EWL News

Board Meeting in Vienna October 2017

[Brussels, 17 October 2017] Two weeks ago EWL staff and members from all over Europe met in Vienna, Austria for our bi-annual Board Meeting. This board meeting was planned to coincide with the first ever European Lesbian* Conference, also taking place in Vienna. This fantastic new event aimed to discuss the specific needs and challenges of lesbians*, exchange knowledge and experience, contribute to social change, expand lesbian* visibility, provide a space for networking and alliances and set a long-term dynamic and agenda for lesbians* to strengthen their position as a group and as individuals in European societies.

EWL Programme Director, Serap Altinisik, arrived in Vienna a day early so she could attend parts of the European Lesbian* Conference. Serap has expressed that this was truly a wonderful opportunity and has provided further insight into her experience in an article on the EWL website, which can be read here. For more information on the European Lesbian* Conference see their website.

We kicked off our weekend of events with a meeting of the EWL Executive Committee on the evening of Friday 6 October. Our board meeting, gathering nearly 40 EWL Board Members from all over Europe, started on Saturday 7 October. The first item on the agenda was EWL Working Groups presented by EWL Senior Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Mary Collins.

Mary Collins at Boardmeeting Vienna

We then had a conversation with Jacqueline Niavarani of the Austrian Ministry of Women’s Affairs, who spoke about the gender pay gap, women on boards and the Austrian Presidency of the EU in the second half of next year.

Jacqueline Niavarani meeting EWL members

To round off the morning, EWL Executive member Laura Albu presented the report by the EWL membership committee and we also discussed the implementation plan of EWL’s new membership engagement strategy. After lunch Rachael Stockdale, an intern at EWL secretariat who is working on digital knowledge management, gave a presentation on AGORA, the feminist summer school which EWL organises annually for young self defined women across Europe. This was followed by a discussion on the benefits of AGORA and future possibilities of expanding it even further. You can read more about Rachael’s experience of AGORA here.

Rachael Stockdale talking about AGORA

There was then a session on funding, which raised the issue of theories and practicalities of fundraising within EWL. EWL Programme Manager Emily Usher Shrair spoke about the actual process of securing funding, which gave us an insight into the fundraising work which the EWL secretariat carries out behind the scenes.

A session on the EmpowerMAP project was next on the agenda. Funded by the Orange Foundation, the project aims at mapping the situation and needs of economically vulnerable women in four countries to assess the potential impact of women digital centres on women’s lives. Initial findings of the research were presented by our Board Members from the four countries studied: Spain, France, Poland and Romania.

Empower Map session

EWL Executive member Elvy Svennerstal then spoke about events coming up such as the Eurpean Commission’s annual Colloquium and the Social Summit meeting in Gothenburg on 17 November. We focused on the input of EWL members’ views, and so there was then an interactive session on this in which everyone broke up into small groups in order to discuss and report back.

The board meeting was then concluded slightly early in order to leave some time for us to travel into Vienna city centre to attend the March organised by the European Lesbian* Conference, an important act of feminist solidarity.

On our way to the European Lesbian March

EWL arrived at the Lesbian* March to music, drums, dancing and chanting. We were proud to march through the streets of Vienna with our official banner as well as homemade signs, to applause and cheering from members of the public. The sense of solidarity was strong, this was certainly an empowering act.

Arrived at the European Lesbian March

Saturday night, members and staff celebrated Pierrette Pape, EWL Policy and Campaigns Director, who is leaving the organisation in the beginning of November. EWL President Edith Schratzberger-Vecsei and Secretary General Joanna Maycock thanked Pierrette in name of all EWL members for her fantastic work for women’s and girl’s rights over the 8 years.

Pierette s farewell speech

Our board meeting continued on Sunday 8 October. As we arrived, we all got together to show solidarity to Ilknur Üstün, our Turkish Coordination member who is currently in prison. #freerightsdefenders

Freedom for Ilknur Üstün

Then Emma Ritch from EWL’s UK Coordination Engender Scotland, spoke to us over Skype about Universal Basic Income. Our member from Finland, Tiina Rosberg, also talked to us about the current Basic Income experiment that is taking place in her country. This was followed by a great discussion on a feminist analysis of universal basic income.

Universal Basic Income session with Emma Ritch

Sunday continued with a session on the 2018 Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), with emphasis on women from rural areas.

Finally, Pierrette Pape, EWL Policy & Campaign Director, gave a presentation on cyberviolence and the #HerNetHerRights project which highlights 12 types of abusers with a strong visual campaign and the normalisation of abuse. You can watch the #HerNetHerRights online conference here.

There were also some interesting topics which came up during the Any Other Business section, including ongoing projects with the Council of Europe, the Istanbul Convention, solidarity movements translating into strategy, national elections etc. This brought the board meeting to a reflective close.

Thank you to everyone who made this an excellent board meeting!

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