Women need support, not criticism

In the event called Woman’s World, successful women who have the opportunity to influence the lives of others and inspire people around them, have come together. Author Lenka Hlinková, director of a large company Katarína Vaškovičová, social worker Monika Duždová, and singer Katka Koščová shared their stories. The event was moderated by well-known screenwriter and presenter Alena Heribanová.

The event Women’s World was organized by the Carpathian Foundation on March 10, 2024, in the beautiful premises of the Eastern Slovakia Gallery in Košice, to celebrate International Women’s Day, women’s uniqueness, and their strength to overcome challenges. The event opened with musical performances by Katka Koščová and Daniel Špiner. This performance was followed by a discussion with female participants who shared their own life experiences interspersed with challenges, joys, worries, and successes with the audience. The female guests agreed that their success is not only the result of their efforts and self-work but also the support from their surroundings in both personal and professional lives.

Fair division of responsibilities

Lenka Hlinková, Katarína Vaškovičová, and Katka Koščová achieved their successes thanks to a fair division of household duties with their partners. That is also the reason why they were able to develop their careers while taking care of their children. When Katarína Vaškovičová gave birth to her second child (a daughter), her husband took over parental leave instead of her, allowing Katarína to continue her career. Support from her employer, the company Magna, which allows women to adjust their workload and environment to care for their children, was also important. It wasn’t easy; Katarína led meetings and then pumped milk afterward, but today she knows it was the best decision of her life. Her daughter and husband have a wonderful relationship, and Katarína has learned not to worry about what happens at home in her absence. A big life lesson for her was also setting boundaries and working only to the extent that she wouldn’t burn out and could do her job to the fullest (because when you burn out, you can’t do anything mentally or physically).

From the left side: Lenka Hlinková, Katarína Vaškovičová, Monika Duždová, Alena Heribanová.

Maternity service is not a vacation

You may have noticed that we deliberately used the term “maternity service” and not “vacation.” Lenka Hlinková linked it to former military service, which also wasn’t called vacation. And believe me, taking care of children and military service aren’t that far apart :D. Lenka is the author of the book “The Female Algorithm” and the founder of the eponymous association. It might seem that her main focus is on bridging women and the IT world, but in reality, she also helps to elevate their managerial skills, strives to break the stereotypes women face, and highlights the unequal treatment of women at home and in the workplace.

Roma women have to try much harder

Besides the challenges that almost all women face in life, Monika Duždová’s story was also influenced by her ethnicity. Roma women in Slovakia encounter prejudices and discrimination almost daily, and to succeed, they have to strive much more. At the same time, Monika’s parents guided her from birth to live a successful life and placed importance on education. Monika, as one of the few from the surrounding Roma community, started studying at a high school, but soon after the first year, she became pregnant and exchanged studying to take care of her children, as she gradually had three of them. However, over time, she realized that her life goal was not to take care of the household and wait for her husband to come home from work. When her children grew up, she completed high school with a diploma and later also a university. Her story is, of course, much richer and more complicated – interspersed with life abroad and the death of her husband. Today she works at the National Institute of Education and Youth, bringing with her rich experiences and knowledge of inclusive education from abroad. In addition, she is an important voice for women from marginalized communities who have the right to equal conditions and approach like everyone else.

After the discussion, Katka Koščová took the microphone again and, before her speech, she shared her experiences with hateful comments and remarks about her appearance or other opinions. She reminded us that no one has the right to judge and criticize others until they walk in their shoes. And when they do, they’ll find that they don’t need criticism but support.

Reactions to the event:

"I really enjoyed the Women's World event. It was an amazing performance by five successful women. Women with families, with free time, with lives... Listening to their stories made me realize once again how important the support of loved ones is. And what I realized right from the start is that there should be more men in the audience to see, to hear, what all women can achieve and that it's not us versus them, but that women can accomplish all of this thanks to their support."

Today, I realized that, fortunately, I live in a bubble where my entire environment supports me, and neither family nor work pose any barriers to me. But the world outside my bubble is different, and not all women are so lucky. It's important to talk about it and support them. So today, I made my little commitment that I want to contribute to this and support women openly and not underestimate their situation. And the most inspiring guest for me was Monika. I come from the village of Stakčín, where Roma people hold important positions and roles, and we don't make distinctions among ourselves; we have excellent relationships, and we all respect each other. So it was important for me to remind myself that it doesn't work like that everywhere."

"In society, women are still not perceived as equal. Although equality is increasingly presented, women still have a greater burden of responsibilities and life is a bit more challenging for them than for men. Thanks to events like this, we can open up important topics and look for ways to support women and advocate for them to be perceived equally to men."

"Thanks to the event, but also to the entire UPre Women programme, I realize that it's not enough to just focus on external support. We women carry stereotypes within ourselves, through which we look at others and ourselves, as well. Often, we burden ourselves with a lot of responsibilities without anyone forcing us to do so. And we can't ask for help. I feel like we want to prove to others how much we can handle, and that determines our worth. We care so much about being liked by others that we forget to love ourselves."

As part of the event, there was also a guided tour titled "For All and Forever" with the director of the Eastern Slovakia Gallery, Dora Kenderová.
The event was also attended by women participating in the UPre Women programme.
Guests and the team of the Carpathian Foundation.

Foto: Petra Juhásová