Living our dignity the random partner freely practices his uncontrolled
needs? Is she given the right of protection within
The theme of our conference is: “The dignity of our society in her capacities as woman, wife,
woman” mother and colleague?
Why did we choose this particular topic?
During a meeting of the local group of the WFWP Nothing has changed, as prostitution and human
Hanover a few years ago, women talked about the trafficking for sexual exploitation constitute
effects of the sexualized advertisements. They violence against women. Therefore, they are
decided on a leaflet campaign to oppose the absolutely irreconcilable with the dignity and value
utilization of the women‟s body as an advert-gag of the human being, the maintenance of which is
and bait for any product under the sun. guaranteed by the International Human Rights.
Subsequent presentations will deal in greater detail Why do we let such things happen? Faced with
with the various aspects of the campaign „Dignity such facts, we ask ourselves just what our own
of woman‟ which arose out of the initial street- understanding about ourselves is, as women. If,
campaign. indeed, we wish our men partners to recognize our
dignity, one requirement has to be met – that of
Where do we stand today? discovering, nourishing and valuing this dignity
In the course of history, especially throughout the within ourselves.
last century, women have fought for equality and
recognition and experienced that no one would roll Definition
out a red carpet for them. The right to vote needed First of all, let us find out something about the
to be fought for. Equality at work still exists on meaning of the term „dignity‟.
paper more than actively pursued. Shelters for From the old German language, „wirdi‟, or from
women are a warning sign about the continuing medieval German language „wirde‟ we recognize a
oppression of women within the family. linguistic connection with the term „value‟. Surely
similar clues can be found in different languages
Many European countries, over the last few years, and provide insight into contents and significance.
have elevated the status of prostitution to a The first to have formulated the term „dignity of the
recognized profession by making it legal. In human being‟ was the Renaissance-philosopher
Germany, prostitution is categorised as service Pico della Mirandola. In his speech „De hominis
provision – this means that women‟s sexuality is a dignitate‟ (Latin transation: “About the dignity of
service provided for men and as such, women‟s the human being”) (1486/87), he shows that man is
bodies are merchandise available for purchase. free to determine his nature in accordance with his
own will. Pico della Mirandola emphazised man`s
Why? freedom and God given ability to rise to the vision
Many will argue that in this way, women working of the deepest secrets of the universe. Literally, he
in prostitution ensure their right to any legal claims says: „what an enormous and admirable happiness
and are health-insured. However, which women of the human being, to whom it is given to have
happily admit to their career as a prostitute? What what he desires, and to be what he wishes to be‟. R.
happens to those women who, by virtue of promise Bach lets his seagull Jonathan say the same with the
of a job are being misguided and end up being words: „we are free; we can fly, wherever we want,
forced to work as a prostitute? What happens with and be what we are…..‟
the sex-trafficking of women across the borders of
our countries? Is this kind of political decision Dignity therefore is within us from the very
really in the interest of women? Why are there no beginning of life.
training schemes (apprenticeships) for women
working in prostitution to change to another of The philosopher Immanuel Kant spoke of the
professions? Why is there not enough care and help universal dignity within each human being. He said:
for those in debt? Why are there no stringent „Each person honours the human dignity through
controls over these kinds of social environments? his/her own person;, has the right to receive respect
Does the legalization of prostitution as a profession, from others, for the said human dignity ; and is in
really constitutes support? turn, obliged to respect the human dignity in those
nearest to him…‟
When considering the wonderful human potential, This means that it is important to grant dignity first
latent in each woman on the basis of her natural to myself and to be free of any doubt concerning it.
undisturbed development, this state of affairs is Dignity is an immanent nature, an innate character
unforgivable. The prostitute does receive her right of humans, independent from any other
to claim her wages. Does she also have the right to characteristics such as age, intelligence, abilities
live like any other woman? and sex.
Is hers the right to be free from the daily Now to us women – how does this dignity manifest
degradation to a mere object, one towards which itself within us? How can we find a way of relating
to our dignity? We need to think over our unique Why do I call the dignity within us „Queen‟? After
and precious personality, no matter how the various my operation, a friend visited me and was
religions or ideologies have considered women. enthusiastic about my new style of walking. She
Now is the time to learn to cherish ourselves, to called it‟ striding‟, like a queen.
realise that we possess special values, capabilities
and talents which our society so desperately needs. Surely this discovery of the true „me‟ behind our
The world today is seeking for feminine values and mask will be a very different kind of process and
this is shown even in politics, where more and more experience from one individual to the other. Surely,
women are elected or appointed to represent their this will not be possible to complete in just one
people. Feminine qualities, as we already described weekend. Nonetheless, we can surely all discover
at various occasions, are among many others: something new. We can accompany each other on
this journey and set some milestones as orientation
Becoming aware of our specific feminine qualities for the continuation of the journey ahead.
will strengthen our self-respect and understanding,
that without us women, respectively feminine To be authentic
qualities also in men, there can be no peace and no From our birth, our Queen dignity is within us, our
further development in the society and the world. authentic self. As a child, and as a girl, we still had
As soon as we deeply engraft these wonderful relatively free access to it, until we were faced with
abilities in our consciousness, we will find our more and more demands from our environment,
dignity. pressurizing us into adjusting. We adopted any
attitude that would make us appear more kind from
Exercise: Finding our inner ‘Queen dignity’ the viewpoint of society around us. Through this,
May I ask all of you to stand, please? we have given up at least a part of our self.
Place your right hand on your chest and breathe in
deeply. Whilst doing this, you can feel how you There lies the difference between self-denial, and
grow. Make yourself big, look straight ahead, full dedication of our self. With self-denial, which
upright. Then, calmly, breathe out again but remain means giving up our own personality, abandoning
as big. Repeat this exercise three times and listen to ourselves, we lose our own self, our inner Queen,
your inner being. Feel how, within you, your inner our dignity.
queen, your dignity, is awakening and continuing to
grow. Please sit down. With full dedication of the self, we offer from
ourselves, from the inner wealth of our queen; we
This inner Queen dignity I discovered after a back- remain who we are and thus, the self-dedication
operation. All I was allowed to do for two months becomes the foundation of true love. Look at
was to stand and walk. My corset forced me to go Mother Teresa, whom we all know. She has fully
straight. I was only allowed to take small steps in dedicated herself to the task she wanted to
order not to strain my back. At the same time, I had accomplish and has always been a woman with a
to ensure that the muscles around the lumbar region shining dignity.
were kept tense at all times.
To be ourselves is what makes us more amiable and
Recognize our mask endearing to others, because it is authentic Only
It took a lot of willpower to do this. I was forced to then will we be recognized as a fully fledged person
remove my mask. Ordinarily, I would have made in his/her own right, respected, loved and
myself smaller, would rather have walked hunched- trustworthy and what can one lose by living in a
over with rounded shoulders. genuine way? Maybe someone will reject us
Our masks in daily life have become a protective because we don‟t correspond to their concept of
mechanism which we use to avoid being hurt, Are womanhood. However, we have ourselves, we are
you aware of this mask? Are you making honest and our life becomes valuable and dignified.
yourselves bigger or smaller? Are you always nice
and friendly and ready to help or, rather distant? Do Keep our sense of dignity
you pretend to have competence and self- No matter, how others treat us, we should never
confidence or do you pretend to be more helpless feel we are a victim. Our universal, God-given
than you actually are? Do we wish to satisfy and dignity is much stronger than any evaluation that
please everybody around us? Everyone is different; anyone else gives us. In general, women have the
however, many of our different types of behaviour tendency to be dependant on the compliment from
are only masks and not the real me. Sometimes, our others. Often we observe that women or girls let
real „me‟ is hidden so deeply beneath the mask that themselves be misused by men, hoping to get love
we ourselves are not able to recognize it any more. in return. They forgive their drunken husbands
again and again, being smitten and humiliated,
Today I invite you to start and to move towards the hoping for the situation to change for the best! Men
discovery of the true „me‟ and thus to the encounter will also be helped, when we strongly insist in our
with your inner Queen dignity. dignity and seek assistance from the family
advisory service. Endurance alone is not the rediscovered and consciously implemented in our
answer. We do not need to be ashamed; it is our lives.
right to be appreciated as a woman. We can learn to We ourselves are the ones to shape our lives, thus
become independent of the judgement of others, by be co-creators of our own „me‟ Pico della
constantly affirming ourselves that we are created Mirandola saw the dignity of people in self-
as God‟s image with eternal value. To lose control determination and free development of their
of our emotions, accusing or judging others character. All other creations grow according to
bereaves us of our sense of dignity. laws and only human beings have the option, in
other words, the divine commission, to share in
Our life is a work of art creating themselves. This means to lovingly
Have you experienced situations when you reach embrace our share of the process of creation telling
the limit? Exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, illness ourselves that our share is my property, my own
are pile up on top of you. Yet, how often do we go realm into which no-one should penetrate. Seen in
beyond these? From my own experience I can say: this way, a sanctuary arises in us which we can fill
Too often! Again and again, we just continue, a with all of our experiences and insights, our
small break, maybe a painkiller, and off we go heavenly treasure chamber. “That is my 100%, no-
again. The show must go on. What has to happen one can touch it or interfere with it. “ This thought
before we will finally listen to our body and say fills me with joy.
„no‟ for once? We women all pay too high a price. Discovery of our qualities, development of our
Don‟t we know the feeling that all will collapse if talents requires our total concentration, our
we don‟t do „it‟? Often, we also feel that we investment and every new day is exciting and
haven‟t done enough – yes that we have never stimulating. If we get ourselves involved in the
given enough, no matter how much we gave. mystery of femininity there is no time left over to
However, there will come a moment at which we criticise, to be insulted, to carry around regrets
will only „do‟ without any sense of joy. Something about unrealistic illusions. We will come to realise
essential is missing despite it all – and, more that our happiness is not dependent on others but
precisely, - exactly because of all the „self- rather that it is to be found in ourselves. By
sacrifice‟. Through our activism we shy away, in awarding ourselves the esteem, confirmation and
the end, from our spiritual creativity and our self- love which have always previously demanded from
development. others, our heart‟s desires will be fulfilled and we
will be at peace with ourselves. That is the ideal
The women‟s inborn gift of absolute dedication is basis for working for peace and we will emanate
important, for the time when our children are this peace without fail to our surroundings, being
young. The temporary symbiotic relationship able to detect corresponding changes.
demands our undivided attention. But we mustn‟t
forget to bring this period to a conclusion when the This is one aspect of the dignity of human beings,
kids grow older. They will begin to go forward the dignity of women. This entails listening to our
themselves. Only in this way, will they shape their inner self and to make realizations about how to
own personality. It is exactly the same with our build our life in the circumstances at the time. Our
marriage partners. They too, have their individual life is our uniquely personal artwork.
courses with which we cannot and must not
interfere. From one person to the next, the length of Accept ourselves and our life
the time period we spend with undivided attention In Buddhism, the deep sympathy for our own
to our children will be different. humanity is a high aim which entails redemption at
the same time. Jesus said: Love your neighbour as
After this period we can dedicate ourselves in a you love yourself. Therein dwells the greatest
new way. The “motherly” aspect within us then can difficulty – to accept oneself, on a daily basis, with
turn to the necessities of the bigger family, the unconditional love: - without placing conditions on
world, in whatever aspect we decide to invest oneself, the fulfilment of which only, „supposedly‟,
ourselves in. At the same time we can attend to our would render us amiable. However, to accept
own spiritual needs. myself is the most important prerequisite when
aiming for success in treating others with more
Feminism has freed us in the fields of education love.
and career. However, we have all simultaneously To accept ourselves, to be our very own self means:
been thrown into an identity crisis involving - especially, not to compare oneself with others.
tensions between holding down a job, having a Have a look at the beautiful countryside. Discover
carrier and being a woman. Women have often seen the great variety of flowers and the special
the difference between themselves and men as a character of each and every one of them. We are
hindrance. However, this also leads to a reduction like that, each and every one in our own unique
in the value of the very qualities which are special way beautiful and special, endowed with value and
in women, both in the biological field and the dignity. All being able to be completely ourselves.
mental/spiritual field. These qualities must be
Once we accept ourselves in this way, with all our comparing ourselves with others or to orientate
particularities, we then can begin to accept other ourselves looking at them. Whatever we „achieved‟
people around us with their specialities, without or „didn‟t achieve‟ – we didn‟t fail.
forming images of each other, which only leads to From a universal perspective, we are all on the
our personal deceptiveness and disappointment. path of growing and learning and the sum of our
experiences constitutes the fruits of our life.
Not to let the demands made on we become Whatever we built up, learned and achieved
mightier than the love we have for ourselves. We internally is only known to each one of us. For this,
may be challenged with feelings like self-doubt and no one apart from me can take account and give
anxiety about life. Our own value of „my self‟ and recognition.
our inability to recognise how kind and loving one
is oneself, is the biggest drawback or handicap to Time, a gift of creation
letting our Queen Dignity shine. Changes take time as does all growth. Time is a
part of the creative process. So we are permitted to
I would like to share with you a beautiful quotation utilize this time as a gift offered by creation and
by Meister Ekkehard, Dominican preacher, banish all impatience with ourselves. Rhythms of
theologian and mystic in the Middle Ages: nature show us that the actual growth often occurs
“When you love yourself, you love all other people during times of apparent inactivity, at times
to the same degree. So long as you love any other beginning in darkness only to become visible when
person less than yourself you never really and truly the seeds push through the soil. This is preceded by
loved yourself, - when you don‟t love all people as the time of maturing hidden from and invisible to
much as you love yourself, in one human being all the eye. „The creator gives from his being, from his
human beings: and this person is God and man (or femininity he offers the time‟ says Weinreb who
woman). So, it is right with such a person that loves studied the sources of the old Jewish knowledge in
„him-or her self‟ and loves others as much as he or his book „The mother God – the feminine side of
she does, and this is right and good.” god‟. Activity at all cost, as demanded by the
patriarchal patterns is not anywhere near as
Accept our mistakes important here, as is the patient waiting for the
For centuries, feelings of guilt have accompanied us developments to naturally unfold, as a process that
women. Our search in the religious interpretations is inherent to everything that is living.
of the Holy Scriptures, about the origin of all
difficulties of human life, will lead us to the woman Articulate the Aim of our soul
being the initiator of the separation from God, the Once we have found the way to our inner Queen
first sinner. dignity, all that remains is to discover which
strengths, dreams, abilities and desires are within
In the Greek Philosophy, too, we find a strong us. I refer to this as the exploration of the aim of
degradation of the woman. Patriarchal education our soul which means to give a deeper meaning to
has only reinforced this notion. Therefore, it is our life, quite apart from the external
obvious that we are always very aware of our responsibilities. When embarking on this, it is
mistakes, our guilt and allow this awareness to absolutely essential to take time for this exploration
paralyze us. It is important that we forgive of and more intimate acquaintance with our inner
ourselves for these mistakes, and do not remain Queen. This involves the step of examining our life
trapped in feelings of guilt. It is healthier to utilize under a magnifying glass.
these supposed mistakes as lessons to learn from.
The difference between what helps us and what, on
This again, entails that we love ourselves the other hand, hinders us can only be found out by
unconditionally- the way we are, with our anxieties, each and every one of us individually. In this
weaknesses, rage, boredom, sorrow, stress, with the process, it is important to recognize that even
liveliness, the wildness, the strength and the pain. difficult situations can be of help. Something that
Once we love ourselves as unconditionally as to we might possibly identify as being „bad‟ for us
embrace all of these, then we can love others might be an important indication towards the need
around us in the same way. For, what I don‟t need for a change in our concepts, or way of thinking not
to reject in my own self, I don‟t need to reject, let to impede our growth. Many happenings in our life
alone fight in the other. serve our internal purpose, correspond to it and
further it, often without our being aware of it.
Recognize our years of activity Desires and visions
A further step is to recognize what we have Right at the earliest stages of growth, we women
achieved. All of us are looking back on many years often suffocate our desires and visions with
of activity. Furthermore, based on what we have thoughts such as: „I cannot do this anyway, I don‟t
already achieved, can only built on, when we give have time for this, this is not realistic, I am not
ourselves the legitimate recognition. This means to strong enough for this, nobody would understand
leave fake modesty behind us and to stop this, and nobody would accept this!‟ Throughout
history, women have experienced so many It is therefore important that we as women declare
dismissals, have been hurt so frequently that, our power, implementing it with wisdom, exerting
unconsciously, this became a part of us. How many positive influence on the world around us. The
women are of the opinion that they haven‟t formation of a peaceful world can come about, only
deserved any better? by being based on true partnership.
