I have just returned from probably one of the best trips abroad of my life, and no it wasn’t to the sandy beaches of Barbados, Ibiza or Zanté. It was in fact to Brussels, where it rained almost constantly and I can count on one hand the moments when the sun actually decided to come out to say hello. However, the weather did not matter, for we, a bundle of women’s rights activists, had travelled from all across Europe to attend the first ever Agora Feminist summer school, and nothing was going to dampen our spirits!
The 5 day training and sharing course that hosted 50 feminists was organised by the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) and reached far beyond any of my expectations. Having attended quite a few political conventions, I arrived with my smart clothes and laptop, ready for an onslaught of lectures, note taking and awkward networking events, hoping that there would be one or two women who I could befriend. From the moment I arrived to our hostel, however, it was clear that this was going to be completely different to anything I had ever previously experienced. Here, there would be: no condescending ‘know-it-alls’ poncing around in tweed and smoking cigars whilst boasting to one another (trust me, I’ve been there); no social hierarchy; no segregation, and no pretense. Here I was safe from being judged as a political fake, and I was welcomed into a community united by a passion for women’s rights and feminism. It is not every day that such an experience presents itself.
“But what did you do?”
On my return from the Agora 2015, I have found it difficult to relay my involvement in the event, without bursting into a song of superlatives; “Amazing! Brilliant! Just incredible!”, to which the response would be “but what did you do?”, and off I go, ranting and raving about all sorts of feminist issues. The problem is that it is hard to recount this journey, and it seems that mere words cannot do it justice. How do you describe a life changing, defying, empowering and inspiring time of your life, where days and nights rolled into one another, and discussion and brains did not stop ticking?
The days, filled with workshops led by participants and outside guests, covered a wide spectrum of feminist issues and activist knowledge, from campaign strategies and public speaking to feminist photography and creative writing. Hearing Ulrike Lunacek, Vice President for the European Parliament, speak about her background and plight for equal rights was very inspirational and a personal highlight. As for the evenings, well, let’s just say that girls know how to have fun! I can safely say that never in my life have I been at a party of over 50 women with no male presence, nor have I imagined that it could be so much fun. Regards karaoke, there are no words.
So here I am, back home and feeling a bit alone without the presence of so many feminist activists, but also uplifted, empowered and incredibly inspired by the whole trip. The summer school reminded me how powerful we can be when we join together in the name of one common purpose. It was refreshing to meet such strong characters from all over the world, to hear their stories and their plights for justice. When the time drew closer for breaking up our safe hub, everybody was visibly sad yet very grateful for the rare opportunity that we had shared. There was a common feeling and conviction that no matter where we feminists are in the world, no matter what we are fighting for, and no matter how lonely we may at times feel, we have each other’s support. No woman is ever alone.