Slovenia: WoW Awards were presented

photos Azadeh Hashemzadeh

Introductory Speech of the City of Women Jury for WoW Awards

It is by no means a coincidence that women throughout history have mostly played gender stereotypical roles or have even remained invisible. Patriarchy is a systemic problem, pushing women away from public and common space, silencing and suppressing them. And if we do not want history to be written in our name, against our best interests, we must write it ourselves.

The City of Women jury that has evaluated the nominated stories of female activists who have fought for social justice does not believe in creating heroic myths, competitions and new hierarchisations nor in exposing individual women, but instead favours stories of courage and decisiveness. We see the fact that numerous individuals, institutions and collectives have nominated over 120 women for the WoW Award, as an expression of the urgent need for the stories of diverse women to rise from invisibility and for the accomplishments of our feminist heroines to be celebrated. Moreover, we must stress that numerous nominees are forced to operate in intolerant and often even openly hostile and misogynous communities.

When we were reaching our decision on the five WoW Award winners, our leading motivation was to expose the diversity of practices and topics that call for larger attention; to give priority to collective subjects while choosing among the individual nominees who take part in collectives and initiatives; and to promote the visibility of people who structurally have less access to public space in society and therefore receive less attention. In addition, we were interested in socially critical activities also outside of Ljubljana, and we must especially emphasise that our list of nominees has sought women on the basis of their self-identification, therefore including trans- and intersexual women.

The WoW activists are our inspiration for everyday fights against suppression and the pinpoint of our connections in the struggle for true equality. We are looking forward to their new fights, which we hope to see as common endeavours.

Tea Hvala, Linn Julian Koletnik, Tjaša Pureber, Tanja Rener and Samar Zughool, members of the City of Women jury for the WoW Awards.  

Tea Hvala is a sociologist, critic and translator. At the City of Women, she is in charge of cultural and artistic education. 

Linn Julian Koletnik has an MA in gender studies, is an LGBTQ+ activist and the director of the only trans-specific NGO in Slovenia, the TransAkcija Institute. 

Tjaša Pureber is a cultural producer, activist and social movements researcher. 

Tanja Rener is a sociologist, professor emeritus at the University of Ljubljana. 

Samar Zughool is an intercultural trainer, theater actress and non-formal educator.

Award Justifications

No-Border Craft

is a self-organized initiative led by women who are activists, refuges and asylum seekers in Slovenia. They are fighting against racism, sexism, and for open borders in organizing direct actions and offering each other mutual support. No-Border Craft succeed to build a firm social network between migrant women and local residents in Slovenia. This is by creating an environment for active participation in the local cultural and social events, and through looking for opportunities for alternative economy by offering their handcraft products. The activism of this group is intersectional and it is a safe place for all who want to challenge and change the existing sexist, white supremacist and patriarchal system.

No-Border Craft is led and organized by inspirational women without borders like Tanja Završki, Jelka Zorn, Ameenah Qawas, Martina and Darja Kališek, Endila, Gulbene, Rashede, Popet, Asja Hrvatin, Rumat, Sara Fabjan, Somayeh Asadpour, Somayeh, Masume and Zeinab Manafi, Helena Krapež Škoberne, Sarah Lunaček, Suzana Koncut, Tamara Raftović Loštrek , Fatima, Zahra, Zahra, Samira, Hamide, Atefeh, Behnaz, Heba, and many more.

Sabina Zorec

is a pioneer in working with female prisoners and active drug users. Years ago, when she was still a student and a volunteer at the Stigma Association, she was working with the female prisoners at the Ig jail and began to realise that after their sentence is over, women have nowhere to turn, so they mostly end up on the streets or in abusive relationships. Homelessness, prostitution, risky drug abuse, violent relationships and delinquency form a world in which these “marginal women” usually quickly return after their sentence has expired, thereby repeating the vicious circle. Sabina Zorec began to address this vicious circle of violence and precarity by founding the first safe house for women, one with a low threshold programme – where drug abstinence is not a condition to enter the safe house. This is the first social welfare programme of the kind not only nation-wide, but also on a wider scale in Europe. In January 2010, the Stigma Safe House was founded, targeting active female drug users who are victims of violence, and this year, the safe house has marked a decade of its operation. It has strongly contributed to the decrease of risky drug use, prostitution, delinquency, homelessness and the possibility of returning to violent relationships in which the women are most often born in, only to repeat them later in life. 

