Fighting together for the same cause

Forum 50% hosted Joint Staff Training in Prague for colleagues from Poland, Finland and Ireland from February 27th to March 3rd 2017. We prepared a diverse programme including a discussion with CEO Rostya Gordon-Smith, discussions with several leaders of current feminist initiatives in the Czech Republic, a seminar about campaigns of Independent Social Ecological Movement NESEHNUTÍ and a workshop on how to understand and deal with master suppression techniques.


Rostya Gordon-Smith, who has worked in the field of personal and professional development all around the world (in countries such UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Estonia, India etc.), shared with us her experience with women´s empowerment and talked about barriers she faced in male dominated leadership positions. She also presented the association MINERVA 21 that is founded on three key values – confidence, collaboration and influence.

The GEPLE team discussed gender equality and activism with representatives of new feminist initiatives in the Czech Republic, that tackle topics such as violence against women, gender stereotypes in society, invisible role of women in the Czech history or lack of women in politics.  We also had a great chance to hear about campaign of NGO NESEHNUTÍ Sexist Piggy contest that is focused on awareness raising when it comes to sexist commercials or about campaign of Konsent When she says NO, it means NO that challenges stereotypical statements about sexual violence. Last but not least Monika Horáková from the board of Green Party introduced political work-life balance measures.

Besides sharing experience about women´s empowerment in leadership positions, participants at the Joint Staff Training discussed common concerns when it comes to backlash and the rise of conservative forces in Europe. We agreed that our commitment and work towards gender equality is now more necessary than ever. We are ready to continue the common fight for women´s rights!

Markéta Mottlová
Forum 50%, Czech Republic


Learning from each other: workshops & sharing experiences

Each meeting of the GEPLE group provides many inspiring moments and plenty of cause for reflection. This Joint Staff Training was no exception. Some of the most important learnings came from sharing our experiences as organisers and activists with each other, hearing about how each of our organisations approach the common challenges we face, and sharing strategies.

veronika-and-jana   geple_workshop

On Tuesday we spent the day in intensive workshops led by Veronika and Jana from our Czech partner Forum 50%, both of whom were brilliant facilitators. The workshop in the morning was focused on clear communication, while the afternoon was spent learning about domination techniques and how to counter them.

The morning session began with an exchange between participants, with each person sharing what they would like to contribute to the day, and what they would like to gain from the day. Starting with this ice-breaker was a great way to get a better understanding of each other. Veronika led the morning session on clear communication, argumentation and debating. This was based on a training Forum 50% provide for Czech women politicians. We discussed the five components of debating: Think/ Listen/ Argue/ Present/ React. When preparing for a debate you can use these guiding phrases:

Think: What is my opinion? Listen: What is my opponent’s opinion? Present yourself:Use your voice – appropriate pauses can help! Argue: Always prepare three best arguments & Save the best argument for the end. React to your opponent – avoid monologues and respect the other speakers.

Then we considered incorrect argumentation techniques that use fallacies such as red herrings, non sequiturs, ad hominen attacks, and slippery slope.  Next it was time to put our learning into practice!

We broke into groups to debate issues we were assigned, with some participants instructed to use correct communication and some incorrect argumentation. It was really interesting to observe that it was often hard to use correct techniques, and difficult to avoid using incorrect techniques! After each group had their discussion, together we identified techniques we observed. The second practical exercise we used to develop our argumentation skills consisted of further team work. The group divided into 2 and a motion was proposed. We had 5 minutes to prepare our arguments for or against the motion: ‘Gender quotas are an effective tool for increasing female representation in politics’. Both teams used the skills we had learnt in the morning to make our case. In the end the team in favour won the debate!


After lunch we spent the afternoon focusing on understanding master suppression techniques, learning about the research of Berit Ås and how women can employ strategies to overcome these.  The 5 main ways of domination are: Making invisible, Ridicule, Withholding information, No way to win, Heaping blame and putting to shame. After discussing counter strategies. The group took part in a role play workshop where each participant was assigned behaviours. We became a town council discussing a proposal for a new playground, as we played the roles we were assigned we observed in real time how people can use domination techniques to exclude and belittle participants. Afterwards we talked through how these had made us feel and what we considered the best ways to respond to this type of behaviour. We felt it was particularly effective to call out bad behaviour, and to ask for respect directly from the people trying to disrupt the meeting. Our hosts shared with us a fantastic booklet prepared by a Swedish Women’s group in the 1980s called ‘Power is a fine thing!’ this booklet was the perfect takeaway from our day of learning. Written in accessible language it is a DIY guide on how to obtain personal power and support other women as they seek to do so too.

