The Democracy Award 2010
This year, the Democracy Award has been given to women and women’s institutions: the winners are Gitta Martl, long-time Secretary-General of the Ketani Society, Director Heidi Schrodt and “her” Rahlgasse grammar school in Vienna, and the association "Frauen aus allen Ländern" (“Women of all Countries”), a cultural, educational and advisory initiative in Innsbruck, Tyrol. 74 individuals and institutions competed for the award, which was presented to the winners by National Council President Barbara Prammer in the course of a ceremony that took place in the Parliament Building.
Gitta Martl was moved by her own personal experience in 1998 to found, with others, the Ketani Society in Linz for the benefit of Sinti and Roma. She published the tragic story of her life in her book "Uns hat es nicht geben sollen: Rosa Winter, Gitta und Nicole Martl. Drei Generationen Sinti-Frauen erzählen" (“We ought not to have existed. Rosa Winter, Gitta and Nicole Martl. Sinti women of three generations tell their stories”). She has started, with a great deal of personal commitment, a number of initiatives for the benefit of minorities in the context of democracy, always focusing on ways to bring people of different backgrounds together rather than polarise them.
Director Heidi Schrodt and the secondary grammar school Rahlgasse excel owing to their special achievements in the field of gender democracy. The school sees itself as a ”Gender Competence School“, an institution productive of modern relations between the genders. Its syllabus focuses on gender issues, social competence and the environment. Many of its projects, such as "(Un)Doing Gender", gender and non-discrimination monitors, “Girl/Boy Days“ and others, consciously continue the tradition of the first Austrian grammar school for girls (founded in 1892). Director Schrodt has played an important role in this process, and her own biography explains her interest in and commitment to gender issues. Between 1993 and 1995 she was a member of the Inter-ministerial Working Group on Specific Women’s Issues in the Field of Education. Since the autumn of 2000 she has cooperated with two scholars, Edit Schlaffer and Cheryl Benard, on the subject of “gender-sensitive coeducation”. She has been a lecturer in Austrian universities, has delivered numerous speeches both in Austria and abroad, and is the founder of the non-partisan initiative "BildungGrenzenlos" (”Education without Borders“).
The association "Frauen aus allen Ländern" was founded in 2001 as an initiative dedicated to cultural, educational and advisory work for women and girls with a migration background. The association aims at facilitating integration by offering assistance and advice tailored to the needs of specific groups and providing a sheltered environment for migrant women and girls to meet. The project dedicates itself to a special form of minority protection in that it gives practical assistance to the women concerned by offering educational courses and organising learning, consultation and “story-telling” cafés. The stress is on participation – by showing girls and women ways to enhance their decision-making competence and lifting them out of their isolation. Networking and cooperation with other institutions and organisations – an aspect of particular importance to their clientele – emphasise the significance of long-term social perspectives and inter-cultural dialogue. Noteworthy facts characteristic of the initiative are the private, civil-society character of its activities carried forward by honorary members in a non-profit organisation.