Dancing and Discussions!

Bethany Barr reports on Day 4 of the European YWCA Study Session in Budapest 

Today was another great day, filled with activities, knowledge building and character defining moments. We have been very thankful to the European Youth Centre for the wonderful hospitality they have displayed in hosting us here and with that all the amazing food we have enjoyed!

We started as we did every morning with a great array of food for breakfast – and the bread, wow, it is something I will miss when I leave!!! One of the other participants, Olga Frańczak, did a presentation on ‘Making the Unconscious Conscious, What is Unconscious Bias and Why Does it Matter?’ This was very informing, and it was encouraging to learn from a fellow peer and see the knowledge she had in this area. It was a very interactive lecture and challenged us to recognise our bias and the impact this has on our attitudes and actions. We so often surround ourselves with people like-minded to ourselves, with similar experiences, opinions, and views; therefore, we do not challenge ourselves and our thought processes. Even Facebook and Social Media plays a role in this bringing to the top of our news feed the posts that are most similar to things that we ‘like’. We carried out an exercise writing down ten people you trust who are outside of your immediate family members and documenting their age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education etc. and it was then agreed that often these people are ones who are very like us and people that we can relate to. Therefore, the challenge for me and the challenge I extend to you as you read this is, surround yourself with and have discussions with people who are different to you and who have very different views and opinions. Challenge yourself to recognise your bias and work against this, do not let stereotypes and commonly wrong judgements and prejudices to stop you from missing out on an opportunity, a chance to learn or to know someone who could change your life.

After this before our coffee break we heard from Réka Sáfrány from the Hungarian Women’s Lobby. It was extremely interesting to hear about the problems of gender equality in Hungary. However, this was also sad because it was clear the progress that needs to occur all around the world to achieve gender equality. The different ways and places where refugees and migrants stay

Following the coffee break we split into two groups again in a similar format to yesterday. Both groups would carry out a workshop with ‘One Love Soul’, and the other workshop was with Sodfa Daaji from the EU Network of Migrant Women. We carried out one of the activities before lunch and the other immediately after.

The ‘One Love Soul’ workshop was carried out by Marcia Banasko who began this project and she told us about her experiences working with refugee and Roma communities as she and her partner travelled across Europe in a caravan. This was extremely interesting and informative while also sad to hear more about the conditions people across the world are forced to endure. She then took us through a small dance session like she would carry out with the women in these communities. She uses dance as a way to encourage reflection and discussion and to break down barriers as well as improve quality of life by providing women with fun activities to attend.

This was not only informative but also enjoyable especially after long sessions, the chance to dance and relax was very appreciated by all. Even though I cannot dance to save my life it was fun nonetheless.

The second workshop on ‘Women between Intersectionality and Stereotypes’ started with a ‘Me Too’ session where we heard about different experiences within the group to show that violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. This was sad and humbling as you realise that many have been affected by violence. This carried us into our second exercise of looking at different issues migrant women face and discussing and then presenting on how you think they would want to approach and tackle the issue. This was interesting hearing other people’s opinions and problem-solving abilities but it became clear that it is vitally important to HEAR the opinions and stories of those impacted and not imposing on them what we believe their freedom should look like – don’t simply ‘help’ these women, but EMPOWER them with the tools to help themselves.

Before dinner we did a workshop to begin to implement and to move from the theory of the past few days into action. We separated into groups and began to look at what we considered to be the greatest needs and challenges of young migrant and refugee women and from that what our 5 most vital recommendations for YWCAs over Europe would be as they begin to try to tackle these issues. This was a hard yet enriching experience. I learnt from the opinions of my fellow group members and it was a lot easier to step into the shoes of a migrant or refugee women following the activities of the last few days.

After all the groups presented we took a much-needed break for dinner. Many people had the evening off, some exploring the city more, others watching a movie and others reading and relaxing. However, I volunteered to be one of the 7 in the ‘working group’ to work on looking at the recommendations from all the different groups and compiling it into a concrete and achievable, yet optimistic set of 5 recommendations for the national YWCAs. This was challenging, especially given that all the group’s recommendations were very good. However, as a group we decided that we wanted the recommendations to be ambitious but also achievable for all YWCAs. We included some based on advocacy and others based on practicality. When we finished this at 1030pm we were tired to say the least but thankfully we had some Milka chocolate to help us get through!

After this you would probably agree that some much needed sleep and rest would have been a good idea? Sadly, I did not go for the wise option and instead decided upon going for a walk with Evita to see some of the city lights and get a pancake and coffee at a local shop. Upon returning at nearly midnight, we again (perhaps foolishly) decided to head to the sauna to relax before bed. At least we are making the most of our time together!!!

Leave a Reply