What does feminist leadership mean? How can we build a feminist Europe together? Alazne Irigoien took part at this year’s AGORA young feminist summer school and even hosted a workshop. Learn more about her experiences. 

What I have experienced during the AGORA organized by the European Women’s Lobby is not easy to describe. When 50 diverse feminist activists coming from all Europe gather together, magic happens. During these days, we’ve shared our experiences, our activist actions and our knowledge through the safe space that EWL has provided. We’ve discussed feminism, what feminist leadership is and how to build a feminist Europe together. We’ve had meaningful conversations that have enabled us to touch the roots of the feminist movement in Europe now, its challenges and its opportunities.

The first day we mapped the field of feminism by sharing the main concerns and advancements with regards to gender equality in our countries of origin. We realized that some were similar, that others differed. The mapping was useful to see the big picture of the current feminist issues in Europe.

Alazne standing in front of a flipchart at a meeting of the AGORA young feminist summer school. On the flipchart it is written "Women's rights at the UN. CEDAW"
Women’s rights at the United Nations, CEDAW workshop

The second day we had the chance to meet the EWL core members and discuss the feminist society we envisage. In the afternoon, we had two panel discussions. First, key actors from the European Commission and Parliament came to discuss the current gender equality actions of the EU. And after, different female politicians shared their experiences and discussed some issues with regards to women in politics.

The third day we worked on Storytelling and on our own Open Spaces. We used the appreciative inquiry method to discuss what the main characteristics of feminist leadership are. We also learnt on the existing models for systemic change and discuss on how our feminist leadership can support a systemic change towards feminism. During the Open Spaces, we proposed topics and engaged in conversations around those. At night, we had a lovely dinner and (some) drinks at LeSpace, close to the city centre of Brussels.

“The experience has been tremendously enriching and inspiring”

The fourth day focused on sharing our knowledge. We organised different workshops to learn and share on very diverse feminist topics. I attended the workshop on “Transgender narratives in intersectional feminist discourse” which opened my mind and expand my knowledge broadly. In the afternoon, I hosted a workshop on “Women’s rights at the United Nations, CEDAW”. We talked about CEDAW and how feminist civil society can effectively engage with it to foster feminist projects. To understand and gain practical knowledge on how the sessions at the UN work, participants were divided into three groups (civil society representatives, government representatives and experts) and simulated a real discussion at the UN.

The last day was very action-oriented. Feminist with ongoing or future projects presented their ideas and received the feedback from the others. We finalised by reflecting on all the meaningful conversations that have happened during the AGORA and by making personal commitments.

In short, even if my experience at the AGORA is difficult to describe, I am confident to say that it has been tremendously enriching and inspiring. I am feeling grateful to all the wonderful feminists I have met during these days, to EWL and the facilitators to provide such a magic space.

This is a cross-post of a text originally published by European Women’s Lobby.

Alazne Irigoien
Alazne Irigoien is pursuing a PhD on feminist and gender studies at the University of the Basque Country. She is the Editor-in-chief and board member of Young Feminist Europe. She worked for the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women of the United Nations (CEDAW). She has authored the report “European Elections 2019: towards parity democracy in Europe” with Gender Five Plus (G5+).

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