International Women's Day – by bike

I had an invitation to the international women's day brunch at the Nordic Embassies this morning, but the normal way of getting there is by subway and then by bus.

But the local transport is on strike (or, as the boss insisted in the paper this morning, they are not on strike, they are being striked). The S-trains are still running (but threatening to strike from Monday), but there is no station even near the embassies. And since there are lots of companies in the area, I felt that there would not be a parking place anywhere near.

It's only about 5 km, and I do have a bike in the cellar. I went down last evening for an inspection. Don't know when I last rode it, but I had to blow off a good bit of dust and both wheels were flat as pancakes. Okay, we have pumps. The first one broke off the tip the moment I started pumping. Gently now, don't want to break everything. Well, theypumped up, and I found all the keys for the locks.

So it will be a nice and healthy day tomorrow, lots of exercise.

WiseMan offers to guide me through the maze of little streets, as Berlin drivers are not the most courteous drivers in the world. He normally needs 20 minutes for the trip, I wanted a bit more time because I am a tad slower than his normal almost-speed-of-light tempo and because I wanted to freshen up.

Got up early, had breakfast „just in case“ (and it was a very good idea, turned out), and wrestled my bike up the cellar stairs. It was, of course, drizzling. WiseMan bikes in any weather, so I wasn't to complain, I just threw my little bag with a fresh shirt, my EeePC in case I stop for coffee on the way back, and a shopping bag into the basket, and off we went!

The first bit is gradually downhill. Good. Lots of bikes out, and lots of drivers who are having trouble coping with all the bikes. after a bit we hit a so-called bike path. It is a different color than the pavement, but the roots of the trees next to the path have shoved their roots up under the stones, so it is more of a roller coaster ride than anything else. Other bits are just paint on the road, drivers of certain luxury cars mistake this paint (in conjunction with a „no stopping here anytime“ sign as a parking space red carpet, just for them. You have to watch them closely, they tend to open the car doors without looking back.

In front of us a man is walking his dog, properly on a leash. The dog decides to go inspect the calling cards left by other dogs near the tree on the other side of the bike path. WiseMan calls out – Watch out! These guys are extremely dangerous! Of course they don't see the bikers, so you have to use your bell to call attention to yourself. It is a good idea to always have your finger on the bell when biking in Berlin.

Made it to the embassy in good time - and of course, there was plenty of parking, it being just past 8 am. Ah well. I get inside and make a dash for the ladies room. I thought to bring a fresh shirt, but as I discover upon looking in the mirror, a comb, hairspray, a curling iron and maybe lipstick would help, but I have none of that along. So I make do and head on out looking for coffee.

You can tell the Scandinavian women - they show up dressed to the teeth. Did they all take taxis? Walk from Zoo in those high heels? Gorgeous clothes, nice jewelery, not a hair out of place. Oh well, the buffet looks good.

The Danish ambassador started speaking, but they had lots of problems with feedback in the mikes. Sigh. Then he introduced the former Finnish defense minister, Elizabeth Rehn. She worked after her term of office with the UN to help the Balkan region find peace. She spoke about finding peace in the world being the most important goal.

Then Kristín Hulda Sverrisdóttir was introduced, the director of administration at the Reykjavik University and a member of a group that is finding ways to get more women on the company boards in Iceland. She spoke of the women's strike in Iceland in 1975. Working women and mothers went on strike, demanding equal wages - and almost 25.000 women (10% of the populace!) gathered in the capital for a famous picture. It got attention, but over 30 years later, women still make less than men doing the same job.

She gave some numbers: 80% of the women are in the workforce now in Iceland, but only 10% of the positions on company boards are held by women. Her group began asking about 6 years ago: why? Oh, we don't know any women, they would answer. Hodge-podge, all Icelanders know each other, it seems. Well, we ask, but they are scared, they always say no.

So the group collected money and put big ads in all the papers with a screaming headline: Yes, we will! and signed by 100 women. That sure got them talked about! They aren't all in board positions now, but many companies have managed to increase the number of women they have on their boards, not like the Norwegian companies who are now risking having their AG status revoked because they still don't have any women, after years of coaxing, on their boards. We still have a long way to go.

So finally, the speeches were over, we could dash for the food. I got a nice plate load, then walked around and spoke to a few people. While talking to Kristín the ambassador for Afghanistan came up, the sociologist Prof. Dr. Maliha Zulfacar (from CalPoly in the USA). She is such a vibrant, intelligent woman. She was looking for help conducting a study on the plight of women in Afghanistan. I had suggested a colleague at the TU Berlin, she sniffed at that - oh, I know him, she said. He won't return my calls because I am a woman. Oh man, guys, we still have a loooooooong way to go.

The way home went much faster - must have been because it stopped raining. But I am wondering - do we just get roses tomorrow (okay, it is now after midnight, so today)? Or does that old song still have meaning: "Bread and Roses", just slightly twisted? "Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses too." - Now we are still fighting for equal bread, although we get roses on International Women's Day.

1 comment:

Ayesha said...

Helloo..Ms. Expat..!

Happy Women's Day

Good story...But a little long..!!

Anyways..What else do you do mam..??
Are you a writer by profession..??