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Europe’s Feminists - Be radical, and Tackle the Root Causes!

By: Marinella Matejcic and Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, Women Deliver Young Leaders

Women in Europe today still face many challenges in the fight for equal rights and access to opportunities: women continue to face barriers to reproductive services, formal employment, and equal political participation, and violence against women remains endemic. As a part of Europe's feminist movement, we have a lot of work to do! 

To this end, fifty brave and inspirational feminists, attended the AGORA 2015 - European Women's Lobby Young Feminist School  held in Belgium, Brussels, from the 2nd - 6th of September. The European Women’s Lobby is the largest network of women's organisations in the EU, whose core missions is to work for a feminist Europe. This was the first EWL's AGORA ever, so we very were privileged even to be there with a number of brilliant women.

Instantly upon our arrival, pariticpants started to get to know each other and share activist experiences and ideas. When the first session began, we jumped right into tackling difficult questions, like how feminism can become more intersectional and inclusive.

AGORA gave us opportunities to connect with feminist leaders, including a visit to European Parliament , where we met Parliament Members (MEP) Ulrike Lunacek and Maria Arena. Both MEPs talked about their political journeys and highlighted the need to tackle the root causes of the oppression. Marie Arena stated that "To be a feminist is not to be aggressive, but to radically demand our rights. We do not have to be like men are in order to achieve something."

AGORA participants also made sure to organize time for introspection and sharing. Young women created and hosted Knowledge cafes, Open spaces, and moderated discussions. During one Open space, a couple of us engaged in a very thought-provoking discussions about the current status of SRHR in the world.

One session specifically looked at access to abortion services and opposition based on religious arguments, in which we analysed the challenges faced in the UK, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Italy and Uruguay. We concluded that states need to strike a balance between the right to freedom of thought and the obligation to remove all barriers interfering with women’s access to reproductive health and rights services. Our countries should place the focus on women’s effective access to SRHR and establish serious accountability mechanisms for the abuses of conscientious objection.

In addition, we dicussed the importance of eliminating gender stereotypes in the law-making process and judicial enforcement processes. At the European level, a lot of advances have been made, and it seems like most overt legal discrimination has been eliminated. However, there is a strong need to address and challenge gender stereotypes that perpetuate inequalities. 

During our time together, participants took take the opportunity to criticize the EU's lack of adequate actions for refugees, and staged a video welcoming the refugees in many different languages (you can watch it at this link). We also made sure to have a bit of fun, ending one day a fierce feminist karaoke party!

As young feminists, we concluded that these issues are multifaceted and complex, and need to be addressed in a multidisciplinary way and on all levels: from academia to grassroots work, from representation in the media to comprehensive access to scientifically based information. And women’s needs ought to be put at the centre stage.

We're going to continue to discuss the ideas born during the AGORA Summer School, and one of them is already live: The European Young Feminists Blog. Make sure to check it out!

You can follow Marinella (@mmatejci)  and Lucia (@Lu_Berro) on Twitter.

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