SONGSOPTOK: What, in your experience, is the status of a girl child in the family? Is she treated in the same way as the male child? If not, what are the major differences in treatment?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  Often, the difference already starts with the toys that are bought for a child – more often there are toys which show the role model that they are supposed to play in society. A girl would rather get a baby doll, or a Barbie doll, even makeup – toys which are more shiny and pretty, or cute. A boy would rather get toys which have something to do with their role, as well: action figures, or toy cars, or toys with which he could buy something. But fact is, each person is an individual. If we would concentrate more on the persons instead on the role we suppose them to play in society, we would do far more for them than with toys like these. At home, they would probably get different jobs to do – but in fact, we should base these things on the person the child is, their interests, their talents – or the things they would still have to learn for their future.

SONGSOPTOK: Does the girl child have equal access to education in your country irrespective of economic or social status? What are the main factors that affect the equality or inequality of access to education?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  The gender of a person plays no role in education – but certainly the money a person can spend on it does. There are certain schools which someone with less money is not able to go to, because they cost money – private schools, for instance.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that women, contrary to men, always have to make a choice between home life and professional career? Is it fair either on men or women? What is your personal experience?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  No, they don’t always have to make a choice – but it often depends on the personal situation within a relationship. I personally have chosen to raise my children and stay at home, so they always would have someone to talk to after school, or someone who could take care at once in case something happens at school so they have to go home at once.

SONGSOPTOK: Detailed studies have shown that there are very few women across the world who occupy really top positions both in the private and public sectors. How do you explain this fact? Do you think that women are less qualified to hold top jobs or are there other explanatory factors?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  I think that this fact may have to do with the fact that women can have health problems after having a child, also that they need a certain time to take care of their children. It is a hard job to properly take care of children, and the access to further qualifications is rather limited. Women often have to work hard to get a better job with more responsibilities, while they have to take care of their children. Because of social reasons, women who work often wait very long until they have their first child – often, they are over 30 when they do, the average age is rising. The need to have “everything settled” for a child seems to be rising.

SONGSOPTOK: Even in the advance countries in the world, there is a large disparity between the number of men and women in political parties resulting in an under-representation of women in governments and elected councils. Do you agree with this point of view? What in your opinion are the main reasons?

BRITTA HOFFMANN: I have to agree to this point. Often, when a woman reaches a certain age, when they have children, they are the ones who stay at home to take care of the child – though the number of other family models seems to be rising. During the time a woman raises children, she doesn’t have the time to take care of their professional career, so it is simply much harder to reach better positions.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think a larger participation and presence of women in all domains – economic, social and political- are actually required? Would it substantially improve the nature and quality of services and make the society a better place?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  I think that a more open-minded treatment, a more fair regulation for persons staying at home to take care of children, would be something we should work on, generally. I think the number of women doing certain jobs is not so important – but we should get more used to look at a person, instead of first seeing their gender. Persons are individuals, and each person has a different set of talents. It may be talents that might not even fit into our general thinking of what a girl is able to do, or a boy. So we need to try and see talents without putting them into a certain role. If we could handle them like this, indeed certain problems might get to be less.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that for women the choice of a career and that of a family life with children should be mutually exclusive? Do you think that women who opt for both are not totally successful in either sphere? What is your own experience?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  This depends on the relationship they have, on their personal situation, on their partner… I generally think that there should be more possibilities to find individual solutions for the different situations. My experience is that a woman who gets full support of her partner has fewer difficulties to face than a woman who has no partner, or whose social environment is not supporting her. But there is also the fact, that the time that is needed to raise the children, is not supported socially as much as it should be.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your opinion about the role played by the mother in bringing up children? Do you think that mothers should take more responsibility for the well-being of the children more than the father given that other than breast feeding, almost every other responsibility can be equally shared between the parents? Please explain your answer.

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  I think that the responsibility for children should be shared between the parents – as far as possible. It always depends on the personal situation, the individual set of talents. Some men have more talents which are needed to take care of children, than a woman might have. On the other hand, each could have about equal qualification, or the woman could have more qualification. There should be room for each possibility.

SONGSOPTOK: “Women have been called queens for a long time, but the kingdom given them isn't worth ruling” said famous American writer Louisa M Alcott. Do you agree? What, in your perception, is the kingdom given to women?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  I don’t see that a kingdom was given to women. Someone staying at home has a very hard job organizing all the necessities. It is more taking care of the needs of everyone than ruling anything.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you agree that professional women have to work at least twice as hard as men to attain credibility in her chosen career? What is your personal experience? Do you think that it is a rule rather than an exception? What in your opinion needs to be done to bring greater equality in the workplace?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  Women generally have to prove – generally more than a man would have to – that they really deserve the position they have in jobs. Especially if they are working in a job which is – according to the role model – more “fitting” for a man. Generally we should get over these role models, and see the persons as they really are – with all their talents. I think, this could make a real change.

SONGSOPTOK: Women who choose to be ‘homemakers’ often feel that they are not respected by society in general since they do not go out to earn money, though they probably have to work harder and for longer hours. Would you agree? What needs to be done to really valorize the homemakers?

BRITTA HOFFMANN:  I have to agree - many people don’t see the hard work that needs to be done at home, the work that is more… Persons seem to get evaluated by the money they earn when they work. Since a person working at home for their family doesn’t get paid, others seem to look down to what they do. I think the least that could be done, would be give them similar social securities.

SONGSOPTOK: On the other hand, working women very often have to juggle their professional and personal lives to be perfect both at home and at the workplace. What is your personal experience? Do you think that a woman really have to be perfect in both spheres or is this idea self-imposed? In your society, what is expected of working women?

BRITTA HOFFMANN: I think that it depends on the set of talents of both partners in a relationship. Generally no one has to be perfect in everything they do. We all have weaknesses, with which we need to learn to get along, on which we can work. What is coming out, always depends on the personal situation. But I have also seen, that many women who work seem to suffer from the great pressure that they experience, because they want to be perfect in both – because they themselves, or older family members seem to expect this. I believe that each person deserves to be supported by their social environment – especially by their family.


We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.

Aparajita Sen:

Editor, Songsoptok.)


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