I am very honored to be the “marraine” Ambassador of this year’s event of “Femme et Feminite 2019” in my beautiful home country Luxembourg and got asked to share a few of my own observations and opinions in English with you all.
Luxembourg is where my hearts is and always will be. No matter where I travel, live with my two sons and work, I always look back at my time at home. I make sure that all the people I meet feel as excited about it as I do and make them want to visit it one day. Luxembourg as a country has so much to offer. It makes my two sons and I very proud to call it our ’heart’ home.
Luxembourg is a relatively safe country if one compares it with other neighboring countries and other regions around the world. Yet, we too suffer the unfortunate reality of domestic violence against women. There is not one day that passes by without hearing that my esteemed friends at the police force have yet again needed to open a new case of domestic violence. This is a huge problem. I myself have suffered domestic violence through the wrongdoing of my first boyfriend in my early adolescent years. He was very aggressive, and it scared me as a woman to admit it and report it. I was ashamed. Now that I am older, wiser and more confident I know better and understand that such people should not be protected but prosecuted. We need women to speak up in order to break the stigma and free our society of this toxic unspoken and deliberately ignored elephant in the room. Each and everyone of us has either experienced domestic violence of some sort or witnessed it through a family member or friend. How is it possible that something so visible is so protected?
Therefore, I would enlarge the definition of what we call domestic violence to include also psychological violence often executed through acts of bullying of all kinds such as words, actions which are not physically visible and blackmailing. This too, happens to all of us on a regular basis. Especially when a woman decides to end a toxic relationship in order to invest in her own happiness and future.
Thinking about all of the above, I ask myself some questions. Questions I have already myself years ago when I received the women of the decade award for my work on women advocacy and women’s rights globally.
What is the place of us women in today’s society?
This question is rather broad and yet it encapsulates the essence of the solution as well as the issue. Women have been championed and empowered over the last decades and I congratulate all these wonderful and strong men and women who made this change a reality. However, we are not there yet. All of us who read my article are aware of how poverty and inequality drive the societal differences between men and women, between the global south and the global north. This is also often a starting point for abuse in Luxembourg. When families are unable to provide properly for one another, alcohol and other toxic substances are being consumed in order to try to numb the feeling of failure and despair. Often this result into aggressive and abusive behavior on behalf of one of the partners. I need to clarify that women are often but not always the victim. It is also men who are being abused by women.
I argue that violence against women is a global epidemic. There is a huge stigma attached to it, especially in Luxembourg, as people do not want to admit that they have issues in their relationship due to a variety of factors. In 2012 alone, around 120 million girls worldwide were reported to have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives. Every year, around 41,000 girls are married before their 18thbirthday. Millions of girls who are entering unequal partnerships where they face the bleak prospect of a lifetime of violence, illness, and even death from unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and economic dependence.
What am I saying here? I am saying that yes…, we have come a very long way in women’s rights and women empowerment in today’s societies. However, we are far from being done.
Therefore, the second question I am asking myself: What is the place of women in society now?
In my opinion, women have not yet entirely found their place in society. We are still not equal in the world of business (CEO example) and at the same time there is a problem of child birth rates. Mothers find it harder and harder to be mothers as maternity leave are getting shorter and governments are continuously investing less in families. Women are too important not to be taken care of in all of their functions let it be motherhood or professional life whatever her choice. This too triggers tensions at home and can result in domestic violence of all kinds.
To elaborate a bit further on this growing issue, to have a healthy society there needs to be a 2.5 rate of child birth per family in order to sustain a population. This is a cultural issue because family is where culture is harnessed and transmitted to future generations. western countries are losing their culture. One could argue that immigration is ever more important now in order to bridge this gap between the decrease of childbirth in Western cultures and the need for children as future assets of one’s society and workforce.
With the influx of new cultures there is a greater diversity of women. We are not talking about one kind of women but a multiplicity of free and engaged women. The issue is not if a woman has found her place in society. We have to sustain a diverse type of society to match the demand of a globalized world. I myself have been born of an Italian and German heritage. Still, I feel, live and speak full hearty as a Luxembourger. There is not one kind of women like there is not one path—there are many ways of living ones social, economic and political freedom. Luxembourg is a champion of diversity in my opinion and I am proud to see how our government and our institutions invest into women led initiatives and in an open and inclusive dialogue.
Therefore, the last question I was asking myself while thinking about the role of us women in today’s society is—What more can be achieved in order for women to flourish?
We are moving towards the right direction, but it is important to not give up and to stay in that perspective of acceptance, diversity, inclusion and fearlessness. Men are as important as women in making this possible and so let’s not try to womanize this world but try instead to diversify it. Our governments and institutions are responsible to provide their citizens with the needed resources and support to avoid despair and frustrations to take over. Let’s live free, respectfully towards others and include all opinions in this dialogue even those that may seem controversially progressive or conservative.
Everything has to be considered even though not everything has to be applied. Freedom is diversity and so we have to use this diversity in order to be truly free and generate sustainable economic growth.
Luxembourg is an innovative country to work and live in. Let’s break the stigma and talk about what makes our society better, this includes topics such as domestic violence. A society is only as strong and progressive as its weakest citizen. We need to speak up, we need to support one another, we need to invest in our communities, governments and institutions.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed”