After 600 years, the last city of Switzerland has a woman in the night watch

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – From the top of Lausanne cathedral late at night, Cassandre Berdoz is shouting loudly, loudly and for hours, for women’s rights in Switzerland, a country that lags behind in gender equality.

Berdoz, 28, was the first woman appointed to the role of night watch in Lausanne, although the city has had plenty of time to do it: It has preserved the job for more than 600 years, even even when it no longer serves the lifesaving function it had centuries ago, when night watchmen helped protect occupants against fires and other night disasters.

Publication of time is no longer necessary in the country famous for watches, but Ms. Berdoz still maintains the element of timekeeping in her age-old work. From the four sides of the bell tower, she cried out one by one, as soon as the great church bell rang.

Wrapping her arms around her mouth to help the sound travel further, she leaned over the railing and sent out her brief message: “It’s the woman on the night watch! It just rang 10! ”

Joining the night watch was “a childhood dream”, Ms. Berdoz said, but she had to go through a long and hard battle to make it happen.

When she first asked about the job a few years ago, she received no response from the city government. She wrote to them again, and still got no response. So she started phoning the town hall every month to ask about the night watch vacancies.

“I think I can safely say that I showed persistence,” she said.

The breakthrough came in June 2019, when hundreds of thousands of women across Switzerland celebrated a day strike to protest against inequality in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

In Lausanne, four women climbed the church’s bell tower to shout the hour, a symbolic act of defiance that was applauded by a crowd about 260 feet away. Then last year, when Lausanne’s government had a vacancy on night duty, it invited women to apply. Of the 100 applications it received, 80 were from women.

After two rounds of interviews – including showing off her vocal prowess – Ms. Berdoz, who also sings in an amateur choir, was appointed to the position in August.

“I work in a beautiful old place, I bring something to the city that I love, I keep an amazing tradition,” Ms. Berdoz said. “But I can also appeal on behalf of women, which is my contribution to feminism.”

Nadia Lamamra, a gender issues expert and professor at the Swiss Federal University of Vocational Education and Training, says the appointment is “a powerful symbol, welcomed by many feminists.” , but the city still needs to prove it’s more than that. than a one-off response to a women’s strike.

“Is this iconic act still an exception?” asked Miss Lamamra. “Opening a path does not mean it is easier for those to follow.”

Switzerland – where women only full right to vote Ms. Lamamra said in 1971 – there was still much progress to be made when it came to issues such as equal pay for women, a fair balance between childcare and domestic work, and giving more women into male-dominated labor sectors.

And while Lausanne may eventually have a woman on night duty, all of Ms. Berdoz’s co-workers are male. She is a member of a team of six assistants to the senior night watchman, one man.

David Payot, a Lausanne councilor in charge of the night watch, says Switzerland deserves praise for its Direct democracywhich allows citizens to vote on important policies, but “when you look at the economic situation and the role women play in family life, it still seems very unequal.”

Lausanne, a quaint city with steep, cobblestone streets and home to the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee, has kept a clock in its church since 1405, according to city records city. With sweeping views of the city and the mountains beyond Lake Geneva, the church keeper stands at the apex of a network of watchful observers, including some posted on tower dotted the ramparts of Lausanne.

The main task is to detect smoke or flames before the fire can spread through the wooden buildings of the city; they also enforce a curfew at night (a word that comes from the French for enveloping fire), in part, to make sure people stay home and pay attention to their fireplaces.

According to Mr. Payot, while a number of European cities have restored their night watch mode as a tourist attraction, Krakow, Poland, is believed to be the only other European city to keep it. been employed continuously since the Middle Ages.

Ms. Berdoz, whose day job is an event manager, typically sits in the bell tower about four nights a month, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., earning the equivalent of $130 per shift.

While her appointment was widely welcomed, Ms. Berdoz said she occasionally hears complaints from people who insist that women should not have jobs. She also heard criticism that an irreligious person like her should not work in a church.

“I find it a bit sad that some people want to put me on the right path of faith, because this work is placed here not for any religious reason, but because the church has provided the highest place to live. look out for everyone,” she said. .

The night watch begins to sound on the east side of the bell tower, which is traditionally important because it faces Jerusalem. But Ms Berdoz says she prefers the south side for its lake views, while the north offers “the clearest echo”.

Like her parents, Ms. Berdoz was born in Lausanne and says she feels very attached to her home city and its traditions, even more because of the teachings of her mother, a historian art study. Both her father and mother are choir singers, so “singing has always been important in my family,” she says. “We care about our voices.”

If the core mission of the job hasn’t changed much in 61 decades, it has become more comfortable atop a windswept tower in a city with frigid winters.

In 1947, Lausanne built a motel, supported by two of the bell tower’s original wooden beams, to keep the watchmen warm between each shouting session. The lodge is also used to store the traditional felt hat and candlelight lantern that accompanies the work, as well as a cheese fondue set. A modern telephone has replaced the dial-up telephone that still hangs on the wall.

The bot doesn’t have an elevator to the top of the church, and the watchman still has to climb the 153 steps leading to the bell tower’s lodge.

“Whether you are a man or a woman,” says Ms. Berdoz, “you need a good lung, a good heart and strong legs for this job.” After 600 years, the last city of Switzerland has a woman in the night watch

Fry Electronics Team

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