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German teen launches global feminist trend

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German teen launches global feminist trend
Photo: Elonë Kastrati
17:18 CET+01:00
In time for International Equal Pay Day, The Local spoke with Elonë Kastrati, whose project of posting period pads with feminist messages in public places went viral this month on social media. Kastrati discussed the gender pay gap in Germany, sexism and how she has faced cyber bullying for '#PadsAgainstSexism'.

Elonë Kastrati was sitting in a youth center in the hip Berlin district of Kreuzberg when something unusual caught her eye.

There was a sanitary pad stuck to a window of the center, the 19-year-old student from Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg told The Local this week.

"I started thinking about how society gets so offended by such normal things, pads," Kastrati says.

The idea then dawned on her to start an art project of sorts, to post the feminine hygiene products around town, labelled with different messages pertaining to street harrassment, sexual violence and sexism.

On March 8th, for International Women's Day, Kastrati posted the pads on light poles, transit schedules and adverts, posting photos of her work to Instagram as she went along.

One read 'imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods'. Another said 'rapists rape people not outfits'.

 

 

She didn't realize the kind of attention her posts had attracted until a couple days later.

"I put up a picture on Tumblr, and two days later when I came home from work, my sister said 'Do you know what has happened?'" Kastrati explains.

Her Tumblr and Instagram followings had exploded to thousands of people, and Buzzfeed had posted an article about her project.

Soon, Kastrati was receiving messages from people all over the world who wanted to mimic her project in their own countries.  

She said she was happily surprised when a young man from New Delhi sent her message about starting the project.

"I said 'Yes, of course, I can't travel all over the world to stick the pads everywhere,'" Kastrati says excitedly. "He said he didn't want people to think it was only women who cared about women."

Her inbox has been filled with messages from Chile, the USA, South Africa, and Sweden. And next month, she has been invited to speak at an anti-street harassment week in Heidelberg.

While Kastrati says her message is to spread awareness about topics like sexual harassment, she has encountered some of her own online.

Though most of the messages she received after starting her project have been positive, others have been physically threatening.

"I got messages saying 'you're a whore' or 'you should get raped to death,'" she says.

"I don't take it personally because they insult themselves with this. I feel sorry for them, not for me… They are also an example showing the whole world not to be like this."

Others have criticized her place of privilege coming from Germany, saying she does not understand sexism in the rest of the world.

But Kastrati says she never intended to speak for everyone and encourages people to take on the project as they want in their own countries.

Still, Kastrati says there is still work to be done in Germany when it comes to gender equality.

A recent study found that women still earn 21.6 percent less per hour than men, making Germany the fourth-worst country for female employees in the EU, behind Estonia, Austria and the Czech Republic.

"We are living in 2015 and women's jobs are still less paid than men's jobs," she says.

"Some people still think that women aren't qualified for certain jobs, and that women can only do certain jobs," Kastrati says, adding that this also should not limit men from doing jobs that people think only women should do, like nursing.

"It's about equality," she explains. "No one should be preferred or considered more worth it."

 

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