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Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh

On 2 June 2024, the Women’s Stand-Up group artists Inga Gaile, Mairita Rosicka-Strūberga (Futurmamma), Lidija Ojeniji (Leadyah), Santa Biezā (Santa) and Marta Vilka performed at the theatre café Ait in Tallinn. The performance took place as part of the programme of Head Read – the largest literary festival in Estonia.

The stand-up performance Latvian Women Take Over Estonian Head (Read) addressed an important and sensitive topic – the treatment of women in society and politics, including discrimination and violence. The heavy dose of humour that the audience enjoyed on Sunday afternoon is often the only way to address the most painful and even tragic topics. As Inga Gaile says: “Stand-up is the only way for a woman to say what she thinks about all of this without being judged”, while Lidija is convinced that “comedy is a beautiful way of expressing the truth”.

At the opening of the event, Latvian Ambassador to Estonia, Kristīne Našeniece, pointed out that the lack of respect and tolerance in society leads to hatred, war and oppression. Therefore, feminism is not only a women’s movement, but also a desire and a need to build a different and more inclusive model of society.

The Latvian Women’s Stand-Up joined the well-known Estonian writer and President of Estonian PEN, Kätlin Kaldmaa, whose name is also familiar to Latvian readers. Her book, It’s Damn Good to Be a Bad Girl, has been translated into Latvian by Maima Grīnberga, and was published by the publishing house Liels un mazs in 2019.

The participants of Women’s Stand-Up shared their thoughts on what it means to be a woman in society, sometimes through the prism of rather blunt humour, talking about their experiences, raising children, their desire to fulfil their creative abilities, what it is like to “be the prey” (in K. Kaldmaa’s words), domestic violence and the attitude of the patriarchal part of society. The response of the audience could not only be measured in decibels of laughter but also the intensity of the thoughts and conversations after the stand-up performance.

Guests of the Head Read festival, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Tallinn, Estonian government officials and media representatives came to watch the Latvian artists perform.

Women’s Stand-Up has been around for ten years and is known as an entertaining but at the same time socially critical feminist platform in Latvia.

The international literary and performance festival Head Read is the largest and best known in Estonia and has featured writers such as Tom Stoppard and Margaret Atwood among others. Inga Gaile, founder and member of Women’s Stand-Up, has also participated in the festival as the author of the novel The Glass Shards (Stikli), and her name is well known to the Estonian public.

The Women’s Stand-Up performance was organised as part of a public diplomacy programme in support of the campaign of Latvia’s candidacy for the UN Security Council. The campaign aims to ensure Latvia’s successful election to the 2025 UN Security Council for the period 2026–2027, where Latvia is a first-time candidate for an elected seat. Its motto – Together for Peace and Resilience. A seat in the UN Security Council would be one of Latvia’s most important tools for pursuing and defending its foreign policy interests, and would further expand Latvia’s international cooperation, contributing to world peace and resilience.

Gender equality, women’s rights and empowerment are the topics Latvia wishes to focus on within the UN. 

Informational support for the stand-up performance was provided by the platform Latvian Literature and the publishing house Hunt Kirjastus.