The Agora Summer School organised by the European Women’s Lobby saw 50 young feminists from across Europe come together for four days of networking, skill sharing and discussion. I was lucky enough to be one of the participants from Scotland, so here’s a brief rundown of what happened.
Day one saw us meeting and getting to know each other – the benefits of having a four day summer school meant that we had the luxury to spend a lot of time finding out about each other, setting guidelines and boundaries for our time together, and making sure the summer school would be a safe and inclusive space for all. There was a huge range of experience and expertise in the room, with women from NGOs, private sector, government and creative industries all attending, and it was wonderful to hear how everyone had found feminism in different ways, and through different inspirations.
In the afternoon we visited the European Parliament where we heard from explicitly feminist politicians (which was a new experience for some!), who impressed upon us the importance of civil society campaigning to allow MEPs to push for change.
Throughout the Agora, the growing refugee crisis was at the forefront of everyone’s minds, so while we were at the Parliament, we took the opportunity to send the message that we want Europe to welcome refugees:
(Click for video)
Day two was all about sharing skills and knowledge, with the participants setting the agenda and shaping the day themselves using open space technology. Workshops included practical skills such as public speaking and digital communications, technical issues like understanding the legal frameworks of the Istanbul Convention and CEDAW, and theoretical discussions around supporting women and LGBTQI refugees, women under ISIS and women in culture and history.
All of the participants found this an exhausting but inspiring day, with chances to learn about the priorities for feminism in different European countries, to gain practical skills to help their own campaigning, and to find out more about the amazing women at the Agora.
Day three saw us in two pre-organised workshops to help us hone our media and messaging skills, and to recognise and challenge tactics used to silence women in different areas of life. On our final day we came together to offer feedback to the European Women’s Lobby on how they can continue to support young feminism across Europe including creating online discussion spaces and (hopefully!) repeating the Agora in years to come.
Concrete outputs from the Agora included a European Feminists blog which will highlight feminist news, campaigns and opinion from across Europe, and the creation of 'European Feminists for Refugees' – a campaign group to make the feminist case for welcoming refugees and migrants. There were also dozens of new networks and campaign ideas which we'll keep you updated on!
The Agora was a remarkable few days full of inspiration and joy, and we all left feeling energised and empowered, with 50 new sisters around Europe to work with and support.
All photos by Isabella Borrelli
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