previously only worked for the family, became micro-entrepreneurs. The gender gap narrowed and the women became active ambassadors of Cypriot culture.

Lois Cemal engagiert sich seit 2020 für Ökotourismus-Projekte in Nordzypern und gründete in Buyukkonuk das erste Ökodorf in Zypern / © Foto: Georg Berg
Lois Cemal has been involved in ecotourism projects in Northern Cyprus for more than 20 years and founded the first ecovillage in Cyprus in Büyükkonuk / © Photo: Georg Berg

Carolyn Cal Gill – lead singer of the Velvelettes

Carol Gill was only 16 years old when she had her first audition at the legendary Motown Studios in Detroit in 1962. She became the lead singer of the Velvelettes. The girl group had several chart hits in the USA. After a few years in the music business, Carolyn and the other band members had to choose between career and family. Carolyn’s husband Richard Street, a musician with the Tempations, urged her to quit. He wanted her to devote more time to his career and look after their son. Almost 15 years after the group disbanded, the Velvelettes reunited in 1984. The musicians were asked to perform in their original line-up for an event organized by the Concerned Professional Black Women’s Roundtable Conference of Michigan and to lead a music workshop. The Velvelettes sang a medley of legendary girl group songs in front of hundreds of women who were so impressed that they encouraged the Velvelettes to make an official comeback. Her second career took Carolyn Gill on many concert tours throughout the USA, Canada and Europe until 2004.
To the article: Motown Music USA Hitsville and other highlights in Detroit.

Carolyn Cal Gill, Leadsängerin der Velvelettes bei einer Führung durch das Museum Hitsville USA, Motown Music. Cal Gill zeigt, dass unter der Kuppel viele Songs für den besonderen Motown Sound aufgenommen wurden / © Foto: Georg Berg
Carolyn Cal Gill, lead singer of the Velvelettes during a guided tour of the Hitsville USA Museum, Motown Music. Cal Gill shows that many songs were recorded under the ceiling opening for the special Motown sound / © Photo: Georg Berg

Annabelle Hirsch – journalist and author

The freelance journalist has German and French roots. She studied art history, theater studies and philosophy in Munich and Paris. She writes in German and is a literary translator from French. Her first book was published in 2022: Die Dinge – Eine Geschichte der Frauen in 100 Objekten. The history of women is not linear. The objects selected by Annabelle Hirsch tell of developments and regressions, of the desire for freedom and rebellion as well as myths and norms that were used to keep women down. It is a look at the history of women in the West, at everyday objects, fashion, medicine and art. Her book spans a period from 30,000 BC to 2017. You can skip through the centuries while reading it or walk chronologically through this cabinet of curiosities of femininity.
To the book review.

Annabelle Hirsch, Journalistin mit deutsch-französischen Wurzeln erläutert die Entstehung ihres ersten Buches. Die Dinge. Eine Geschichte der Frauen in 100 Objekten / © Foto: Georg Berg
Annabelle Hirsch explains the genesis of her book. The Things. A History of Women in 100 Objects / © Photo: Georg Berg

Ginger Schultz and Sarah Lane – Mission Point Lighthouse

Mission Point Lighthouse is in the hands of women, and in more ways than one. Ginger Schultz stands on the steep staircase and points to the dome light. This lighthouse has been out of service since 1933. An automatic buoy light near the coast took over the job of lighthouse keeper. Many years later, new jobs were created around the now historic building. Ginger Schultz is the lighthouse manager and also takes care of the keeper program. The job of temporary lighthouse keeper is particularly popular with women. An entire exhibition in the lighthouse is dedicated to one woman. In December 1906, lighthouse keeper John Lane died. His wife Sarah Lane then took over the job at the age of 67 as the first and only female keeper in the history of Mission Point. The local newspaper reported on this at the time. Sarah Lane was praised for her sense of duty and her good work. What went unnoticed was that she only received half the salary for the same work after her husband’s death.
To the article: Be a keeper – about life in the lighthouse.

Leuchtturmmanagerin Ginger Schultz im Mission Point Leuchtturm. Der Leuchtturm von 1870 ist heute ein Museum über das Leben und die Arbeit der Leuchtturmwärter / © Foto: Georg Berg
Lighthouse manager Ginger Schultz in the Mission Point lighthouse / © Photo: Georg Berg

Nelin Tunc – architect and city guide

Nelin Tunç stands in front of a city map showing the outline of Nicosia before the division. A city with fortified walls and jagged towers that the Venetians once had built to fend off the Ottoman conquest. They failed, but that is another episode in the turbulent history of Cyprus. The really remarkable thing about this city map is the complete depiction of the old town of Nicosia. Nelin Tunç is a certified guide, and what’s more, she is a northern Cypriot who grew up in Nicosia and dedicated her degree thesis to the architecture of her home town. There is no greater expertise for a city tour of Nicosia. She is also involved in the women’s cooperative GEKAD, an association of businesswomen who support rural women in setting up small businesses.
To the article about the city tour with Nelin Tunc.

Nelin Tunc, zertifizierte Stadtführerin und Architektin während  einer Stadtführung vor einem Stadtplan der Altstadt von Nikosia innerhalb der venezianischen Mauer / © Foto: Georg Berg
Nelin Tunc, certified city guide and architect in front of a rare map of the entire old town of Nicosia / © Photo: Georg Berg

Marialuce Valtulini – keeper of a cheese tradition

Marialuce Valtulini is one of the few women in the Valle di Muggio who take care of the production and marketing of Zincarlin cheese in the valley. She got to know Zincarlin from her own family tradition and remembers her grandmother and later her mother making the cheese for the family. Since 2004, Zincarlin, which is only produced in the Muggio Valley on the Swiss side of Monte Generoso, has been an official Slow Food product and Marialuce is the keeper of an old cheese tradition.
To the article about Marialuce and Zincarlin.

