[Brussels, 21 May 2019] If you are interested in European politics, care about democracy, human rights, sustainability and feminism, then the Democracy Alive Festival in Texel, was definitely the place to be. People from civil society organisations, influences, decision-makers, trade unions, activists, and citizens, from various different backgrounds attended the three-day festival, which was hosted by European Movement International. With hashtags such as #Demfest and #WomenForEurope circulating on social media, the Democracy Alive Festival was the place to voice one’s view on European Democracy.
Inspired by the Nordic tradition of democracy festivals, the event aimed to encourage civic engagement and increase interest in European democracy. The EWL was therefore one of many organised civil society groups attending and took the opportunity to promote its 50/50 Campaign, to inform attendees about the organisation’s work as well as to increase interest in the feminist agenda within the EU and Europe as a whole. The EWL hosted a feminist craftivism workshop on the first day of the festival, where participants from all ages, including EU-Spitzenkandidatin, Margrethe Vestager, took the opportunity to express their hopes and dreams for a feminist Europe on “The Feminist Dream Wall”. This event saw enthusiastic and inspiring women and men expressing the issues they care about as feminists or as women, while, at the same time being able to have fun experimenting with their creative sides. The next day was followed by an informal discussion looking at the issue of equality in Europe. Issues such as what has the EU done for us, how can we close the gender gap, does your degree from one European university mean the same as another, how can we truly create a “level playing field for Europeans” were some of the crucial questions that were raised. Topics, including cohesion policy and the European Pillar of Social Rights also were central to the conversation, which was hosted by the EWL, AEGEE, the European Students Forum, the European Trade Union Confederation and the Assembly of European Regions. The day continued with another event, hosted by our Secretary General, Joanna Maycook, and revolved around how we can work together for a feminist Europe. During the talking circle, participants reflected on the Europe we want to build and how we plan to do that, together. The session witnessed the circle growing bigger and had women from diverse ages, including some amazing teenagers from the island, people from civil society and the Norwegian singer Tomine Harket in the pavilion. The day continued with other events, including investing in the future of Europe, which was designed as an opportunity to discuss the benefits of European integration. It allowed speakers from all parts of society to share perspective on how to invest in the future of Europe and how government, employers, unions and civil society can contribute in the debate about the EU.
The festival for EWL kicked off with a HerNetHerRights training, focusing on online violence against women and girls (see our report and resource pack). Our amazing colleague Asha Allen presented this event, where she explained what online violence against women and girls is, how it is a part of a continuum of violence, and who the perpetrators are. The training provided practical tools on how to protect oneself and still have a voice on the digital sphere as well as advocate for a significant change. One of EWL’s Board Member, Arina Angerman, individuals from civil society, inhabitants from the island, and Tomine Harket attended the intensive session. Although the session was highly successful, many attendees were both delighted to have participated and at the same time shocked about the seriousness of online violence in our society and its effect on survivors. Some brave attendees also took the opportunity to share their respective stories of online violence perpetuated towards them, family members and friends, and shared ideas of how we can work together as a society to combat this issue, which predominantly affects women and girls.
The aims of the festival were present throughout, and one could establish this by interactions, which transpired between decision-makers, organised civil society, citizens and activists. It proved how energised people are about politics, and most importantly European democracy. Nevertheless, what EWL took from the festival was not just the amazing closing ceremony, but how engaged and motivated people are in terms of the issues that affect them and how they strive to effectively contribute to making a change in their various communities. In addition, all the events that were hosted by the EWL around the issues the organisation promotes in terms of equality between women and men, equal representation of women and men in all EU institutions, online violence against women and girls, sparked great interest among those who came into our pavilion. The beautiful island of Texel was, thus, definitely the place to be if you wanted to express yourself, engage in conversations about issues that matter to you and exchange ideas with people from all aspects of society. It was the place to state one’s views and the place to witness just how alive European democracy truly is.