Kraków for Everyone

18 January 2022

We talk to Nina Gabryś about creating an inclusive narrative in the city.

ANNA MAZUR: In January it will be a year since you became the Advisor to the Mayor of the City of Kraków for Equality Policies. What have you been working on?
This year we started working on a few initiatives. On 8 March we launched the Cracovian Women project focusing on Kraków’s women and their impact on the city. We introduced eleven local heroines; we are also preparing a herstoric garden and tourist trail. In June and November we watched the spectacle Women of Kraków. History and Legend prepared by the Cracovia Danza Court Ballet. In spring we launched a major municipal programme dedicated to human rights titled “May of Equality” which included meetings, debates and lectures at institutions throughout Kraków such as MOCAK, Podgórze Cultural Centre and Kraków-Nowa Huta Cultural Centre.
On 17 May we celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia with the slogan “NO to discrimination!”, showing that Kraków is open and safe for all and especially the LGBT+ community. We used the opportunity to join in remotely with the Global Conference on the Rights and Inclusion of LGBTI+ Youth in Paris, with the participation of the Mayor of the City of Kraków Jacek Majchrowski. The Mayor reaffirmed his commitment by serving as patron of the Equality March in August. Kraków is the first city in Poland involved with the Pink Box campaign which provides free personal hygiene products in all local primary and high schools and all institutions working with young people to ensure girls have full access to education. We are also one of the first large cities in Poland to have signed the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life. To celebrate, in November we held three debates exploring life in the city from women’s perspective: feminist urbanism, herstory in public life and women’s safety. We continue to develop and expand initiatives promoting diversity in the workplace, and that’s just some of the projects we’ve been working on this year!

What challenges are you expecting next?
The main challenge for the coming months is to build and implement equality policies. Our aim is to introduce gender mainstreaming over the course of three years. Fighting discrimination is extremely important, and it doesn’t just apply to gender. Equal opportunities mean creating municipal projects accessible to all Cracovians to help us build a better city which doesn’t leave anyone out; an open city without barriers and sensitive to injustice. Equality policies are a new topic in the context of local governments. We have gone in all guns blazing, but we are constantly learning how best to be sensitive; it’s an ongoing process but it is happening and affecting us every day.

Why is it so important to shift the narrative of the city?
The city’s story should keep up with the present day. The city is changing because its inhabitants are changing: they come from different towns, countries and continents, they speak different languages, and they all enrich the city with their unique experiences. Each and every person’s story is personal and their own, and if we really listen, we can build a city of the future.

Who do you think is missing from stories about Kraków and its history?
The history of the city focuses on men – mayors, professors, generals – and, sadly, not many of us know the names of equally important and inspirational professors, artists and social activists who were women and who shaped our city. Most of us have heard of Olga Boznańska and Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, but I’m not sure the same is the case for Kazimiera Bujwidowa, Diana Reiter and Maria Dulębianka. And we really should know about their achievements, because the power with which they smashed glass ceilings and fought for their rights should serve as inspiration for today’s girls and boys. Cracovian heroines have a symbolic impact on new generations of young women.

Is this what the project Cracovian Women is about?
It’s certainly an attempt to expand our understanding of history, appreciate individuals who helped shape our city and see Kraków through the prism of women from different times and circles. Our city’s herstory is incredible – there is plenty to explore and seek inspiration in. But that’s not all: the programme focuses on initiatives aimed at contemporary women by bolstering their position on the job market, promoting equality in sport and culture, providing models protecting against discrimination and expanding campaigns promoting women’s safety, and inspiring discussion on including women’s perspectives in urban planning.

Have you had a good response? Which institutions have already signed up?
We want everyone in the city to be engaged in talking about equality. We have already seen the performance prepared by the Cracovia Danza Court Ballet and Tauron Arena Kraków. The Museum of Krakow will dedicate some of its lectures to the role and heritage of local women. We are working with the PTTK Mountain Tourism Centre on preparing a Cracovian Women’s Trail showcasing locations recalling artists, authors, scientists, sportswomen, suffragists and social activists. We will also work on educational projects with the Kraków Library and KBF.

What are you going to focus on next?
We are about to launch an important campaign on countering violence. We want to create a portal as a point of first contact for people experiencing violence, and reach individuals who witness it. We are also working on a project concerning women in business and the job market, we are monitoring the situation faced by sportswomen and provide support, and we are preparing a health information campaign. We are finalising the Gender Equality Plan, and in the coming months we will be conducting extensive social consultations to set out the direction for equality policies for the coming years.

Nina Gabryś – graduate from the Faculty of History at the Jagiellonian University. As co-founder and deputy director of the Hundred Years of the Women’s Vote Association, she has organized nationwide celebrations of the centenary of Polish women getting the vote. She has been sitting on the Council of the City of Kraków since November 2018 and she is President of the Board for Equality. She serves as external spokesperson for ethics at the Stanisław Wyspiański Academy of Theatre Arts in Kraków. In January 2021 she became the Advisor to the Mayor of the City of Kraków for Equality Policies.

The text was published in the 4/2021 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.

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