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Bourse exhibition celebrates 100 Brussels women showing leadership during the Covid crisis
Rozina Spinnoy and Karen Hoehn from Women100 - Women Building Bridges tell The Bulletin about why the voluntary network is launching the summer-long photo exhibition outside Brussels’ stock exchange on 25 June.
Why is W100 staging this outdoor exhibition?
Rozina: Brussels is a very diverse city and we will be highlighting the work of these 100 women and what they have been doing during the Covid-19 period. These are women from different sectors and at the forefront of the pandemic. We hope to have as many of the women featured in the exhibition as possible at the event to celebrate the launch.
Karen: Brussels is the second most diverse city in the world and has more foreign-born people than native-born. That diversity is our strength but it can also separate us. Women100 bridges those gaps and helps strengthen us as well as the city’s wellbeing. This exhibition specifically for women and about women during the Covid-19 pandemic is because women have been even more severely affected. There has been increased domestic violence, disproportionate violence in public spaces, greater unpaid care for children, spouses or partners and parents, as well as work in lower-paid jobs. During the pandemic, women have shown leadership in private spheres, in their communities and neighbourhoods and in their professions. But women are rarely depicted as leaders. This exhibition shows women’s leadership across Brussels’ communes, ethnicities, professions and languages. All of us are contributing to this city, providing leadership that is effective and essential for its success.
Can you give examples of the women who have their portraits on display?
Rozina: They’re from different sectors and jobs, from university rectors to women working in bakeries or on the frontline. We want to highlight this diversity in Brussels and highlight women who wouldn’t normally get publicity, who wouldn’t have their portrait on display in the centre of Brussels. That’s what makes it so powerful. You will see and read all the amazing things that the women have been doing. The photos are by Karema Menassar, who ran around the Brussels region taking 100 portraits of women over 10 days and is also one of the women featured.
Karen: The photos are beautiful and joyful. We have everything from nutritionists of Moroccan origin to British global health activists trying to improve access to Covid vaccines around the world, women who are caretakers, native Belgians who work in hospitals, entrepreneurs and more.
How did the Women100 network come about?
Rozina: It was set up three years ago and the first event was in March 2019. We gathered 100 women at the Bourse, which is very symbolic because over a 100 years ago this building would never have had women in it.
Karen: Women100 is a volunteer effort; we wanted to build bridges between different women around Brussels to connect themselves to the community here. For example, my work is almost entirely international, so though I reside here, I can feel disconnected from the city. I joined Women100 because I wanted to be better enmeshed in this community, which has been my home for 21 years. There are different motivations for the women who are in the steering group, but at the core of our charter is a focus on radical inclusion. It also includes love; have you ever heard about an organisation that includes love in its charter? It’s quite a beautiful vision that we are trying to advance, which contributes to being good citizens and part of a sisterhood in Brussels.
Portraits of 100 Brussels women active during the COVID crisis
Friday 25 June, 18.00-19.00: Exhibition launch (open to the public)
Saturday 26 June, 12.00-16.30: Decolonial and feminist guided tours (registration necessary); self-defense demonstration and stands
Photos: W100 © Karema Menassar