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

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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!

workshop_geple_3

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