I learnt so much throughout the day, from our trainers and from all participants. Thanks so much to everyone for their contributions and of course to Veronika and Jana for leading the discussions and sharing their knowledge with us!

Hannah Deasy
Women for Election, Ireland

First Impressions of Joint Staff Training in Prague

forum50jpg-large     gp_prague

The GEPLE group are meeting in Prague for joint staff training, and to develop our work builiding a platform for shared knowledge. We hope this will increase the number of women in politics across Europe and around the world. Our hosts this week are Forum 50% a Czech non-profit organisation supporting equal participation of women and me in politics and in decision making. Thanks to Forum 50% for putting together a fantastic programme! Katinka from Finland shares her experience of Day 1 with GEPLE here:

My first impressions of the GEPLE joint staff training in Prague

On my first day in Prague I did not know exactly what to expect, even though I had heard about the group and the project from Ann-Sofie Backgren. It took a while before I had some kind of idea of what Women for Election from Ireland is doing, how Forum 50 % in Prague is working, what Active Women Association in Poland is specifically focused on, and on top of that listening to the presentation of Minerva 21 given by the founder, Rostya Gordon-Smith! But all I can say is that it turned out to be  a very meaningful and interesting meeting.

The central topics of the day were how to find the women to run for elections and engage in public life, what the content of the courses organized for them should be and should some courses have an admission cost.  Several practical examples were given and exchanged:

  • Listen, observe and find out what the women need and are interested in and let them start where they are.
  • Give them self confidence to dare by focusing on solution orientated actions.  Also different mindsets of people from different countries, regions, history, religion and language should be taken into consideration when recruiting people to take more responsibility of their lives and society.
  • Support all women!

All in all it has been a great honour and pleasure to get to know and listen to all these active, engaged and hard working women and to hear their presentations about their different organizations and the ways they are finding best practices to do things.

Thank you to you all!
Katinka von Kraemer Vice President of The Women’s Organisation of the Swedish People’s Party in Finland

Forum 50%: Reflections on the US Programme

Jana Smiggels Kavková, Director of project partner Forum 50%, reflects on the GEPLE Project’s trip to the USA, where we met with leaders in Civic Tech and Democratic Empowerment. The trip was organised by our project partner VoteRunLead, who are well versed in using tech to advance their cause.


The GEPLE Project Partners in Washington DC

I have spent last two weeks traveling with our team from Forum 50 % around the US. Together with our partner organizations from Finland, Poland and Ireland we took part in a study trip to New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC, organized by our American partners VoteRunLead. The aim: to gain experience with empowerment of women into politics in the USA.

We saw and heard a lot over the fortnight; I am still trying to sort out all the impressions, experiences and encounters, sitting behind my desk in Prague with a heavy jet leg. Personally I really appreciated the diversity of the program, enabling us to meet with a wide range of people and organizations. From a visit to the William Way LGBT community center in Philly´s gayborhood to National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of Latino groups who runs a leadership program for women „Latinas Represent“ and progressive think tank New America in Washington.

And since the world today, including politics. is moving more and more to cyberspace, there were also visits to, amongst others, Facebook Washington DC and Pipeline Philly, a co-working space for start-ups. We discussed about the use of technologies for public good. But also about giving voice to people and communities which are currently underrepresented in politics: young girls, Latinas or immigrant women. And how to make the electoral system more democratic and accessible to everyone.

Big thanks to our dear colleagues Erin and Karen from VoteRunLead for the fantastic program. There is so much to remember!

A big thank you to all of the organisations who shared their knowledge and experience with us during this trip. We really appreciate it and look forward to using our learnings in our own countries. Thank you to to the Erasmus+ programme for giving us their support and making all this possible.

The GEPLE Project visits New York

Runa Ismark, a representative from project partner Brand-Sofi, reflect on the GEPLE Project’s trip to New York, where we met with leaders in Civic Tech and Democratic Empowerment. The trip was organised by our project partner VoteRunLead, who are well versed in using tech to advance their cause.


