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Czech Republic

Performing Refugeeness in the Czech Republic: Gendered Depoliticisation through NGO Assistance


Szczepanikova, Alice. 2010. “Performing Refugeeness in the Czech Republic: Gendered Depoliticisation through NGO Assistance.” Gender, Place & Culture 17 (4): 461–77. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2010.485838.

Author: Alice Szczepanikova


The article examines the gender micropolitics of non-governmental assistance to refugees in the Czech Republic – a post-socialist society which is becoming a country of immigration. It critically examines relations of power between refugees and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These NGOs act as mediators between refugees and the state, media, wider public and academic production of knowledge. It is argued that despite the important roles they play in securing refugees' access to rights, their assistance is often perceived as problematic by refugees. The article analyses these relations in a wider context of the institutions of the refugee system where the state has increasing power in defining the conditions under which NGO assistance to refugees is provided. The study is based on qualitative research among recognised refugees from the former Soviet Union living in the Czech Republic and local NGOs assisting them with integration into society. I demonstrate how particular forms of assistance and public representation depoliticise refugees in a sense of fostering rather than challenging unequal power relations that lock refugees in a position of clients lacking political means of influencing their place in a receiving society. This is done by conceptualising ‘a refugee’ as a performative identity that is being produced and enacted in feminised NGO spaces. The analysis highlights refugees' critical reflections on their position in the relations of assistance.

Keywords: NGO assistance to refugees, depoliticisation, Czech Republic, gender, power relations

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Humanitarian Assistance, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Security Regions: Europe, Central Europe Countries: Czech Republic

Year: 2010

The Possibilities and Pitfalls of NGO Feminism: Insights from Postsocialist Eastern Europe


Guenther, Katja M. 2011. "The Possibilities and Pitfalls of NGO Feminism: Insights from Postsocialist Eastern Europe." Signs 36 (4): 863-87.

Author: Katja Guenther


This article identifies the problems and opportunities facing feminist nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Drawing on the cases of feminist organizing in Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and eastern Germany, I discuss the strategic advantages and disadvantages of NGO feminism, or feminism organized largely around service provisioning for women and the receipt of funds from state agencies and private foundations. I synthesize and move beyond existing scholarly and activist critiques of NGO feminism to identify and evaluate four potentially troubling aspects of this model of organizing, namely, formalization as a path to feminist neutralization, the inhibition of feminist countercultures, the loss of movement autonomy to develop agendas and make claims, and the lack of confrontation with existing structures of power. The article demonstrates the consequences of this type of movement development.

Keywords: NGO, systematic feminism, gendered politics, non-governmental organization, power structures, feminist neutralization

Topics: Democracy / Democratization, Development, Economies, Feminisms, Gendered Power Relations, NGOs, Peacebuilding, Political Economies, Political Participation, Post-Conflict Regions: Europe, Central Europe Countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland

Year: 2011

Gender Relations in a Refugee Camp: A Case of Chechens Seeking Asylum in the Czech Republic


Szczepanikova, Alice. 2005. “Gender Relations in a Refugee Camp: A Case of Chechens Seeking Asylum in the Czech Republic.” Journal of Refugee Studies 18 (3): 281–98.

Author: Alice Szczepanikova


This article aims to give an account of how refugees’ family relations are constructed in exile. It is based on fieldwork conducted among Chechen asylum seekers living in a refugee camp in the Czech Republic in April 2004. It argues that although traditional norms defining women’s and men’s position in Chechen families have often been transgressed in the actual experiences of men and women in situations of emergency such as war, flight and life in the camp, they remain relatively unchanged at the level of refugees’ ideal notions of femininity and masculinity. It also shows that the environment of the refugee camp provides, on the one hand, some opportunities for the increase of women’s power in the family and men’s involvement in childcare and household duties. But on the other hand, the assistance in the camp is based on an undiversified and gender-blind perception and construction of refugees as passive objects of aid, and latently sustains gendered violence.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Gender Roles, Femininity/ies, Gender-Based Violence, Gendered Power Relations, Households, Humanitarian Assistance Regions: Asia, Europe, Central Europe Countries: Czech Republic, Russian Federation

Year: 2005

Military Women in the NATO Armed Forces


García, Sarah.1999. “Military Women in the NATO Armed Forces.” Minerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military 17 (2): 33-82.

Author: Sarah García


In June 1998, officers (men and women) assembled in Brussels to discuss means to improve equity and expand the employment of women in the NATO armed forces. About 90 comrades in arms from fourteen allied nations, plus guests from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, now new NATO members, as well as from  Sweden, met to discuss the committee's goals and objectives. This first-time participation by Partner nations unequivocally enhanced the committee's work, especially where it involves mentoring, equality, and recruiting programs. The dialogue and cooperation between Allied and Partner nations at the conference was mutually advantageous to NATO's mission readiness capabilities and efforts to ensure the recognition and empowerment of all military personnel. The Committee prepared an "Issue Book" containing recommendations and rationales for the Military Committee and national authorities to consider when determining integration policy/initiative within their armed forces. That was the first time the committee had developed such a comprehensive product geared specifically to focus NATO in this process. In support of NATO's Enhanced Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, which began five years ago and centered on "fostering military co-operation between NATO and non-NATO states to, among other aims, strengthen the ability to undertake peacekeeping and humanitarian missions and developing military forces better able to operate with those of NATO members," 8 the 1998 Brussels Conference sparked the beginning of the Committee on Women's cooperative dialogue with PfP nations. For example, discussions centered on equality, in terms of training and promotion (rank and career opportunities); utilization and development via recruitment, mentoring, and retention; and improving the quality of life for women in uniform by eliminating gender discrimination and sexual harassment. Since then, Partner nations have expressed  interest in the committee, its goals and objectives, and assistance from the Women In the NATO Forces (WINF) office. In the five decades of its existence, the NATO alliance has "evolved from a traditional military alliance for collective defence into a political-military organisation for security cooperation, with an extensive bureaucracy and complex decision-making processes." The alliance is now redefining its mission as a result of the end of the Cold War. In an even briefer span of time, the position of women in the military has undergone meaningful change in many NATO nations, and "As these changes take place, the disparate gender politics among its member governments take on even more importance." The debate over women's participation in the military is far from over. Despite those debates, new threats to NATO's collective security, the reorganization of armies and international staffs, advanced weapons technology, and new peacekeeping operations challenge traditional military structures and functions and make the utilization of all available human resources, men and women, imperative. Integrating women into any military is an evolutionary process, now underway in all NATO member nations. Personnel policies that insure a military establishment of the highest quality possible with the resources available are an essential part of this process.

Topics: Combatants, Female Combatants, Gender, Women, Men, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Gender Equity, International Organizations, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Peacekeeping Regions: Europe, Central Europe, Nordic states, Northern Europe, Western Europe Countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Sweden

Year: 1999


"Resistance is based on the true story of Vera Laska who, as a teenager, defied statistics and lasted three years as a WWII Czechoslovak Resistance fighter (instead of the average six months); survived Auschwitz as a political prisoner; and escaped the Nazis during a death march.

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