She's feisty, she's straightforward, she doesn't let anyone or anything get in her way, and her heart is in the right place: Lea Ackermann. Hardly any other woman in Germany stands up so passionately for girls and women in need. Whether human trafficking, forced prostitution or sex tourism – the nun tirelessly raises her voice. Primarily with the help of her organization SOLWODI. Today she turns 75.
On that day in Boppard-Hirzenach, the headquarters of SOLWODI SOLWODI (Solidarity with Women in Distress – Solidarity with Women in Distress), there is a big party. "Because it is also Candlemas, we celebrate Mass beforehand, and afterwards a theater group performs a play," Ackermann recounts. "It deals with forced marriage and honor killings."Even in her "free time", she does not let go of the topic of women in need. When there's time to do other things, she likes to dance and read mystery novels.
Ackermann was born in Volklingen, Saarland, in 1937, the daughter of a construction company owner. As a child, playmates unflatteringly called her "Hexen-Barbel," and her tantrums were legendary. Schooling was followed by an apprenticeship at a bank. In 1960, after a night of dancing, she came to the monastery – quite unconventionally in an evening dress and pumps – and joined the missionary order of Our Lady of Africa. She studied theology and education, earned a doctorate in the latter subject and worked as a teacher in Rwanda and as an education officer at the international Catholic mission organization missio in Munich.
In 1985, her order sent her to the east coast of Africa. Shocked by the fate of the women in prostitution there, she founded SOLWODI. A success story: The association currently runs 15 counseling centers and 7 shelters in Germany, 10 counseling centers in Kenya and one in Romania. The record of her honors is long. In 2010 alone, she received three awards: the Rhineland-Palatinate Child Protection Prize, the Bavarian Order of Merit and the Itzel Prize. At 29. February follows the award of the Grand Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Controversial and steadfast
For all the accolades, she remains feisty and steadfast. For example, when it comes to the role of women in the Catholic Church. She has repeatedly spoken out in favor of the diaconate for women and also clearly represents her own opinion, which often deviates from the Magisterium, in other internal church discussions. The current situation of the German Catholic Church makes it sad. But despite all the problems, she says, "Fear is a bad advisor."
But no one can accuse the jubilarian of fear. Nor is vanity. Thus she wishes for her birthday no gifts, but donations for SOLWODI. 'I want to use my birthday to collect donations'." She has one wish nevertheless: a successor for her. "She should bring knowledge of languages, business administration and pedagogy and be able to carry our demands into politics." And payment must be kept within limits, he said. In short: "I am looking for a convicted offender."