The GEPLE Project Partners outside Barnard College where we met the Athena Scholars

The GEPLE group stayed in New York City for four days to meet up with different organisations, to learn about civic tech, leadership studies and much more. Now, a couple of days later, there are a few things that stay very vivid in my mind and which have made a lasting impression. Firstly, the feeling that everything is possible in NYC, because of the huge networking possibilities. Secondly, that civic tech can be a big opportunity for NGOs. Knowledge (and data) is power. We want to know our crowd and we want to be able to keep in touch with them. We want to show them what we have to offer or point at a certain problem. Civic tech can help us with exactly that.

20160907_191212Thirdly, what I like to highlight the importance of good friends, cooperation with other organisations and the notion that new ideas come from
working with others; people who see things differently, with different experiences or who see things from a different angle. Civic Hall is a great example of an environment where organisations work together and inspire eachother. This is where solutions are made.

Moreover, the importance of leadership studies, mentoring and a kind of sisterhood for women, who have ambition to build a career and who, sadly, are likely to experience some resistance in the shape of misogyny or structural imbalance, when they are taking up more space than a woman ”should”. The Athena Center and New Americans were very inspiring in this area.

Our meetings in NYC ended with a visit to the New York Women’s Foundation. I especially learned about the psychology behind giving. I am not sure if it is directly transferable to Finland, but it seemed quite universal. The idea is to find a common ground, to know what the target person or group is interested in, what they are willing to give and for what purpose. The conclusion again and again is that you need to know your crowd.

Runa Ismark


A big thank you to all of the organisations who shared their knowledge and experience with us during this trip. We really appreciate it and look forward to using our learnings in our own countries. Thank you to to the Erasmus+ programme for giving us their support and making all this possible.

Spotlight: VoteRunLead

VoteRunLeadLogo.pngVoteRunLead is a national non-profit, non-partisan organization leveraging technology and training to accelerate the number of women in civic and political leadership. At VoteRunLead, our goal is to strengthen and broaden civic engagement and democratic participation of women by solving three key problems keeping female representation stagnating at 20% for the past 20+ years: The low numbers of women with ambition for civic leadership, the lack of easily accessible, culturally relevant and female-specific resources, and the longstanding systemic barriers to women’s participation including resources, and voting systems, and elections structures.

With 80% male – and overwhelmingly white – elected leaders, VoteRunLead’s strategy of combining tech with training is upsetting deep-seated institutional norms of who is viable, how we recruit women to lead, and how we develop diverse leaders. We know that technology alone will not solve the problem of women’s representation; but we posit that our social network-based recruitment tool and an open online information platform, coupled with our training and growing community, are the components of permanent, large-scale impact. By distributing civic education information at scale, we demystify electoral politics for all women, regardless of their economic background or political connections. Our growing national community is the final piece of the puzzle: individual women will fuel one another’s leadership and serve as advocates for increasing transparency in government and democracy, as well as becoming donors themselves. The impact is not just women’s voices in governance, but women holding real power and decision-making over the resources and welfare of our communities.

VoteRunLead is excited to have joined forces with GEPLE, an EU Erasmus+ project focused on developing innovative strategies and learning programs for promoting and improving Gender Equality Political Leadership Education. Our aim is to exchange practices, methods, solutions, and ideas that will result in new skills, programs, approaches, and ICT tools to improve the effectiveness and quality of GEPLE in Europe, and VoteRunLead is proud to be the representative organization from the United States.


The VoteRunLead Team

Towarzystwo Edukacji Antydyskryminacyjnej speak at GEPLE’s Prague Meeting

Małgorzata Borkowska and Ewa Stoecker are members of Towarzystwo Edukacji Antydyskryminacyjnej (the Anti-discrimination Education Association), which was founded in 2009 by people involved in anti-discrimination education. The Association brings together those who specialize in this area, including, among others, women and men who are anti-discrimination trainers, initiators of equality and diversity projects, members of organizations supporting groups threatened with discrimination.

