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Building feminist friendship across continents and realities

[Blog post from Krist Petraj Zicishti, member of YWCA Albania and the European YWCA, 23 October 2017] In the moment I arrived in the airport of Brussels two young women were waiting for me, Antonella and Jemma. They were from WAGGGS of Italy and Ireland and were so warm that it felt like I meet them before. This is the energy of women, you feel the strength, the happiness, the struggles and the mission they have in mind.

After arriving in Brussels, center we had lunch with Asha, Pierrette, Irene and Sonia (from Young Medical Women), and it happened again, jokes, introducing.
Usually the first way you meet someone you confuse names, or call each other by countries, like hey Albania. But it never happened in any of those meeting, since each of them was special and could never be mistaken.

After the lunch we went to European Women’s Lobby, where our friend Ruxandra from YWCA Romania joined us too. This time, our introduction was a bit different, with some simple and difficult questions in the same time where somehow, never thought about them. Why we became feminist, why we joined our organization, and our role model.

A retrospective happened in that moment thinking about all the times that always a boy was smarter than me because “he is a boy you know, they get everything faster than girls”. Or by the times when every time I would asked my mother, “Mama, if she is suffering why doesn’t she leave her husband”. It is not that easy, would my mother reply, where she would go, it would be more difficult for her.

It was always like this, always supporting abusive, narcissist, rude, non-loyal husbands just because of choice. And It was remembering all those moments that I realize that I didn’t want to be like that, neither me, my friends, my colleagues, my community. Men being everywhere. Men in Politics, Men as bosses, men as businessmen, everywhere man. It had to stop.

Meetings like this are the ones that tickle you inside, getting that big suck off, and always alerting that always, always we should never stop in our mission.

EWL youth team

After the gathering together at European Women’s Lobby, we went to eat dinner and a nice surprise was for us there. More and more friends from different NGOs. I felt a connection with Mary, a young women from Kenya, and suddenly we started talking, she was sharing her experience there, the work she was doing with her peers and everything she was doing to empower young women’s in her country. There is no greater experience, that the one you hear from each other, not like the books, but by women who really are trying to make a change in their community.

After the gathering together, we went to the cinema to watch a movie. It wasn’t an ordinary movie, neither movies like those based on true story. It was a true story, a life documentary of Maria Toorpakay Wazir a professional Pakistani squash player. She dressed like a boy for the first 16 years of her life in order to participate in competitive sports as a Muslim girl, using the name Genghis Khan, fully supported by her Muslim parents. Well, she did it… Inspiring her country and the entire world.
Only some hours left till 11 of October, the day where we all wanted to be!

Girls Summit “Girls Can…”

Ruxandra, my friend from YWCA of Romania, was really anxious since this was a big day for her too, sharing her experience about the work, the challenges we were facing in Europe. 11 October, the Girls Summit was going to start. From all over the world, being there.

The Summit hosted by Kim Chakanetsa, journalist and presenter of The Conversation on the BBC World Service where she made it warmer for the speakers, Sreypich Houen, 16 year-old activist from Cambodia, Ruxandra Diaconescu Board Member of the YWCA Romania-The European YWCA which works in the communities of 27 European countries – to further the rights of young women and girls with an intergenerational approach, and Motshedisi Likate from Qwa Qwa, a village in South Africa where she volunteered at the Save the Children clinic, where she talked to girls about the issues they faced, including teenage pregnancy, violence and difficult family relationships.

After the opening of the panel, we could participate in one of the Breakout sessions: Girls can… Thrive / Girls can… Inspire / Girls can… Succeed. Ruxandra and I decided to join the session “girls can inspire”, Sonia went to “girls can thrive” and Antonella and Jemma led the workshop “girls can succeed”.

The session started and it was all of us there that were going to mention some of the difficulties that we thought that was a problem in our region. They were divided in Economic Problems, Political and Cultural.

In economic problems where mentioned problems like poverty, lack of skills, lack of information, high positions reserved for man only. In social and cultural problems more were mentioned more problems actually. Some of them were: Gender discrimination / Lack of confidence / Stigma against successful women / Teenage pregnancy / Lack of family support / Media don’t showing role models / Men contesting women leaders.

Telling what really bothered us was actually important. Members of each group were going to speak in front of the UN delegation, and those issues were a voice, for every girl out there that wanted her rights to be heard.

After hearing everything that each break out session had to talk about, Irena Andrassy, Deputy Head of Cabinet, had a speech, concerning our comments.
“You can be at peace that all of the recommendations will have very open ear, that we will do lots for all the recommendations and we already have done plenty to improve the situation. Unfortunately, today in the media you will also find some data that shows even in the EU we are not still doing well unfortunately. Situation has improved, there has been lot positive things have been done but unfortunately we have lot of things to do. This also goes to the developing countries that we are working with unfortunately there is even more things to do there.”

The summit closed with 2 wonderful poems from Anissa Boujdaini, one written especially for all of us being there. Sharing our social medias with each other, with the hope we could meet again there was more.

Jobs for girls

Being a MEP’s Assistant is probably the first dream-job of many young Europeans, but what does this profession really mean? How to be there? Well the best way was to find it out from Léa Haas, assistant at the European Parliament.

We made circle and she was very friendly and very open to share her experience with us, by asking all our questions, being thirsty to know more and more. Some of us for the purpose of one day to be there, where she was, some of us to learn how things really function in this system.

Well, I want to share with you too what was discussed in that circle, but it was so warm, so true, that will be something that all of us that were here will be like a bond together. Maybe, from the summit, and after from the meeting with Lea, very soon you are all going to see the Leaders of tomorrow.

We want to end the fact that is more important to educate a son in the family than to educate a daughter. End the way how the parliaments are full of men… End the way even us, women are getting employed by men. End the way how men are paid more than us in the same working positions… Change the mentality that before 30s we have to create a family… End the way that we have to leave our careers when we will be mothers because it is us who has to take care of the baby, take care of the husband.

“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay”, Simone de Beauvoir

Krist Petraj Zicishti

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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