Marialuce Valtulini in ihrem Felsenkeller, der sogenannten Cantine in Salorino. In einem normalen Jahr wären alle Fächer mit den kleinen, zylinderförmigen Käsen gefüllt, aber seit der Covid Pandemie ist die Produktion zurückgefahren. Denn der Zincarlin wird gerne von Touristen gekauft und diese bleiben aus / © Foto: Georg Berg
Marialuce Valtulini in her rock cellar, the so-called Cantine in Salorino / © Photo: Georg Berg

Lena Bächer – carp breeder and pond keeper

Ponds have been farmed in the Upper Palatinate for over 1,000 years. In the past, it was mainly Cistercian monks who farmed fish on a large scale. Today, it is mainly the fishing families who pass on the centuries-old knowledge. At Fischhof Bächer in Muckenthal near Wiesau, everything revolves around carp. Lena Bächer studied agriculture and today, together with her father, takes care of the breeding, pond maintenance, slaughtering and marketing of the fish. Her mother and grandmother run the restaurant and farm store. The tradition of pond farming is in many women’s hands with the Bächers.

Lena Bächer ist studierte Landwirtin und gehört zur dritten Generation der Familie Bächer im Karpfengeschäft / © Foto: Georg Berg
Lena Bächer has a degree in agriculture and is part of the third generation of the Bächer family in the carp business / © Photo: Georg Berg

Sevcan Çerkez – artist from Cyprus

Artist Sevcan Çerkez has received numerous awards for her expressive ceramic works. Through her figures she addresses the social problems of Cyprus or provokes with self-confident female sculptures.

Künstlerin Sevcan Çerkez, (geb. 1961 in Nikosia) wurde vielfach ausgezeichnet für ihre ausdrucksstarken Keramikarbeiten. Über ihre Figuren thematisiert sie auch Probleme Zyperns / © Foto: Georg Berg
Artist Sevcan Çerkez in her house near Nicosia, Northern Cyprus / © Photo: Georg Berg

Rose Cini and the salt pans of Gozo

Rose Cini inherited the salt pans that her family has been operating on the coast of Gozo since 1860. Her inheritance also determined her husband’s profession. He became a salt farmer and together Rose and Emanuel have maintained the tradition of salt production for decades. Today, the Cini family is an institution on the island. Journalists from all over the world have already reported on their salt pans.
To the article about the salt pans of Gozo.

Rose Cini und Tochter Josephine Xuereb. Mutter Rose erbte die Salzpfannen und hielt das Geschäft über viele Jahrzehnte gemeinsam mit ihrem Mann aufrecht / © Foto: Georg Berg
Rose Cini and daughter Josephine Xuereb. Mother Rose inherited the salt pans and ran the business together with her husband for many decades / © Photo: Georg Berg

Gabriella Monfredini – fisherwoman and hostess of Tavola Swiss

Gabriella Monfredini has spent her whole life on Lake Lugano. She grew up in Melide. Her mother loved fishing and often took her daughter out on the lake. After Gabriella’s job as a live announcer on a passenger ship was abolished, she became a hostess at Swiss Tavola and cooks typical, sometimes forgotten fish dishes for groups.
To the article about Ticino cuisine on Lake Lugano.

Auf dem See zuhause. Gabriella Monfredini ist Gastgeberin bei Swiss Tavolata und fährt leidenschaftlich gerne mit ihrem Boot raus auf den See / © Foto: Georg Berg
At home on the lake. Gabriella Monfredini is the hostess at Swiss Tavolata and is passionate about taking her boat out on the lake / © Photo: Georg Berg

Carmen Sánchez Garcia – sommelier for olive oil

The Spaniard is a sommelier for olive oil. For Carmen, olive oil of the highest quality is olive juice. Olives give off deeply aromatic juices, provide a healthy fat and a unique sensory experience, she says. She dedicates her work to these olive juices. With her olive juice agency, she advises producers, sits on international juries for olive oil competitions and gives sensory workshops to make the fresh aromas, spicy bitter notes and warming pungency of the best olive oils accessible to everyone.
To the article about the visit to the northernmost olive grove in Europe.

Begegnung im Olivenhain am Niederhein. Carmen Sanchez Garcia ist Sommeliere für Olivenöl und in diseser Funktion auch international gefragtes Jurymitglied / © Foto: Georg Berg
Encounter in the olive grove on the Lower Rhine. As an olive oil expert, Carmen Sanchez Garcia is also an internationally sought-after jury member / © Photo: Georg Berg

International Women’s Day

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in March 1911 and has a history of over a hundred years with many changes. It is a day of global activism and celebration that belongs to everyone working for women’s equality. This year’s campaign theme is Inspire Inclusion and emphasizes the role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes and creating an environment where all women are valued and respected. Inspire Inclusion encourages everyone to recognize the perspectives and contributions of women from all walks of life, including women from marginalized communities.

The story of women’s struggle for equality does not belong to any one feminist or any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.

Gloria Steinem, US feminist, journalist and women’s rights activist
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