The lack of realization of the internal aim of our The position of the woman in the universe
soul is a possible explanation. Thus, let us learn to As far as the occupation of our position in the
desire. The greatest, internal strength arises out of family, society and the universe is concerned, we as
the strength of a personal vision. Vision, articulate women have been given a special, historic burden
clear ideas and wishes give us courage and let us to carry. In many religions, the sentence:‟ the
overcome any outside-(our-self) dominion. These woman reaches God only through the man‟ has
visions may vary greatly in contents, especially as been upheld for centuries. Only the feminist
far as concerns our personal future, changes in our theology has pointed out that already Jesus
town, global themes such as the dignity of women, especially valued women. Margot Kaessman,, a
peace in the world, protection of the environment, German protestant bishop, said in an interview
and fight against hunger in the world or many more. with „Die Zeit‟ ( German newspaper) : “Theology
As soon as we have liberated ourselves from our took a long time to recognize the feminine
masks, we will begin to feel more and more viewpoint not only as a legitimate but even
connected with the world, since we now begin to respectable perspective. Only the feminist theology
notice that we form a part of it. Visions and desires has brought to awareness the feminine, motherly
are like a fire within us. We do not need to fear it. God-images of the Bible and lifted the biblical
Let us keep it alight and let it burn brightly. records of „known‟, as well as many „unknown‟
women to a platform of respect.‟
Power from the viewpoint of women
Sometimes, we are afraid of this brightly burning, In his teaching, Jesus elevated feminine values and
internal fire because we feel how much power it virtues such of love of the other, even love of the
gives us. We have known power only in negative enemy, compassion, mutual responsibility to treat
terms from the masculine side. Until now, power others as one would wish to be treated oneself to a
brought us fear, oppressed us and dominated our central position. He preached based on the
lives from outside. realization that a spiritual evolution through such a
new value-system would lead to fundamental
Upon looking back into history with honesty, we changes in society.
realize as well that the matriarchy also contained
aspects of power over men, through the holding on Jesus describes God primarily as one caring for his
to the son-status of man. This fear of the feminine, children and satisfying her needs. He expressed
motherly overtaking power still has its place today, childlike confidence, into the‟ God who, one day,
unconsciously, beneath today‟s more subtle kinds will wipe away all their tears…………‟.
of women‟ s oppression. To care for the children and satisfy needs, to
The patriarchal forms of life then oppressed comfort, these are expressions of the feminine
women. It is this circle of revenge, guilt and aspect in God.
forgiveness that needs to be broken. Other religions, too, show that in the origin, in the
original source of being, both aspects were present.
The Culture of Peace is a culture of synthesis. In Taoism, this is the principle of Yin and Yang,
Every contribution is important. Men and women masculinity and femininity united in each other.
have different abilities, talents interests. Both
together will build this culture. When both men and In Buddhism, too, it was upheld for a long time that
women have attained „heartistic‟ maturity, this women first had to be embodied as men before
unity will be of cosmic significance. This means being able to attain the state of enlightenment, as
that finally, a world of peace can be realized. women. Whereupon a disciple of Buddha, who
Already Hildegard von Bingen, a German Saint and today is worshipped as a goddess, the Tara, swore
mystic visionary, in the Middle Ages described the that she would be reborn as a woman for as many
human being as the centre of the cosmos and times as necessary until reaching enlightenment as
explained that every human movement influences a woman. She did succeed, of course.
the entire universe. Each of our actions creates a
foundation for something new. Every thought, What this means for us is to follow the example of
every feeling, every deed leave traces behind. Tara, to, metaphorically, discover the godly within
us .We are the daughters of God just as the man,
Finally, a culture of peace can only come within the patriarchal religious cultures appears as
about when both aspects, masculine and the son of God. In the Christian realm, we can refer
feminine work with each other on an to the passage in the Old Testament saying that God
equal-value basis. created man in his image, a man and a woman.
