Monday Interview with… Maaret Jokela

Maaret Jokela

Maaret Jokela was born in Nurmijärvi, FInland. She graduated in political sciences in 2008 from the University of Potsdam and Humboldt-University of Berlin. At the moment she lives in Basel and works for an international women rights organization as responsible for communication. She is also doing her PhD at the Institute of Cultural Geography at the University of Bern. She sits on the Board of Citizens of Europe as Vice-Chair.

When and how did you start volunteering at Citizens of Europe?
I heard of Citizens of Europe first in 2006. I was president of the students’ organization AEGEE-Berlin and was organizing our Summer University. Frank helped us out in our activity at the Parliament in Berlin and introduced me to the Citizens. The first project I was involved in was the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). A small group of us would meet regularly to discuss the promotion of this initiative in Germany. In 2009, after my studies, I finally became a member. In 2010-2011 I participated and held workshops in the different Open Forum events on Volunteering. In 2011 I became a board member. 

What does Citizens bring to you?
I think Citizens is a very unique network. First of all, it is almost only volunteer-based and successfully organizes with the help of these volunteers numerous projects since 10 years. And secondly, we have a great variety of projects, from arts and film to political participation, and promote these activities under the same subject, namely European and active citizenship. Also, our definition of Europe is very wide, including a great amount of countries, cultures, people and perspectives into our network.

What kind of activities do you carry out at Citizens?
The board meets about four times every year and we discuss future activities and other upcoming topics. As I am not living in Berlin, my possibilities to be present at the seminars are unfortunately limited. During the year, I help out with writing project proposals and we have lots of discussions through e-mails and skype. In May, we will have our second seminar on the topic “Beyond the Crisis”, held in Berlin, which I will also attend. In addition, I have been in our interview team during the past two years to select the incoming EVS-volunteers.

In which way does your work at a women’s rights organization contribute to Citizens?
In our board, I am unofficially the responsible for gender equality. I do always speak for equal numbers whether we are selecting volunteers or board member positions -though this time our board is lead by more women than men!

Today, many young Europeans do not see the borders of their countries very strictly

What is the funniest and most enjoyable thing of volunteering at Citizens?
Definitely the people! I enjoy getting to know different people from different countries in our seminars and other events.

Is there any situation in which you feel more European? If so, when?
I guess these situations happen more frequently now because I am living in the “Dreiländereck” of Switzerland, Germany and France. I think today, many young Europeans do not see the borders of their countries very strictly, since studying and working in neighboring countries has become more or less normal for us. Being from Finland, having studied in Germany and living currently in Switzerland have influenced that feeling a lot! Which doesn’t mean I don’t feel Finnish at the same time.

What do you like most abou Europe?
The diversity of cultures, languages and nature in such a small area. Europe is the size of, for example, Brazil. Such a a tiny continent!

If you lived in another continent, which place would it be?
Latin America, but it would be hard to choose one country! I lived in Honduras for a year and am now doing my research on the women’s social movement there. I had also the opportunity to travel during the year I worked in Honduras to some other countries in Latin America. I have met a lot of great people, the nature is very beautiful and diverse and there is so much to see. In the next years, I am fortunately going to travel at least to Honduras couple of times because of my research.

Which place or event in Europe would you like to visit, where you have never been before?
There are so many places I haven’t visited yet! I’ve never been to the very North of Europe and I would love to visit Nordkap. I also want to make a longer trip to the Caucasian countries one day. And many, many places more.

A word you like very much in any European language…
Meravigliosa: wonderful Italian word!

Thank you!