When Mathilde Sandahl began at Anglo-American University, she realized that much of the education she received in her international relations courses fell short and they were taught from a westernized, heteronormative perspective. She recalls asking her professor what queer theory was and he said he didn’t know, so she took it upon herself to learn about post-colonial theory, queer theory, and critical feminist theory.
“How do we change the racist, heteronormative, patriarchal, and misogynistic thinking and paradigms that I think most students, people, adults, and children carry with them, especially in western and central Europe?” Mathilde asked.
Keeping that question in mind, in March of 2022, Pangea was born both as a passion project and out of necessity. The name carries the connotation of unity and solidarity that Mathilde wants to achieve within her organization. What first started as a movement among University students, blossomed into something bigger with a focus on queer, post-colonial, and feminist education and the hope to create a space and network for people with similar values. When Pangea first kicked off, they met once a month as a way for other queer people and feminists to meet and have fun, but now Pangea is also entering the activism space, participating in the demonstrations for Iran and Slovakia and holding sex education workshops.
During the school year, Pangea meets every other Tuesday at the Prague LGBTQ Center where they host a speaker who is an expert on topics, such as intersectionality and femicide in Mexico, for about an hour. Then, the attendees delve into a discussion for about 45 minutes. Mathilde admits that the conversation can get heated, but they make sure to take people’s backgrounds and perspectives into consideration. But most importantly, they make sure to never leave angry.
Off the bat, Pangea was successful with impressive turnouts at their weekly meetings and events like the Dyke Mic Night which had close to 90 guests. Mathilde sees something more multifaceted for the future of Pangea and she wants people to know that it’s going to continue growing. Pangea is also exploring its entrepreneurial potential, including creating Pangea Press, a subscription-based website, sex education videos, and maybe even expanding into feminist clothing and jewelry. “I see us as a big network and I hope that in a couple of years, we will even have a chapter or a sister organization of Pangea in Berlin and Budapest, in Denmark,” she said.
Mathilde wants to make activism accessible to everyone and after spending her summer in New Delhi, India working at an NGO, she’s now questioning if registering Pangea as one is the right move. An NGO, or a non-governmental organization, has no fixed definition but is typically a nonprofit entity independent of the government that may still receive government funding. The roles they play and the causes they support are usually funded through donations and grants.
And while the role NGOs play in promoting social or political change shouldn’t be underestimated, the grant application process is slow, time-consuming, and competitive. Mathilde sees this as a hindrance. Not to mention, the China Development Brief says that NGOs often have a limited scope due to smaller staff leaving CEOs to be responsible for fundraising, project management, and finances.
Not only would registering as an NGO put a bulk of the work on Mathilde, she worries she wouldn’t be able to sustain her employees. But, she’s considering registering as a company instead, giving Pangea the opportunity to make its own money. “I want to employ people and I want to pay them a proper salary. Why is it that activism should only be for either the really rich or the upper middle class that can afford activism?” she said.
Mathilde acknowledges that registering as a company has its challenges as well. She knows that it requires Pangea to fund itself, limiting grant opportunities, and paying taxes. (After careful consideration since speaking to Mathilde in November, she ultimately decided that Pangea will become a NGO). According to Mathilde, the goal of Pangea isn’t to move herself and her employees up the ladder. “We are here to educate people and change a very Eurocentric, very heteronormative mindset that you see in Europe,” she said.
Mathilde wants people to consider their imprint on this Earth and their complicity in human suffering. “So that’s what we’re trying to focus on, so we might learn more so we might be able to make better choices and help people in the right way. Not through some white savior complex, not through some destructive humanitarian aid where you end up destroying the businesses or the people’s lives you’re supposed to help,” Mathilde said.
Either way, both NGOs and companies require a lengthy registration process with strict formalities and protocols. Mathilde doesn’t think she’s doing anything new or that hasn’t been done before, but she’s doing it with a purpose that she’s proud of and she’s excited to see where it goes.
Regardless of where Mathilde decides to take Pangea, she’s ambitious with big plans for the organization in the years to come. Following her graduation this June, she intends to remain in Prague to work at Pangea full-time. In the next six months, she will have her organization registered as either an NGO or company, whichever she and her lawyers decide, and by the fall she wants to be able to pay at least two full-time employees.
Mathilde wants people to know that Pangea is made up of dedicated, passionate women. She wants people to know that they’re not afraid to talk about controversial or taboo subjects and they’re better because of it. She wants people to know “that we are not here as fucking saviors we are also here to learn and even if we think we are these amazing, queer, intersectional, feminists and perhaps we still also make mistakes and we forget to take into account the lives of people who have very radically different backgrounds and histories than we have.”