Women for Election’s Blog on GEPLE Trip to Dublin

Originally published on Women for Election on the 22/07/2016

GEPLE Partners at Leinster House

Women for Election have come together with BRAND-SOFI (Finland), Forum 50% (Czech Republic), Towarzystwo Edukacji Antydyskryminacyjnej (TEA – Poland), Active Women Association (Poland), and Vote Run Lead (USA) to take part in the GEPLE Project (Gender Equality Political Leadership Education). This collaborative project was established in October 2015 with support from ERASMUS+ and aims to share knowledge with each other and create best practice for achieving the goal of gender parity in politics.

So far the partners have met twice, once in Prague in February and again in May in Dublin. During the course of the trips the group engages in workshops and presentations to share learnings on topics from creating media awareness to discussing the individual barriers to equal representation in each member’s country.

Alongside the workshops, the meetings bring together research gathered by the partners which will be used in the creation of an online platform. This platform will allow for exchange of information and cooperation between the partners as well as transfer of knowledge for those whom the project’s findings would be beneficial. The aim is to create a resource hub that would help all those seeking to promote equal representation of women and men in politic life across all nations, and it will contain, amongst other elements, a research database, shared learning videos, interactive research development, blog posts on relevant issues, and discussion forums.

The Head of Representation in Ireland for the EU Commission, Barbara Nolan addressing the GEPLE Project and its supporters at Europe House

Over the course of three days in Dublin we worked on developing effective communications strategies to increase the reach of each group’s campaigns, learning to navigate the media landscape, and developing effective fundraising. Deirdre Mortell and Niamh Gallagher ran workshops with the participants on fundraising, finding what methods could be adapted to each country. Clare Duignan and Kay Sheehy (RTE) discussed how best to approach media outlets, engage in public debates, and develop a clear message. Suzanne Collins presented on Women for Election’s communication strategy; what targets we set, and how we achieved them.

The project partners were also introduced to various aspects of the Irish political and representative system. On the first evening the group went on a tour of Leinster House, followed by a wonderful dinner hosted by Deputy Josepha Madigan, which was attended by Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin and Senator Alice Mary Higgins. The second evening the group attended a reception in Europe House, which the European Commission Representation to Ireland kindly hosted. We were joined by representatives of each partner organisation’s embassies. The Head of Representation in Ireland for the EU Commission, Barbara Nolan, addressed those in attendance, speaking on the necessity for balanced gender representation in public life.

GEPLE Project partners and supporters at Europe House

The three days were extremely productive and we look forward to working on this project further with our partners. The next leg of the tour takes place in the United States this September and will be run by the fantastic Vote Run Lead organisation.

If you would like to know more about the GEPLE project you can take a look at the project website. You can also follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.

Women for Election are delighted to join Vote Run Lead, Towarzystwo Edukacji Antydyskryminacyjnej, Forum 50%, Brand-Sofi and Stowarzyszenie Aktywne Kobiety for this project.

Brand-Sofi at GEPLE Dublin

From the 17th to the 19th of May 2016 our GEPLE Project partners came together for a series of workshops and study sessions. Sofia Donner was representing our project partner Brand-Sofi as well as the Finnish Women’s Association during the three days. Watch this video to see what she took away from the experience, and what she feels are the next steps for gender equality in the political life of her home country Finland.

The GEPLE Project

From the 17th to the 19th of May representatives of women’s organisations across Europe will be coming together as part of the GEPLE project (Gender Equality Political Leadership). This multinational, cross agency collaboration was established in October 2015 with backing from ERASMUS+, and aims to increase female representation in political life.

BRAND-SOFI (Finland), Forum 50% (Czech Republic), Women for Election (Ireland), Towarzystwo Edukacji Antydyskryminacyjnej (TEA – Poland) and Active Women Association (Poland) have come together to share their knowledge with each other and create best practice for achieving the goal of gender parity in politics. As similar obstacles face women entering politics across these nations, this process pinpoints strong strategies in one country that can be adapted to another

The participants have already met in Poland and the Czech Republic as part of this project, working on developing networks, starting research and sharing knowledge. The Dublin leg will focus on developing effective communications strategies to increase the reach of each group’s campaigns.  Women for Election, who have spent the past year working on campaigns for the Irish General Election and Seanad Elections, will take the lead on this leg of the project.

Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to the work of the GEPLE project and its partner organisations through our blog and social media. To keep up-to-date with what’s going on follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our blog below.