Migrant Women’s Memory Box in the Historical Museum Frankfurt

My path intersected with the Federal Germany Migration Women’s Association while volunteering at the Frankfurt Historical Museum. My supervisor, Dr. Angella Janelli, mentioned the “Bibliothek der Generationen” project and asked if I wanted to coordinate and curate the migrant women’s project. In this artistic open archive project developed on participatory museology, citizens and active institutions in the city prepare memory boxes through invitations to be stored in the museum for a hundred years. I got more information about the women coming from Turkey. They lean towards leftist movements and are fighters. They advocate for women’s rights and are active in many demonstrations. Would I be interested?

I attended their next meeting. I met them there. But twice. At first sight, I said it was unmatched. In the second round, the feminist statement put me abroad. It was funny when I shared my first impression years later with my migrant sisters in Frankfurt.

The women had organized a discussion round for the November 25th day to prevent violence against women. A representative from a women’s shelter was supposed to come. With no one available to attend to me amidst the hustle and bustle, someone quickly sat me down and said to the one next to me, “Tell her our story.” So, she started talking. They had choir classes. Even painting and handicrafts. They were considering folk dancing, but it was still in the planning stages. However, film evenings were ongoing. I froze for a moment. What kind of association are we talking about archiving here? This is like the retirement activities of the last local community that remained a hometown far away.

Meanwhile, the discussion began, and we transitioned to the question-and-answer section after a while. Critiques of the government’s family policies, ongoing racism in Germany, and questions about the various forms of secondary violence that migrant women face – the discussions were getting lively. I was confused by my first impression. Hearing their stories and concrete claims to eliminate discrimination and violence in all domains was interesting. But suddenly, something better happened. When the event ended, someone stood up and requested the floor: “Friends! Please, when we visit each other’s homes, let’s not belittle each other over the messiness of the house. A woman is tired; a woman hasn’t had time. Let’s support each other.” That’s when I said: Yes! I want to get to know and introduce the solidarity network established by Turkish, Kurdish, Sunni, and Alevi migrant women in Frankfurt. When I recounted this story years later, they asked me with laughter who I had first spoken to. She got defensive when they heard her name: “No one told me anything. I didn’t understand either young lady sitting next to me. So, I just told the story without getting into general politics.” Thus, the case was revealed!

Our professional relationship with GKB (an acronym for Göçmen Kadınlar Birliği, the association’s name in Turkish) quickly evolved into a close bond and a shared journey in political struggle. I don’t know if it’s because we enjoyed spending time together or because after putting so much effort into it, we had to feel ready to say goodbye, but delivering the memory box took nearly 10 years. When we came together at the Frankfurt History Museum in May 2023, we still couldn’t believe it and kept asking each other, “What will happen next?”

I don’t know what the future holds, but what I’ve shared about this project is just a tiny part of what I want to convey about participatory and inclusive museum projects related to migration and gender. #StayTuned

The workshops that I conducted while working on the memory box provided me the insights shared through the experiences lived as a migrant woman from Turkey residing in Germany, which have been truly enlightening, affording me a deep comprehension of the casual challenges and hard achievements that migrant women navigate daily.

Eventually, these narratives not only broadened my perspective but also motivated me to advocate gender equality and migrant rights professionally. The knowledge garnered from the interactions in the memory box project has been instrumental in shaping my work, especially monitoring the comprehensive implementation of the Istanbul Convention, a.k.a intersectional feminism.

Heartfelt Thanks for GKB’s Inspiring Contribution

My dear migrant-sister-gang,

It has been and always will be a pleasure to meet you.

I wanted to take a moment to express my heartfelt gratitude for your invaluable participation, unwavering support, and inspiring contributions during the workshops and discussions.

Finally, we say: We did it!