Today‟s possibilities of the feminine occupying its
original position, represents the completion of the also giving it its right amount of dignity, to be
cycle of human life, from individual, to married healthy and well looked-after.
partners and in the world. The increasing motherly The many internal changes will, after initial
awareness, and compassion, for the hungry and astonishment, bring about changes in the people
suffering children in the world, and nurturing in the around us. Once the internal self-perception is
true sense of responsibility towards the worlds undergoing these changes, so will the perception
family, will become reality. others have of us. More than that – it is only based
on changes within ourselves that changes will occur
Our real task is to occupy the position intended for in the outside world.
us, only for each one of us. When we hear of „task‟ I would like to close with a quote by Angelika
or „responsibility‟ we tend to flinch because we Alliti, an American author.
connect these terms with efforts and difficulties. „What, however, do we find when looking ahead?
But it doesn‟t need to be like this. Once we duly What remains to be done? Are there unfulfilled
occupy our position and place which corresponds to wishes lingering? What remains is the longing for a
ourselves and which has been reserved for us, the world which is not dominated by fear but by the joy
strength required will begin to flow, the universe of living. Wouldn‟t it be wonderful if this new
will cooperate with us. Once we have taken those century made the emergence of new forms of life
first steps, we will notice that it is only becoming possible? Forms of life which do not require any
easier and less arduous, to be ourselves than to fit hierarchy to function, which rather entail the
into our mask. When we really are ourselves, our highest possible degree of personal freedom and
eyes will open before the wealth of life, joy and development? In order for this to not remain utopia,
beauty. Then, the task will become full of the joys a number of things need to be done.‟
of life and we become creators of our future. Then,
we have discovered within us the dignity as hitherto The United Nations declared the Decade of the
described by Pico della Mirandola. Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the children
of the world. This is a world not dominated by fear
Milestones and based on a new form of life where every man
These are just a few milestones for orientation and woman can live in dignity. In July 1997 Nobel
along the way. Surely every one of us also has their Prize winners from all over the world signed a
own, personal indicators. I am already looking declaration. They wrote:
forward to the round table.
“The future of the world hangs on our willingness
Once our inner Queen Dignity reigns within us, she
to really change. Our willingness to be finished
will shine appearing and can be recognised by
with the culture of violence, be it physical,
others. With her reigning in us, we will suddenly
psychological or economic. We must dare to tell
realize that we often agreed to our own degradation young people, even in history classes, that they will
solely for the purpose of obtaining recognition and contribute more to the world by living in dignity
love. Then, we will begin to make changes in our
than by dying heroically, that it is conscience,
behaviour patterns, day by day and one piece at a
rather than obedience, which is the basis of human
time. We will learn to say „no‟, even at the risk of
life. The only real challenge remaining today, the
being misunderstood. We will realize how all that
real issue which will define the future, is, for the
our self-abandon achieved was to rob others of their first time, to live together by respecting ourselves,
chance to develop and self-confrontation.
each other and the environment.“
We will be free of inner, self-imposed restrains,
apparent necessities and fake rulers. We will finally We can contribute to this new form of life. In a
discover that we are not just dealing with a question declaration from UNESCO on the contribution of
of being free „from‟ but also to be free „for which‟. women to a Culture of Peace it is said: “Only as
We become free for our own way, free for the inner women and men together in equality and
dignity, free for vision, free for power. This will partnership can we overcome the difficulties,
strengthen us to fully dedicate ourselves to the task silence and desperation and secure the
we decide to take upon ourselves. understanding, political will, creative thinking and
concrete activities which are necessary for global
The free woman within us, the inner Queen dignity, transition from a culture of violence to a Culture of
is a woman who is decisive. Surely, we will not Peace.”
always –and especially not at the beginning of this
path – be free from all fears, feelings of guilt or
worries. But we will not allow our feelings to The raising of our awareness and living our dignity
manipulate us any longer. We will discover new are the first steps, the foundation for any further
spheres within ourselves. Joy in doing things and steps. We may as well start here and now.
joy in a time of contemplative rest will be in Thank you very much for your attention.
balance in our daily life. Our body will thank us for