Regardless of how gender parity has improved, discrimination still exists even in the most developed countries. Being perceived as different can be difficult, particularly for adolescents who are still developing a sense of self. In the German city of Bielefeld, a third of residents come from migrant backgrounds.
Those who have recently arrived have trouble integrating. This is made all the more difficult with the recent influx of refugees which has hardened local residents’ attitudes towards newcomers, making them feel unwelcome and unwanted.
But it is not only recent arrivals who are struggling with exclusion. Be it sexism, xenophobia, racism or any other form of discrimination, girls are left insecure and unable to thrive.
Maedchentreff Bielefeld is the sole female-only space to offer leisure facilities for the city’s girls and young women. It offers a holistic and resource-oriented space that is culturally sensitive and aimed at battling discrimination and social exclusion. It offers activities such as creative skills, cooking, self-defence, dancing, theatre and media. It also organises field trips and offers support with homework and job applications for those who need it.
With an all-female board and an all-female staff, Maedchentreff Bielefeld is well placed to serve the needs of the city’s girls and young women. All the activities are planned and organised by the girls themselves, giving them a sense of responsibility and agency.
The centre is free with no prior registration required. It is open six days a week and girls who frequent Maedchentreff Bielefeld have reported better grades at school. Those who have experienced racism say the support they received has given them the strength to deal with their experiences.
Photos: Christina Palitzsch