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Q&A about EWL European Political Mentoring Network

What is the aim of the EWL European Political Mentoring Network?

The EWL European Political Mentoring Network aims to empower ethnic minority women and women of foreign origin ahead of the June 2014 European elections and, ideally, to increase their representation in the European Parliament (EP), in order to address the lack of gender parity and ethnic diversity in political decision-making at European level.

How does the EWL mentoring network work in practice?

From March 2013 to the European elections in June 2014, this network will connect 8-12 women MEPs (the mentors) with 8-12 women of foreign origin or ethnic minority background from different EU countries and different political parties, interested in running for the 2014 European elections (the mentees). Mentees will come at least three times in person to Brussels, Strasbourg and/or in their home country between March 2013 and May 2014. Contacts will be maintained in the meantime via e-mail, telephone or Skype, based on an agreed frequency of interaction. Apart from their relationship with their mentor, mentees will have the opportunity to attend capacity-building sessions for communications skills, EU procedures and responding to populist and racist attacks. They will also have the opportunity to learn from the experience of other members of the European Parliament who are supporting the network.

Who is the European Women’s Lobby?

With more than 2000 member organisations, represented through 30 national co-ordinations and 21 European member organisations, the EWL is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in Europe. The EWL works on a wide range of topics related to women’s rights but the promotion of the equal representation of women and men in decision-making has always been amongst the key areas of work of the EWL since its creation in 1990. The EWL led different campaigns and constant advocacy on this issue since 1990 and EWL member organisations have been doing the same in their respective countries.

Why is this network only open to mentees who are women from foreign origin/ethnic minority background?

Figures show that parity democracy (the equal representation of women and men in decision-making) and ethnic diversity is still far from being achieved at all levels and in all areas of decision-making. Women represent less than 35% of members of the European Parliament and despite the lack of figures, it is estimated that less than 20 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are of foreign origin or belong to an ethnic minority group (such as Roma). This means that there are less than 2% of MEPs of ethnic minorities in the EP and even less ethnic minority women. This lack of representation is problematic from the point of view of democracy, but also because it implies that the needs and situations of this group of women are not sufficiently taken into account. The under-representation of women in political decision-making in general and the absence of women from ethnic minorities/of foreign origin also contributes to the continuation of racist and gender stereotypes among both voters and decision-makers about the role of women, in particular ethnic minority women and their relationship with political power.

What methodology is being used?

The EWL has been adapting the successful methodology used by KVINFO in Denmark, who is a partner in the development of this network. This Danish feminist association started connecting refugee and immigrant women with women who were firmly established in the Danish workforce in 2002. To date, more than 7,000 women have participated in the programme, and the Network is reckoned to be the largest of its kind worldwide. The concept/model of the KVINFO project is based upon a mentoring relationship which provides the opportunity for one-on-one meetings between mentee and mentor in which both parties are treated as equals. Mentor and mentee are paired up according to the mentee’s educational and professional background and her personal wishes and goals. Built upon mutual respect and trust, the aim of the relationship is to assist the mentee in fully realising her potential, in turn enabling her to progress successfully with her life in Denmark.

KVINFO developed in 2008-2009 a special mentoring programme designed to encourage the equal political representation and participation of immigrant women at the local level. Danish female politicians (mentors) advised and guided women immigrants (mentees) who had an interest in or were already involved in politics within the Greater Copenhagen area. The programme provided a unique opportunity for immigrants living in Denmark and top politicians from the various parties in the Danish Parliament to get to know one other and discuss needs, options and potential. Read this article published in The Guardian about KVINFO political mentoring programme. Out of the 15 mentees who participated in this network, 5 decided to run for elections and 3 got elected. The EWL European Political Mentoring Network aims to build on the very positive expertise and experience gathered by the KVINFO Mentoring Network. Apart from the relationship with their mentors, the mentees will also benefit from workshops with EU politics and communication experts, e.g. to help them to respond to populism, xenophobia and racism; to develop their communication and campaigning skills; to get a deeper understanding of the EU political and institutional framework.

Who are the mentors?

Mentors are current women MEPs willing to share their advice and experience with you from different political parties and countries, already confirmed mentors include:

  • EPP: Edit Bauer (Slovakia)
  • ALDE: Marian Harkin (Ireland)
  • S&D: Zita Gurmai (Hungary), Mojca Kleva (Slovenia), Pervenche Berés (France), Brita Thomsen (DK)
  • Greens: Marije Cornelissen (NL), Franziska Brantner (DE), Franziska Keller (DE), Ulrike Lunnacek (Austria)
  • GUE: Kartirka Liotard (NL)

Who are the mentees?

Mentees in EWL’s European Political Mentoring Network are:

  • Women with migrant background or from an ethnic minority living in the European Union;
  • Already involved in politics at local, regional and/or national level;
  • Eligible and interested in running for the next European Elections in June 2014;
  • Committed to women’s rights

Who covers the costs?

Mentees’ travel, accommodation and subsistence costs will be covered by the EWL during their stays in Brussels, Strasbourg and/or the home country of the MEP (based on an agreement). Nevertheless, neither the mentees, nor the mentors are paid for their participation in the Network. This is a voluntary commitment that needs mentors and mentees full engagement but will for sure bring them far more than money!

Who is funding the network?

The EWL receives the financial support of the Open Society Foundations and the PROGRESS Programme of the European Commission.

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