Kaja Jasieńko (41), Lawyer from Poland
I am a lawyer at the Center for Women’s Rights in Wrocław, Poland. I regularly assist women who are victims of domestic violence and who live in unhealthy and unsafe relationships with their children. We support and guide them through difficult legal processes. At the same time, we also provide psychological support and want to promote what is happening in Poland when it comes to women’s rights. Many women do not know what is going on and what changing legislation means for them. The Istanbul Convention, for example. What does that treaty entail and how does it protect women? And what will be the consequence if Poland withdraws from that treaty? And that it is therefore important for women to fight for Poland not to cancel the treaty. We have set up a radio channel and a podcast in which we discuss these matters and share knowledge and information. And in which we let women know that they can come to us for help and support.
The women’s protests in Poland and the corona pandemic have increased awareness of the Center for Women’s Rights and our services. Partly due to the corona pandemic, we have started offering telephone consultations. This appears to be a godsend for women from small villages, for whom it is not self-evident that they can come to Wroclaw. Arranging a babysitter, travel time, travel costs, these are obstacles to coming to us. Now we can also assist them remotely.
The game changer for betters women’s rights in Poland is education.
The game changer for better women’s rights in Poland is education. I regularly speak to women who describe exactly what domestic violence is, but do not know that it is domestic violence and who often condone their husband’s behavior: everyone can get angry sometimes, he has a worse period in his life, etc. Or another example: she stays at home and takes care of the children and the household. He works and earns money. Legally in a marriage that money belongs to both of them, but common is the belief that the money belongs to him alone. If he shares it, it’s purely his good will. So we have to make women aware of what an equal partner relationship looks like, show them inaccuracies, make them aware that there are help options to get out of the situation.
Children should be taught from an early age how to communicate nonviolently and respectfully, what means equality and equality between men and women, what is good and what is bad. Unfortunately, education is in the hands of the government. And it doesn’t want to make women and girls smarter, but dumber. Everything we’ve fought for in recent years when it comes to women’s rights is being destroyed by the current government. That makes me angry and sad. And activist. I actively participate in protests, I go to rallies, I share knowledge to change the political situation and to speak up against the government propaganda spread through media. I refuse to accept what is happening in my country. My grandparents’ generation fought for freedom in World War II, my parents’ generation fought against communism. I grew up in a free Poland, but I see that we are now taking big steps back in time. Women are losing freedoms that have been fought for for decades. A year ago I thought to myself: maybe I should leave Poland. Now I think: why? This is my country I love. I hope that within Europe we can create an international movement that fights for equal rights and equality between men and women. I call it ‘sisterhood’. That women will finally feel that they can really count on each other, that there are places where they can seek help. That is invaluable. Spanish women’s movements have had great political influence in recent years. Women in Ireland have successfully fought for equal rights, for equal pay. I dream of international connections, of a collaboration that offers new solutions. Within Europe, we can learn from each other and inspire each other to fight smartly and ultimately win. If women in other countries have succeeded, then why not we in Poland too.