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Interview with Theo Kauffeld - Co founder of Equalista

When the team from Equalista emailed me to see if I wanted to donate a gift for their christmas giveaway I was impressed by their vision and determination to make it happen! Of course I wanted to be involved! Not only that! I wanted to know more, about them, about the app, about their feminism and journey... so I asked to interview them and learn a bit more! Not surprised to know that I agree so much with Theo in a lot of things, I bet you do too...

What is Equalista and why does it exist?

Equalista is the world’s first mobile learning app about gender equality and social justice. Our app has an extensive glossary to look up and learn important terms and soon we will launch learning courses on a range of topics. We are building Equalista because learning about social justice, gender equality and discrimination is so important for everyone and yet it is not part of formal education in schools and universities, and happens mostly out of personal motivation. We want to make the learning easy, accessible, and inclusive so that everyone wants to know more. Knowledge is the first step for change and enables us to talk about the topic.

Who are Theo and Louisa, the founders of this app?

Theo (that’s me!) and Louisa are sisters and combine their different strengths to bring this app to life. I had the idea for Equalista when I realized at the age of 28 that I had no idea about feminism and social justice. I started a research race to catch up and was overwhelmed by the complexity and the dimension of the issue. Several times I wanted to give up, but the matter is too important. So, the idea for Equalista was born: We need to make learning easy and accessible so that people don’t give up on the topic but want to learn more at every level.

Louisa has studied Sustainable Finance Management and wants to show the world that companies can be part of the solution with products and a set up that makes the world a better place. 

What is the biggest impact of what you do?

The biggest impact is that we provide the very first learning app for the topic and make education and thoroughly researched information available in one place – you just need your phone. We don’t want to produce content for a small academic elite that discusses the details, but really create a product for the first learning steps as well as offering deep dives for the feminist professionals among us.

What is the big goal? the dream of what Equalista can become?

Our big vision is to make the world more equal one user at a time. Social justice spans much more than gender equality and while we teach about discrimination as an interrelated system from the start, our dream is that one day, Equalista will be a platform for a variety of social justice topics and reaches millions of people.

 

And this is the feminist questionnaire identical for everyone

 

What is Feminism for you?

Feminism for me is activism for equality from a gender perspective. My feminism is about having the choice and opportunity to live the life that you want without being discriminated against. My feminism is intersectional and goes together with my anti-capitalist beliefs and is in solidarity with all other social justice movements such as the anti-racist, queer, and environmental movements. My focus is feminism, but I support other movements as much as I can. 

Which “everyday sexism” really bothers you?

When women’s experiences are dismissed as exaggerated or imagined. In my opinion the “doubt” is the most subtle but harmful forms of everyday discrimination. Did I get this feedback because my work was not good or because I am a Woman/Black/Lesbian/…? The constant possibility of being treated unfairly, and being on-guard for this wears us down and is so tiring.

Do you remember when you start identifying as a Feminist and why?

For most of my life I didn’t identify as a feminist. For the plain reason that I was surrounded by kick-ass women all my life – I have three amazing sisters - and I couldn’t see the inequality around me at that point. Women were the people I looked up to, girls and women were the top performers in school and uni, I sometimes felt sorry for boys and men in the light of the fierce women I knew. But that changed when I started working and slowly figured out that it is less about what you do, but a lot about who you are with regards to gender, race, socio-economic status, etc. It took me a while because since the world has been mostly good to me, I didn’t actively look for injustice but expected fairness. What privilege to be able to be that naïve! I needed a few wake-up calls and now I wonder how can you not be feminist in a world like this?

Who is your biggest feminist role model?

Audre Lorde is highly inspiring to me. Her writing and thinking on the importance of difference and how all oppression is interrelated and can only be overcome by being united despite differences has shaped my thinking and how we approach the topic in our learning app. 

What is your favourite Feminist quote?

I need to give two because they are always together in my head:

  • I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own"Audre Lorde
  • “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else”  Toni Morrison.

They give me direction and courage. 

What is your proud feminist victory?

Finding the courage to start an all-women tech company with my sister without external investors to create a digital learning app about gender equality. Only one in ten tech startups survives, and that is scary as hell. Equalista is not out of the woods yet, but I believe that together with this team of determined women around me, we will make it.

What is your feminist recommendation?

Since I don’t watch films or series, I want to give you a recommendation for a book that is not widely discussed but that has shaped me profoundly.

  • Book: The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World

The title is bad, but the content is good. Of course, it is not the fault of working women that the inequality gap between women is widening, but this book gives you all the arguments against neoliberal and for intersectional feminism.

What is your feminist call to action to whoever is reading?

Make solidarity the core of your activism! If we stand in solidarity with each other to reach a shared goal we can bridge differences and build alliances without sharing the exact same experiences. And never forget that we are all learners that started learning once and this is a journey to a place that we don’t know how it will look like. Don’t stop dreaming big!

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