The Women’s Museum in Aarhus
Denmark has approximately 170 museums spread around its territory. If we consider the country’s population of 5,7 million people, it’s a museum for every 33 thousand people. The same calculation based on the area, results in a number of one museum for every 250 m2 - which is roughly the size of a single bedroom in a royal residence.
Besides from sterile and boring data, something else needs to be highlighted: in Denmark, and specifically in Aarhus, we have one of the most interesting and peculiar museums of the whole country, as well as one of the few of its kind in the world. The Women’s Museum (Kvindemuseet). This place is not only a history museum with permanent and temporary exhibitions, but also a cultural and social hub for workshops, debates and remarkable initiatives. Among the many activities offered, one caught our attention: the mentoring programme (Kvindemuseets Kulturmøder – The Women’s Museum’s Cultural Meetings).
Intiated in 2004, the project involves Danish and international women in the construction of solid relationships between mentors (usually Danes or well-integrated expats) and mentees (newcomers of different nationality).
It may seem quite strange that a museum has a mentor programme, because museums are not usually focused on volunteering projects with such social capacity, but if you take into consideration the history of the Women’s Museum and the movement that it is a part of, then it makes perfect sense, - Susanne Balle, Volunteer Coordinator at the museum.
The mentor programme supports women in the achievement of different goals and their dreams of their new life in Aarhus: newcomers might want to practice the language, get information about continuing their education or starting a new one, as well as have a clearer idea on how to find a job.
However, the exclusive relationship between mentor and mentees is not only confined to the share of practical information, but may include a wide range of more personal topics, as the understanding of how to socially interact with Danes or learning more about the Scandinavian working culture.
“A mentor is not a woman who solves the mentee’s problems, a mentor is a woman that walks beside you and gives guidance. Mentors are women that would like to volunteer and meet other people, they are curious, open-minded and they have a wish to see if they can contribute with their knowledge. That is why the relationship between mentor and mentees is as equal as possible and evades from the systems, it goes more on a personal level,” continues Susanne.
According to most of the mentors and mentees, the programme at The Women’s Museum has great and beneficial outcomes for both sides, establishing a special connection between the women involved: this close and unfiltered relationship established by meeting another woman, provides the opportunity to ask questions, and look behind stereotypes and words.
When sitting down with another person, a great possibility to learn more about the other and at the same time about ourselves arises.
Even if you’re living in a country where you feel at home, being safe and secure, no country and no city is separate from the rest of the world, we are one global village, and this is a greater knowledge that the Women’s Museum helps to achieve: seeing the world not made of religions and nations, but made of human beings.
Among the many great outcomes of this programme, being myself a young woman and an expat - I found it special and extremely valuable that The Women's Museum mentor programme gives others like me the chance to get new meaningful connections, to become a part of a community and start a new life in Denmark. Above borders, boundaries and differences, a bigger sense of belonging can find its roots deep inside everyone thanks to such initiatives because, as Susanne puts it:
It is just two women talking.