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.
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!
Women for Election, Ireland