Gender Evolution – Project

04.-11. December 2005, EYC, Budapest3 leadership conference 2


Article from the session



We need a Sexual Rrrrrevolution!

By Irina Dragan

Attention to the role and functioning of national mechanisms for gender equality has been a concern pursued by the Council of Europe since the 80’s. Specific Actions to address the main problems related to gender have been the traditional task of institutional mechanisms since they were created. But nowadays gender equality advocacy is getting more and more beyond the boundaries of the exclusive domain of the legal professionals and institutions.

In response to emerging difficulties and concerns in women’s lives, activists from a variety of different fields and professions have become interested in this issue, contributing to the achievement of a progressive understanding of the global and structural dimension of gender discrimination. NGOs are now an integral part of advancement, implementation and reinforcement of human rights and gender equality, since they are prompt to respond to challenges, raise awareness and mobilize people for action. The role of young people in our societies has become increasingly important, which accounts for a greater demand for practical training opportunities in the field of human rights for the young audience.

The Cooperation and Development Network in Eastern Europe (CDN) has been providing for the last 3 years the necessary framework and support for such opportunities to become real. The development of a gender working group within CDN is seen as one of the highest achievements of the Network in 2005. The first step towards realizing it was the seminar Sexual (R)evolution organized in Belgrade in July 2005.

The Gender Evolution Study Session in Budapest was envisaged as the right opportunity to put the basis of a permanent “Gender network”, that will continue to work on gender problems, encountered in particular in South-Eastern European societies. By enriching the understanding of human rights, of gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender equality in South-Eastern Europe and by providing the space for the practice of necessary skills and for the planning of future action, the study session aimed to enhance the capacity of young NGO activists from all over Europe to advocate for human rights as a way of achieving gender equality. For one week, from the 4th to 11th of December 2005, 27 participants from all over Europe approached traditional areas of action, as well as more recent one. Matters like equal conditions and equal treatment in employment, health, including reproductive health, non-sexist education and education for equality, equal access to political life and to decision-making were among the first; others, like sexual freedom and sexual differences, prostitution, trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation, violence in situations of armed conflict or the need to find ways of reconciling professional and family life were among the second.

The participants came from both Young Green organizations and other youth NGOs. Thus, this was also a good opportunity for CDN to strengthen the links for cooperation among CDN member organisations and other youth NGOs with the aim of empowering each other to develop joint actions in the future. Throughout the whole study session the preparatory team, sought to apply the ‘learning by doing’ educational method: instead of providing the participants with predetermined concepts and skills, we encouraged them to get involved in a mutually beneficial process of discovery, to participate and contribute to the outcomes. Thus, we engaged everyone in a variety of interactive exercises, thematic discussions and interesting activities, from which we also, as the preparatory team, learned and gained a lot, both personally and professionally.

Some of the most successful activities of the Study Session, as appreciated by the participants, were: the Electric Fence – energizer, the Statement Game, “Let’s talk about sex” game, the controversial movie “Venus boys”, the Non-mixed Groups workshops, the Ladder of Gender Inequalities, the Gender Challenging Party, etc.

The participants were particularly enthusiastic about the last day of the study session, the one dedicated to ‘Future Actions’. They put a great amount of energy into this activity and came up with beautiful ideas for follow-up projects: to develop a Gender Campaign, to design a special publication and a reader on gender issues, to implement several international activities like youth exchanges, seminars, etc.

One important initiative was to create a ‘Gender Equality Network” which would become the main framework for further reflection and exchange of ideas on different projects and initiatives that would contribute to making a positive change in Eastern Europe on the long term.

There were two lecturers visiting the study session. Gyorgyi Toth, representing NANE Women’s Rights Association, who started with a brain-storming on “What is feminism?”. Participants came up with diverse answers, one more amazing than the other: feminism was described in different ways, from “today’s Marxism” to “a fight for equal rights and opportunities” or a “liberalization of men out of general constraints”. Further on, the participants were challenged to try to define what feminism should be or shouldn’t be about and for this they were divided into groups of three. Gyorgyi Toth’s session ended up with an interactive round discussion involving the entire group of participants, on issues like: “Realities of feminism” on the internet, “Feminism as a human rights movement”, “Men – having more privileges then women have rights?”.

Since Gyorgy Toth focused on feminism and on the place of women in the society, it was Mathieu Carnal’s point out what the role of men is in promoting gender equality. As representative of the organization UNIC, he explained what it means to be part of a men’s organization standing up for equal rights of women in the society. This issue raised a particular interest for participants coming from South-Eastern Europe, where such organizations rarely exist, if at all. In the second part of the session he conducted, Mathieu Carnal proposed to continue the discussion in non-mixed groups, for this would offer the opportunity to explore certain aspects related to gender deeper and free of any ‘constraint’ coming form the opposed gender. The non-mixed group work was the one of the group activities that participants appreciated the most, of course if we do not count the free time group activities, such as the ‘group sauna’ or ‘the group disco’.

Apart from the “formal” activities, participants even used some of their free time to get back to some of the important issues approached in the plenary and discuss them further on. One could observe different groups on the balcony, in the smoking area, on the couches at the reception or in the restaurant, discussing issues, debating, reaching challenging points, sometimes agreeing, other times disagreeing, however always in a friendly manner, while taking one/several drinks or having lunch together.

But free time consisted mainly of fun and relaxing activities. The ice was broken right away from the first day, when people discovered that the disco and the sauna are the ideal environment for making new friends. But since these were not enough, the 4th floor of the Centre, with its amazing panorama over Budapest at night, contributed to making the atmosphere even nicer and friendlier, perfect to spend some “extra” hours, for those participants who still had energy left after a whole tiring day.

With all this being said, the preparatory team of the Gender ®evolution study session would like to give a BIG and WARM THANK YOU to the Council of Europe for sponsoring this event, to the European Youth Centre in Budapest and its staff for being so helpful and making our stay here as pleasant as possible, to the CDN for providing us with all the support we needed, from the very beginning and all the way through the implementation of this project, and to our Educational Advisor, Elizabeth Kasa, for guiding our work, for showing so much confidence in each of us and for being there for us at every moment of the week, often until late at night.

Due to the outstanding role and experience of the Council of Europe with gender equality protection in Europe, it was particularly beneficial to hold this activity at the EYCB .

We were pleased to benefit from the European Youth Center’s expertise with human rights education – the Compass manual was one indispensable tool- , as well as from the educational support provided by the educational advisor. The user-friendly work facilities and living conditions of the centre inspired an overall feeling of productive group dynamics. Additionally, we are all grateful to the Centre for the Sauna, for the Disco and for the beautiful 4th floor view of the city, which helped us relax in the evenings and made our stay here even more enjoyable.

We would also like to thank the participants for being so creative and enthusiastic and for their excellent work, which made it possible for this study session to take place and to turn into a success, and contributed significantly to the compilation of this report.

Though it was difficult sometimes to formally describe certain achievements and failures, trials and errors, feelings, emotions and inspirations we have gone through during a week, through this report we tried to reflect the overall wonderful experience we all had during the study session.

We are thankful for this opportunity and believe that this experience has significantly contributed our own and to CDN’s capacity to run similar events in the future.
On behalf of the Gender (R)evolution Study Session Preparatory Team,


December 2005



GENDER Evolution statement by participants

GENDER Evolution – Evaluation by prep team

Final list of participants to the meeting

Activity Report submitted to CoE EYF