Urška Breznik

is the director of the institute Pekarna Magdalenske mreže, which has been introducing a fresh, socially critical programme to Maribor under her leadership, promoting the strengthening of local initiative and solidarity among different social minorities. Urška Breznik is not only active within the institute but is also a member and president of the vegan association Za živali. She says veganism for her is not a choice, but a moral imperative. Furthermore, she dedicates her energy to the strengthening of local self-government and city quarters, to the school of political literacy and similar topics. She is active in numerous fields lacking habilitated human resources, and she is one of the reasons that Maribor is finally able to successfully get rid of its stuffiness.   

ČIPke Initiative for Women with a Sense for Technology, Science and Art

was founded in 2013 due to the need for safe, inclusive spaces for female programmers, electronic engineers, mechanic engineers, hackers and geeks. Since then, the ČIPke initiative has been based in the Rampa Laboratory on Kersnikova 4 (within the framework of the Kersnikova Institute) to research and promote the co-operation of women in scientific and technical context and intermedia art. Their programme of practical education includes open-code programme workshops, programming, graphic design, video editing, electronics and robotics. Already in the first two years of their activities, ČIPke have managed to form a group of twenty regular attendants, which has only been growing ever since, given that the regular “web-weaving” sessions at the ČIPke open laboratory welcome all women, regardless of their previous knowledge, age or other circumstance. As they say themselves: “The only conditions for attending (…) are a curious eye, ear and hands.” 

The ČIPke community is now tended to by Ana Smerdu and Sanja Hrvaćanin, before them it was by Staša Guček (2017-19), and before her, the initiative founders Saša Spačal and Ida Hiršenfelder (2013-16). They and the entire community bear strong connections to the documentary Flow / Tok (2016), showcasing eight women in Slovenia who successfully operate in technical professions, as well as the experimental sound ensemble Kikimore.

The ČIPke Initiative receives the WoW Award as a merit for their perseverance in feminist policies of creating safer spaces for women and especially girls who would have a much harder time getting attention, knowledge and merits in mixed gender groups in the field of contemporary technologies and arts. To many years ahead!

Sektor Ž Radio Show

has monthly been aired on the Radio Študent radio channel for two decades now. After all this time, it remains the only show in Slovenian media space to use the feminist aspect in addressing political initiatives from the bottom up, but also tackles official policies, social trends, theory, pedagogics and art bearing the feminist mark. As its authors say, the show uses knowledge to fight “against prejudice that equals feminism to separatism or man-hating ideology. Instead, it brings activism, education, research, art and other forms of (in)visible work of women, trans persons and men who support and live feminist policies to the forefront”.

The Sektor Ž radio show has been founded in 2000 by Katja Grabnar and Eva Horvat. They led it until 2005, when Jasmina Jerant took over as editor, working with Ana Podvršič and Julija Sardelić. Between 2008 and 2014, the show was edited by Ida Hiršenfelder and co-created by Tea Hvala, Ana Reberc, Mirna Berberović and Zala Turšič. Today, Teja Oblak, Klara Otorepec, Anamarija Šiša and Antonija Todić are entrusted with this task.

We are bestowing the WoW Award to the former and current creators of the Sektor Ž radio show for years of quality and socially critical journalism. They are an example for continuous collective co-operation in precarious conditions, which would not have been possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of all co-authors, as well as without their successful transfer of knowledge from generation to generation. Congratulations to all the co-creators of the Sektor Ž show!