The Family as a Reflection of Society

Gesprächsrunde "Familie als Spiegel der Gesellschaft"
© Goethe-Institut

Seven visitors from Eastern Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa travelled to Germany with the Goethe-Institut's visitor programme to inform themselves about the situation of families. They took a close look at the family and in doing so saw the whole of society.

General societal problems are reflected in many families: the pay gap between men and women, lack of commitment by fathers, domestic and sexualised violence, inadequate access to parental leave and state childcare.

The trip focused on a visit to one family. "It looks like an African village here", exclaimed Niq Mhlongo from South Africa as he stood in the courtyard of the Kanin rural commune in Brandenburg. Some of the 19 children were romping about - it was impossible to tell which of the 14 adults were whose parents.

After watching the film "System Crasher" (Systensprenger) by Nora Fingscheidt, the group discussed with social workers the options for giving parents improved guidance for their children's upbringing and having parents take responsibility. The programme also included talks with an activist about rainbow families with LGBTIQ parents, with the director of a children's museum, with political decision-makers, with the operators of a family centre, the director of an SOS children's village and also with a professor of family law.

In conversation with this professor the group learned how scientific and medical progress can affect the family: through reproductive medicine a child can have up to five parents - genetic, biological, legal, social.

When the guests of the visitor programme told their own personal stories, international comparison revealed one thing in common: the extent to which family stories are interwoven with political history. Families are separated by political borders, resettlement, restrictions on freedom of movement, flight and migration. At the same time, migration brings people from different countries together to form transnational families. Almost everywhere government parties use family policy for propaganda and maintaining power. In some countries they also preclude certain types of families, for example by criminalising LGBTIQ.

On the last day of the trip, the participants presented their plans on the topic of family affairs. In Warsaw, a series of articles will appear in the weekend edition of a newspaper. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a multimedia digital and exhibition project presents family stories from nine countries. Further ideas focused on the care work performed by families, and families in the context of sustainability and intergenerational justice.