Feminism at the Heinrich Böll Foundation

A photo of the building of the Heinrich Böll Foundation on the evening

Feminist policies have a long and diverse tradition at the Heinrich Böll Foundation. This is also clear from the foundation's history. The Heinrich Böll Foundation emerged out of the unification of three organisations: a feminist foundation called FrauenAnstiftung, Länderstiftungen Buntstift e.V. which was linked to the green party, and the original Heinrich Böll Foundation from Cologne which was responsible for managing Heinrich Böll’s estate.

Ever since its founding in 1988, FrauenAnstiftung has been directed by women and supports and promotes international feminist projects. After the merger of the three foundations, all of which had close links to the green party, it was essentially the women from FrauenAnstiftung who ensured that feminism was represented within the new joint Heinrich Böll foundation.

Gunda Werner, the director of FrauenAnstiftung (the Gunda-Werner Institute is named after her) developed ways of integrating feminist perspectives and experiences into what until then had been male-dominated political structures. With an approach known as ‘autonomy and integration’ spaces for critical feminist reflection were promoted and this helped ensure gender politics became a joint task within the new foundation.

Since 1998, Heinrich Böll Foundation's Feminist Institute has largely taken over the legacy of FrauenAnstiftung. By establishing the Feminist Institute as a separate entity, the Heinrich Böll Foundation explicitly committed itself to the feminist roots of the green movement.

At the same time the Joint Taskforce for Gender Democracy developed a model gender-political concept for the foundation, which was later adopted by numerous other German organisations. In 2007, the Feminist Institute merged with the Joint Taskforce to form the Gunda Werner Institute for Feminism and Gender Democracy (GWI).

The GWI aims to unite the strengths of both approaches, as a productive relationship between feminism and gender democracy must ensure that the specifics and differences of both concepts are represented. As a result, although the two approaches are merged within the GWI, feminist analysis and practices remain important strategies for the foundation as a whole: they induce political impulses, stimulate discussion and increase pressure for change. Gunda Werner»