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Folkevirke

Social – Cultural – Political information

A brief explanation of Folkevirke is:

Folkevirke is the women's own cross-political movement of folk enlightenment or adult education.
It was founded in 1944 by Bodil Koch, later minister of the church and minister of culture.
The initiating point was the anger or indignation the Danish women felt after the general election in 1943 for our "FOLKETING", the Danish parliament, when only two out of the four female members were re-elected. Considering the fact that Danish women won the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament back in 1915 - 2 members was a meagre result!

This took place during the German occupation when larger public meetings were prohibited. So only after the liberation in May 1945 Bodil Koch called - over the radio - the Danish women to a grand meeting in the Town Hall of Copenhagen - over 1.000 gathered and heard her speech - a document we keep as a "sacred paper" today.
We quote from Bodil Koch's speech:
"Women must take their share, not because we are better or cleverer than men, but because our talents, our way of tackling the demands of life, are fundamentally different. Both are of equal value, both are necessary. We must take part, listen and learn from others and thereby contribute to preserve justice and respect for others".

Today one third of the members of parliament are women, and so are several of the ministers - and the mayor part of adult women are active in the job market.
This of course is not achieved by Folkevirke alone, the time has been ripe in Scandinavia, but we claim our share in encouraging Danish women to take their share in public life.

But how did Folkevirke achieve that?

In order to make the housewives open their doors and take active part in the surrounding society, study circles were formed in each county - including Greenland - meetings and conferences were held over weekends and one single full week each year, where everybody involved met and still meet for new knowledge and inspiration.

During the first years everybody volunteered, no payment was involved, only a modest annual fee to cover mailing expenses.
Years later the government allocated the wages of a consultant, with a sum to cover teachers training courses.
Still the mayor part of the work done over the country is voluntary.

But how, would you ask, do people get together, and what keeps them going?

Whenever there is just one person who has the initiative, she invites a small planning group around her, choosing the subject for the circ1e and inviting sometimes a number of - often non-paid lecturers. Everybody adds to the mailing-list, and a place and a date is chosen. Often smaller meetings take place in private homes. At larger meetings a modest entrance-fee is raid - from time to time less modest, if meals are inc1uded.
In principle all meetings are open to everybody - the open door works both ways!

What subjects do we take up?

Whatever we find important: Environmental questions - new technologies including genetic technology - food-radiation - the challenge of migration and minorities - ethical questions - economics national level, questions arising up to the national referendum on the Maastricht treaty - literature - theatre - music - museums - art, especially women artists, and so forth.
Folkevirke has been known to bring what you would call "early warnings". Time and again a subject has been thoroughly treated in our circles and meetings, when the government sets up a campaign over the country dealing with just that issue!
Right from the start our major principle has been to keep our courses cross-political, i.e. not representing any of the political parties. Also time is always set aside for discussions with the participants and lecturers, to help promoting genuine democracy.
To keep all this going, some funds are of course necessary. A modest contribution is collected from our members and various foundations are approached for special purposes.

Now I have mentioned women time and again, and the attentive reader might wonder, why not "WOMEN-VIRKE" (=work) in stead of "FOLKE-VIRKE"?

This is essential: Again to quote from Bodil Koch's "grand speech": "Man and women must work together on equal term, but both from their special talents, only thus can we create a balanced world".
Men are always welcome and do take part in our meetings, but for us it is essential that women set the agenda and lead the meetings.
It is important to democracy in Denmark, that everybody is heard - and that it is the argument that counts.

"The word and not the sword" to quote from the book "What is Democracy?" by Bodil Koch's husband, professor of theology Hal Koch. This book has been translated to a number of East-European languages.

Medlem af Dansk Folkeoplysnings Samråd