This woman knits against femicide – and you can join!

community project
This woman knits against femicide – and you can join!

© Katrin Binner

Anja Kernchen has brought a joint project against violence against women from Italy to Germany – and is now looking for many willing hands to knit and crochet.

Anja Kernchen says she will “cry with joy when we lay out the space,” she already knows that. Because the project manager of “Viva Vittoria Darmstadt” has big plans: She and many others want to transform Friedensplatz near the Residenzschloss into a huge work of art made of colorful squares of wool on 2000 square meters. Overall, it will look as if the painters Mondrian and Klimt did their best together with the disguise artist Christo. It is Anja Kernchen and her fellow knitters who will make the issue of violence against girls and women visible on a large and spectacular scale on March 4th and 5th, 2023, the weekend before the next International Women’s Day.

Violence against women has increased since 2020

The suffering usually happens in secret, at home, behind closed doors. Partners, relatives or acquaintances are often the perpetrators. And the pandemic has exacerbated the situation. In 2020, the number of consultations on the nationwide “Violence against Women” help line (08000-11 60 16) rose by 15 percent, and in 2021 there was a further increase of five percent with more than 54,000 consultations.

Anja Kernchen got the idea for the hands-on campaign from Italy, where the 58-year-old lives for several months a year since her three children left home. In Brescia, Darmstadt’s sister city in Lombardy, the creative community project was realized for the first time at the end of 2015, after five women from the city and the surrounding area had become victims of femicide that year alone, i.e. killing because of their gender. The Piazza della Vittoria was completely covered with a huge carpet of small squares knitted or crocheted by women and men. The patchwork blankets were then sold. Almost 80,000 euros were raised for projects against violence against women. Since then, the campaign has been in many Italian cities – and now for the first time on a large scale outside of Italy.

“Experiencing this action and being a part of this great togetherness was overwhelming,” says Kernchen, who has been involved with the Darmstadt emergency pastoral care for a long time and has worked in aftercare for rescue workers for the past ten years. When she took part in “Viva Vittoria” in her second home Bergamo in 2019, she knew immediately that she wanted to volunteer for this network with all her might: “The dynamism, strength and fascination of the Vittoria women is huge. And every little patchwork piece stands for a personal no to violence.”

Any help is welcome to knit 8000 wool squares

As if every single blanket had a soul, Kernchen feels the special nature of the community campaign, the proceeds of which go to Wildwasser eV Darmstadt, a specialist advice center against sexualized violence, and to the aid fund of the Darmstadt women’s shelter. And so that everything comes together properly, you can knit and crochet diligently: The project is looking for doers everywhere who can produce the around 8,000 small squares of washable wool that are required by February 20, 2023 (Contact project manager Anja Kernchen on tel. 0174/259 41 11 or by email: [email protected]).

The squares measuring 50 x 50 centimeters should be personally marked with a signature or a ribbon. Four at a time are later sewn together to form larger blankets (one meter by one meter) in rooms provided by the city of Darmstadt and finally sold on Friedensplatz for 20 euros. Wool donations and supporters who connect the individual squares with a red thread to form patchwork blankets and label them are also welcome.

“It’s especially fun in a group,” says Anja Kernchen. “A few have already come together, all over Germany.” Women from Ukraine who now live here have also formed handicraft groups and are knitting with them. “We have had our leaflets with the instructions translated for you and are providing you with yarn, needles and blue and yellow labels with a dove of peace – as a special signature.” And so in March there will also be blankets on Friedensplatz embroidered with an ardent protest against the violence that women have to endure in war.


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