Women in Politics – Political Savvy Skills for Future Female Leaders
Whatever title or office we may be privileged to hold, it is what we do that defines who we are. Each of us must decide what kind of person we want to be—what kind of legacy that we want to pass on.
Seeking freedom and equality is a constant global challenge for the offices of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and supporting our partners in such matters remains our utmost priority. Thus, the offices in Lebanon and Jordan asked the European Dialogue in Brussels and the International Academy for Leadership Visiting Programmes to organise an online workshop for their female partners. We had the great pleasure to facilitate the programme “Women in Politics – Political Savvy Skills for Future Female Leaders” for 17 highly motivated and fascinating female leaders with various backgrounds and expertise.
The kick-off event with Sana Afouaiz from the Womenpreneur Initiative in Brussels was a promising start into a vivid and interactive online programme. Due to social and economic difficulties in Jordan and Lebanon as well as the challenges faced as a result of the global pandemic, gender equality has been overlooked in Lebanese and Jordanian society and cyber bullying against women is a daily recurrent problem. To tackle the latter, Sana presented hands-on advice and tips on how to turn negative comments of opponents into positive speeches. The participants were divided into groups and each group was asked to choose a spokeswoman to deliver a speech on its behalf and put forward the group’s demands. Then, the participants had to vote for the best and most convincing political speech and justify why they chose accordingly. This session proved to be an interesting and interactive introduction into a promising week.
On the second day, we had the great pleasure to meet two successful and empowering young women in politics, Abir al Sahlani, Member of the European Parliament and Gyde Jensen, Member of the German Bundestag. Both provided inspiring and energetic tips, followed by an interactive Q&A.
Abir al-Sahlani, being familiar with the cultural background of our participants, was an asset to our female empowerment programme, as she could closely relate to the problems and challenges faced by women in Jordan and Lebanon. She touched upon different gender-related topics, suggested a gender-sensitive budget in politics, and introduced strong arguments to convince politicians about this financiation. She emphasised the importance of a stable network and, most importantly, an enhanced and broad knowledge about your own topics to increase competence and emotions. She also advised our participants to actively encourage more men to be involved in the fight for a strong female political representation in Jordan and Lebanon.
Our next guest, Gyde Jensen, was elected as youngest female parliamentarian into the German Bundestag in 2017. She emphasised on the need for women to take up the fight for freedom and equality together, rather than competing against each other. She explained how such social changes normally occur; by initially being implemented in society and within personal spaces, and then transferred into the parliament (e.g. changes of laws). Her interesting points of view and the insightful questions that followed led to an informative and vivid exchange of information.
We had the great chance to talk to Adam Vink, EWA (European Women's Academy) Project Manager of ALDE Party in Brussels. He was presenting the EWA and the cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation “Alliance of Her”. Their alumni network, advocacy and leadership trainings focus on the female voices and their demands in the political sphere. Given that women’s representation in politics remains unequal, and given that they are still discriminated against in public and political office, EWA´s mission is to connect liberal women and provide professional and empowering support for their goals. The session hosted an invigorating discussion, and having a male speaker supporting and empowering our female participants constituted a refreshing and motivational take on the matter.
For women, being active in politics requires having strong allies, rather than competition across women, even across parties, recommended Karen Melchior, MEP of Renew Europe Group. She emphasised the necessity of having open and honest discussion about the barriers that women face and the harassment that they endure in the workspace and in the political arena. She warned that the ever-spreading cyber-bullying is no form of freedom of expression and people are more and more hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. She pushed our participants to be who they are and not who others want them to be. This, in her opinion, increases the individual’s credibility and trustworthiness; two of the characteristics that are less and less common these days. She also encouraged our participants to trust in their capabilities and knowledge and not to question themselves, as women often times do. This will help them gain the type of self-confidence needed to never withdraw from the political scene, despite the challenges they might encounter along the way.
Our final day ended with the inspirational Anne Brasseur, a special woman with a great history in politics. Her astonishing political career serving as cabinet minister of Luxembourg, Minister for Education and President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and her calm as well as charismatic personality left us beyond impressed. She encouraged our participants to pursue and commit to their political involvement, given that a mere 10% of all countries have female representative leaders. She advised them to approach other members in the Arab league in order to broaden their networks and influence. Moreover, she motivated our participants to never give up and trust in their capabilities, and never let criticism stop them from achieving their hopes and dreams.
This programme significantly showed us the importance of a just, equal and more tolerant world with the need for more people fighting for their rights and for a better future – just like our female leaders.