As Merkel bids farewell, German women wish for more equality

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Angela Merkel, Germany’s first female chancellor, has been praised by many for her insightful leadership in a turbulent world and celebrated by some as a feminist icon. But a look at his 16-year track record at the top of Germany reveals missed opportunities to fight gender inequality at home.

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Named “The World’s Most Powerful Woman” by Forbes magazine for the past 10 years, Merkel has been chosen as a powerful defender of liberal values ​​in the West. She has easily stood her ground in male-dominated summits with leaders such as former US President Donald Trump or Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Millions of women admire the 67-year-old for breaking the glass ceiling of male dominance in politics, and has been lauded as an influential role model for girls.


On trips to Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Merkel has often made it a point to visit women’s rights projects. She has always emphasized that providing women in poor countries better access to education and work is the key to the development of those countries.

But when it comes to the status of women in Germany, Merkel – who in 2018 said she would not run for re-election in this Sunday’s general election – has been criticized for using her position to push for greater gender equality. Not done to give.

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Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s most famous feminist, said, “One thing is clear: a woman has shown that women can do it. However, a woman chancellor is not for emancipation alone.”

Schwarzer, a 78-year-old women’s rights activist, the most prominent founding member of the German women’s liberation movement, is both loved and hated in the country.

Schwarzer, who met Merkel one after another for several years, said, “She’s the first one to make it to the top. But has she done anything for women’s policy other than her appearance? Honestly, not much.” “

German women have also suffered some setbacks during Merkel’s reign. Before Merkel took office in 2005, 23% of federal lawmakers for her centre-right union bloc were women. Today the figure is 19.9%. Germany is the best choice for the party, with only 10.9% having fewer female MPs.

Germany lags behind other European countries in terms of equal political representation.

According to the EU statistics agency Eurostat, in 2020, Germany had 31.4% of seats held by women in national parliaments and governments, lower than Sweden’s 49.6%, Belgium’s 43.3% or Spain’s 42.2%.

Women are also second class citizens in the working world of Germany. Last year, only 14.6% of top-level managers at large listed German companies were women. Germany also has the largest gender pay gap in the European Union, with women earning 18% less than men in 2020, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

Some experts say Merkel has pushed for more power for women in indirect ways.

“Angela Merkel didn’t do her job with claims of supporting women or using her role as chancellor to make gender equality her vested interest,” said Julia Reushenbach, a political analyst at the University of Bonn. “However, she did a great job promoting other women in politics.”

Merkel cabinet veteran, Ursula von der Leyen, became the first female president of the European Commission in 2019. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer succeeded Merkel as leader of her CDU in 2018, although she failed to exert her authority over the party and stepped down earlier this year. .

In 2007, von der Leyen, who was at the time the Minister of Families in Merkel’s cabinet, pushed through a progressive reform of the country’s child-rearing allowance, which allowed fathers to pay some parental allowances after the birth of the child. encouraged to take leave. However, it was one of the few legal changes during the Chancellor’s tenure that actively sought to improve the status of women.

One reason for Merkel’s reluctance to fight more openly for feminist issues in Germany may be her own struggle to rise to the top of German politics, Schwarzer said.

“Merkel was hit hard as a woman,” he said, especially early in her political career. “He didn’t expect it, so it may be a reason why he didn’t choose the fact that she’s a woman who is his central subject.”

Schwarzer said that influential men in his conservative, traditionally West German and Catholic-dominated party did not welcome the Protestant former East German physicist with open arms, and that male politicians from other parties did not initially treat him with respect. did.

German journalists’ comments on Merkel’s appearance were often openly sexist, especially in the beginning. German media at first dubbed her “Köhl’s girl”, as Merkel was initially promoted by then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and later called her “Mutti,” or “mother”, even though Merkel has no children.

Leonie Pauw, the 24-year-old election campaign manager in Berlin, was eight years old when Merkel came to power, so she says it was the most common thing for her to have a female chancellor.

Pauw, who grew up in southwestern Germany, said, “It was only in school, when I began to have political awareness, that I realized how much it meant, especially to the older generation, that a woman was leading Germany. ” “When I understood that, it made me proud too.”

Nonetheless, Pauw believes that Merkel could have done more for women’s rights and said that none of Merkel’s cabinets achieved gender equality in her four terms.

“I wish there would be as many women in the future as men represent us,” Pow said.

When Merkel herself was asked in 2017 if she was a feminist, she bluntly replied, “I don’t want to embellish myself with a title I don’t have.”

It is only in the last few years that Merkel has actively taken up this topic and called for greater gender equality in Germany. In 2018, as Germany ranked 100th…

Credit: / Angela Merkel

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