Christina Schäfers, Acem moderator in Hamburg:

For five years, Christina Schäfers has been Head of Arts, Words and Films at the Reperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany.

“It’s a privilege to have such an interesting job. The last two years have been a boost to my self-esteem: I’ve been working with gender balance. This is a part of an EU project to increase female participation in international music festivals, which has lagged behind. It’s part of the EU Commission’s Creative Europe program. At the outset, the project had only a few participants, but it’s developed into an international collaboration among many countries with the same ambition: to involve more female artists. The aim is a festival lineup with a 50/50 gender mix.”

Christina took over as project leader last summer, with a team of twelve from different countries. The EU Parliament approved a manifesto for gender equality in June and renewed the project funding: 1.4 million euros. With additional funding, it has become possible to go further toward the project’s ambitious goal.

What’s it like to be the leader of the gender balance project?

“The project is based on the assumption that there’s the same degree of talent across genders. Initially, our perspective was the international music festival landscape, but we already see that it’s spreading to other areas and is growing into a worldwide movement. The female task force does a great job. Now there’s a growing understanding that music festivals aren’t the only arenas with this challenge. The collaboration is bringing the world closer together.

“I’m often in contact with famous female artists myself. Some are already big; they represent a feminine side of success, which inspires me to continue to pursue the project’s goals. It’s exciting to meet so many people who have reached this level of success. The achievements of the project so far are promising, indicating that we’ll reach our goals. The Reperbahn Festival has already made remarkable progress.”

How have you developed the necessary skills for your job?

“A very important part for me has been the training in interpersonal communication—Acem’s course with intensive group processes. I’ve participated three times—once a year—in this training at Acem’s international center in Norway. It’s great! The course has particularly helped me to lead groups and be in focus in large groups, as well as to cope with the difficult aspects of my job as a leader. I need these skills to collaborate with the variety of personalities I meet working with successful females.

“I’ve also practiced Acem Meditation regularly for six years, which helps me to work through what accumulates during my workdays. My job presupposes flexibility and being able to work intensively during periods. Meditation helps my restitution after stressful days, and I think my capacity to work hard has improved.”

You’re also involved in some projects in Acem?

“I wanted to become a moderator in Acem and took the training program for that last year. I’ve led several follow-up courses and been part of the organizing committee for the International Young Retreat. Last year, some participants at the Young Retreat expressed a wish for more female leaders. This year, the proportion had already increased. This rapid development was inspiring. For me, the next step is to be part of the organizing committee for Acem’s World Retreat in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria in 2021.

I’ve experienced changes of perspective both in meditation and at work and learned a new way of relating to situations. In particular, it makes a difference if I’m able to deal with difficulties and meet challenges with an open attitude. I’d like to convey to others that these are possibilities that everybody can make use of.”

What does your perspective look like going forward?

“I trust that I can work steadily toward my goals and expect to reach them. Also, beyond festival lineups, there are other goals as well: how females are presented, how stories are told, for example on the air. One step is the proportion of women, another is how newcomers are presented in comparison to well-established artists. I find my work extremely interesting—with many options for new opportunities, meeting challenges, and developing new perspectives.”

Read more about the gender balance project: 

Language editor: Ann Kunish