Anita Habershuber nominee
Josefstaedterin des Jahres 2019 – Woman of the Year 2019 nominee in the category Social engagement

After witnessing the Austrian election on Sunday 29 September 2019, a few days later on Tuesday 1 October I was invited to participate in the celebration of the nomination of the female citizen of the year of our district in Vienna (Josefstaedterin des Jahres, in German).

I was particularly interested to attend since the ceremony took place in the Austrian Museum of Folk Life and Folk Art (Volkskundemuseum) right next door to our house and a former colleague of mine, from when I worked for ICC International Association for Cereal Science and Technology, Anita Habershuber, was a nominee in the category social engagement for her contribution helping refugees in Vienna.

Josef and I took our time leaving home, just ten minutes before, and joined the throng to line up and give our names before climbing up the stairs to the reception area. We passed the bar on the way serving new season wine, immediately next door to us. Most of the empty seats towards the front had reserved signs on them, but I found two tucked in between reserved seats and deposited my bag. Then I stood up to look for Anita. She was just a few rows in front of us, together with her husband and she saw me before I saw her. I congratulated her and we renewed our commitment to meet now that we both live in the eighth district! She said she knew she had not been selected, but was honoured nevertheless by the nomination.

Quartett des Frauenkammerorchesters
Beautiful music accompaniment

The programme was an interesting mix of music, history and biography. I was particularly interested to hear that the celebration of the right of women to vote was also addressed. One of the nominees had worked on producing a booklet documenting the centenary of women’s voting rights. In 1959 the first woman to become chairman of the district council in Vienna was Marie Franc right here in the Eighth District of Josefstadt. Barbara Neuwirth was honoured for her publication in the category democracy and women’s rights.

It was a bit ironic to me, since I have no voting rights simply because I’m not Austrian. I know this is a concern for many and I guess I am just so passive about it because as an international civil servant retiree I still consider myself a diplomat or at least try to maintain a diplomatic attitude. Of course if I wanted to get involved and discuss politics there are enough opportunities for me to do so. So even though over 35 years ago while living in Canberra, Australia, I had the realization that I need to become politically active in order to make a difference in society, now a lifetime later I believe I can make a difference through social media and by telling my story.

I put my phone on my selfie stick and recorded some of the speeches. Especially the music pieces were very inspiring. Unfortunately the results are a silent movie, so I guess perhaps there was something wrong with my selfie stick afterall, or perhaps the plug was still not pushed in far enough? In any case, it was an interesting evening into our district social life. We realised too late that the refreshments were indeed upstairs in the side room. My knees were already too sore when we got down the stairs that we decided to retreat into our own four walls next door.

Next time we could invite somebody home with us. Just a thought.