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Sinje's Blog: Interview Sarah

Aktualisiert: 11. März 2021


I am currently reading the book FRAUSEIN by Mely Kiyak, she was born in Germany and grew up in a Kurdish-Turkish family. Today she lives in Berlin as an author, writes columns for the Maxim Gorki Theater among others and also publishes books, essays and plays.

"I am a woman. I like to be one. There's no complaining. No regrets. No lack. But no abundance either. I start for it at any place. Because there are no beginnings. There is only looking back."

Page 9, Mely Kiyak, Frausein, Hanser Verlag2020

Mely Kiyak impresses with her view of the world and for being a woman, a child of the first generation of guest workers in Germany who "...never rebelled. Never made themselves politically noticeable, never made demands. The rise of their daughters compensated them for everything." S. 32

In the second part of my blog on women's rights, I talk to four women who have a so-called migration background and live here in Switzerland. All four are involved in ExpoTranskultur and talk about being a woman:

Questions for Sarah (Sarah, 44 years old, Swiss and Italian. Has lived in Zurich for 6 years after being in Barcelona for more than 10 years. Has no children and is happy with that).

1. "I am a woman. I like to be one. There's no complaining. No regrets. No lack. But no abundance either. I start for it at any place. Because there are no beginnings. There is only looking back."

This is how Mely Kiyak describes herself, how would you describe yourself? Where does your story begin with a look back?

I was born in 1977. Grew up in the province of Como, in northern Italy, for the first 9 years. Actually, I'm a Swiss “seconda” who grew up abroad. However, I did not receive Swiss citizenship until 1985. Until then, I only had Italian citizenship. Until then, only children born abroad with a Swiss father were granted Swiss citizenship. Children who had only one Swiss mother only received Swiss citizenship in 1985.

The same thing happened to my father and aunt, who were also born in Italy in the 1940s to a Ticino mother and an Italian father.

My mother, born in 1950, came from the Emmental. She met my father in 1972 in Cape Town, South Africa (yes, it was during apartheid, so they only lasted a few years ..). One fled from the social life and family pressure of the Emmental, the other from Italian military service.

My mother's family has rural roots. My father's family comes from the middle class. My mother's family didn't want her to marry an Italian and my father's family were against him coming home with a farm girl. They did it anyway. They then had two children: I, born in 1977, and my brother, born in 1978. It was not until my brother was born that my mother was finally allowed to do her father-in-law.

Both my grandmother from Ticino and my grandmother from Emmental had to "follow" their husbands. But my mother was one of the first women to divorce in 1985. The families (especially the mother and mother-in-law) didn't like that either.

At times I was very critical of my mother (and sometimes rightly, I think), but after my father's death last year I also became more aware of some problems. Today I understand even more what her divorce meant (and how right she was about it).

I think it was very hard and difficult. At the time, my father also refused to pay alimony, so she decided to move to Ticino to work and to support us financially. She too began studying at the age of 40, moving up from secretary to marketing technician and finally to marketing manager. And so she could also pay for our studies.

The bad thing is that she fell in love with wrong partners again. I think because she had low self esteem at times. What a pity. Unfortunately, the Emmental didn't help much.

Today I am 44 years old, have only had a permanent partner for 4 years, am not yet married and did not want any children. But neither my mother, nor my father, nor my brother, nor my uncles liked that.

Then in 2003 I moved to Barcelona. I found a little more “family peace” and was able to develop myself further. There I also took part in social movements in 2011-13 and there I made a big step further in the topic of feminism.

I have often been described as some kind of rebel, but I just want to feel like I can choose freely without too many senseless social conditions.

My partner is of Spanish origin, 8 years younger than me and I think you can say that he has a great "feminist will". So this is what I would have expected since I was a child, but you have to have a lot of patience (and also gain some experience).

2. Italian women have been able to vote since 1946, putting them in the middle of Europe and 25 years ahead of Switzerland! You have family in both countries, was the 25 years advantage of Italian women somehow noticeable in your upbringing?

In my upbringing, the difference between Switzerland and Italy wasn't so noticeable. Both of my grandmothers were Swiss and my Italian and Emmental grandfathers were both macho.

I think my mother tried to raise me and my brother the same way. My father, on the other hand, was more anchored in the male dynamic (when I was born, my mother was 27 and my father was 33).

In 1971 my mother was just 21 years old and could vote (I think shortly before leaving for Cape Town ...). Maybe that's when she first became aware of the feminist struggle. But maybe her work experience in London when she was 19 (in 1969) and her South African and Italian experiences afterwards helped. Perhaps she only became “more conscious” when she decided to get a divorce. Perhaps she became even more “aware” when her daughter moved to Barcelona and started discussing things with her. I don't know exactly (unfortunately my mother died in 2012).

I was recently able to speak to Zita Küng, a well-known feminist from Zurich, and found out that there was a big difference between the Emmental and the city of Zurich. Zita was also a good friend of my mother's, they also tried to launch a few projects together.

3. Do you have favorite stories / anecdotes about gender issues in Italy or Switzerland? Best of, worst of?

In previous questions I already told a few anecdotes :-D

4. What are the best tricks & tips to assert yourself as a woman, especially as a seconda, in Switzerland?

I've always described myself as a good mix :-)

5. Is it better to be born a man or a woman? Are there differences if we talk about Switzerland or Italy?

The moment I experienced the biggest difference was when I was 37 and looking for a job in Zurich: In practically every job interview, the fear that I might go on maternity leave came up. I believe that this fear is currently more present in Switzerland than in Italy.

Today I am still looking for a job and I hope that this fear has slowly disappeared. I even decided to write in my resume: "No kids (and it is ok!)". This irony is partially appreciated.

6. As far as I know, Italian women today are on average the oldest mothers in Europe (have children the latest) can you explain this to me?

I have the feeling that in Switzerland the pressure to become a mother is still very strong for a woman.

But you can still do that because Switzerland is still one of the richest countries in the world.

In Italy the family is of course also important (maybe sometimes also “more important” or simply “more supportive” than in Switzerland), but nowadays a man in Italy can no longer afford to financially support a whole family. The woman also has to go to work and sometimes that's not enough to have a few children.

Here the women can still stay at home. This partly explains why there is still a huge difference in salaries between men and women.

7. Favorite women: who are that for you and why?

· Maria Montessori: developed one of the most interesting educational concepts.

· Ruth Dreifuss: she was elected the first female president of the Swiss Confederation in 1999. She has done a wonderful job, especially in social and drug policy.

· Ruth Bütikofer (my mother): I am very grateful for the education she gave me and for her courage to divorce.

8. Three wishes for all women in the world:

· 1) full working equality

· 2) full Rights equality

· 3) total freedom of choice


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