“More women in parliaments!” – that’s the goal of the Helene Weber College (HWC). Whether it’s the Bundestag, federal state parliaments or city and district assemblies, women remain under-represented there. The HWC is helping to change that. The college and the Helene Weber Prize were again included in the coalition agreement for 2018-2021 and efforts are underway to consolidate the HWC programme. The development and further development of this programme is based on the scientific knowledge resulting from the surveys conducted among elected female representatives in local government and female and male full-time mayors, as well as on the evaluation of activities undertaken to date.
Helene Weber (1881-1962) spent her life as a committed politician and campaigner for female suffrage – and has gone down in history as one of the four ‘mothers of the constitution’.
Helene Weber Prize
The Helene Weber Prize honours outstanding female local-government politicians and has to date been awarded three times (in 2009, 2011 and 2015) by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ). The next award ceremony will take place in Berlin in September 2020. The prize recognises women’s engagement in local politics and makes their achievements visible so that they have a public impact. Candidates are proposed by members of the Bundestag and selected by a cross-party jury. The prize comes with support measures for the winners: in addition to prize money to carry out local activities, all the winners also receive one-to-one coaching to plan their political careers as well as training sessions and support to expand their individual network. Within the HWC, the winners also act as role models and ambassadors for female participation in local politics.
The aim of the empowerment programmes is to introduce interested women to local politics. From 2019 to 2021, the college is focusing on target groups that have yet to be addressed in this way, namely younger women – particularly female students who are interested in and committed to politics but not (yet) active in local and party politics – as well as women with a migration background.
The prize-winners receive support for outreach actions as well as advice from the EAF when planning and implementing local activities. Action guidelines are also available as a source of ideas.
Mothers of the Constitution Exhibition
The exhibition recognises the political engagement of the four women members of the Parliamentary Council of 1948/49 who worked together on a non-partisan basis and enshrined the equality article in the constitution. The exhibition has been on tour in Germany since 2009 and since January 2018 has been available as a print-on-demand (self-print) exhibition.
During ‘Germany Year’ in the USA from 2018 to 2019, an initiative sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Helene Weber College was involved in the EAF Berlin project Women in Local Leadership. The aim of the project was to promote an exchange of experience, information and ideas with female local politicians in the state of Ohio.
The EU’s Mayoress project (2019–2021) is focused on the empowerment and networking of female mayors in Germany, France, Poland and Austria. The project’s aim is to support an increased representation of women in local leadership/mayoral positions and to generate public awareness of the need for more gender equality in local leadership. The project is funded by the European Commission.
The Helene Weber College organises conferences and congresses on all aspects of the topic of ‘women and politics’. The Municipal Campus provides female politicians and women interested in local politics with an annual further training and networking opportunity beyond party lines.
At the Federal State Parity Forum in December 2019, interested female politicians from federal state parliaments and the Bundestag as well as organisations specialising in gender-equality policy came together to learn more about, and discuss, parity laws in Germany’s federal states.