Report by Iryna Pobidash, Participant in the "European Women's Academy" EWA
In August 2016, the educational program for women, the "European Women's Academy", came to an end. The Academy, which started in March, consisted of three different educational sessions (the 1st and the 2nd sessions were in Estonia, the 3rd session was in Georgia). There was additional online work in the intersession periods.
The project was especially designed for women, who are experienced politicians and succeeded in past elections or were leaders of successful election campaigns of different liberal parties across Europe. Most came from countries where over the next two years national or local elections will take place.
More than one hundred women participated in the competition in order to gain the chance to participate in EWA sessions. Among the fifteen winners I was the sole representative of Ukraine. The other participants came from Germany, Austria, Sweden, Slovakia, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia and the UK. I took part in the competition as representative of the political party "Civic Position". In my country, I had been elected three consecutive times to the Vyshgorod District Council (Kyiv region). I was moreover head of the Vyshhorod District Council of the Vth convocation.
The training program was divided into three main sessions. The first one was on the importance of values, goals and strategies in political activities and election campaigns. The second session focused on enhancing one’s own personal image. The third session focused on relevant tools and tactics in order to lead a political campaign.
The most interesting part for me was to experience the very different backgrounds and origins of trainers, coaches and guests during the Academy. Workshops, study visits, unforgettable dinners with politicians, visits and debates, unexpected surprises, as well as a very beautiful landscape made the learning process an unforgettable memory.
During EWA, the following themes were discussed and elaborated:
- How to set out political goals?
- Comparing military with political strategies
- Branding & messaging
- Media and communication in times of crisis
- Speaking in public
- Interacting with the media
- Visualizing a potential campaign
- Team Building and others group activities and measures.
- Meetings with a stylist, a photographer and a graphic designer rounded off the program.
Annika Arras, Project Director of EWA, was guiding and accompanying all participants through the program. Annika brings professional campaigning experience earned during three parliamentary elections with the Estonian Reform Party, additional to three local and three European Parliament elections, and has in-depth background of organizational and party work between campaigns. She provided all participants with specific information on ‘branding’, enriched by various case studies.
Annika actively cooperates with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). She is also experienced in terms of capacity-building for political parties in other Eastern European countries such as Moldova and Georgia.
A meeting with Marina Kaljurand, Estonian diplomat, Foreign Minister of Estonia from 16 July 2015 to 12 September 2016, provided background on Estonian foreign policy.
Another vivid memory was an informal dinner with the very charismatic and young Prime Minister of Estonia Taavi Roivas who was open to debate a variety of topics.
As ambitious politicians often use black PR technologies against their opponents, all participants with great interest embraced the personal experience of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Deputy of the Estonian parliament, former Minister of the Environment and former Foreign Minister of Estonia. During the last three years she had to deal with a severe personal scandal, associated with her father and her husband. Keit talked about her experience and advised on how to deal with the avalanche of public attacks and condemnation.
The third session was held in August surrounded by mountains in the incredibly beautiful Georgian town of Kazbegi in the midst of the 2016 election campaign to the Georgian Parliament. Irakli Chikovani, one of the founders of the Georgian party "Free Democrats", member of the Georgian parliament, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and NATO Parliamentary Assembly, spoke about the peculiarities of his own election campaigns and political activities.
During the whole program participants have received and performed many complex tasks. The final chord was the presentation of all EWA participants’ speeches. A short introduction in English was followed by different speeches everyone’s respective native language. After analyzing the speeches, a solemn presentation of diplomas meant a successful final of the "European Women's Academy”.
Several participants now take part in election campaigns in their home countries. The knowledge obtained during “EWA” gives them the opportunity to choose the most effective methods of providing information about themselves and their team to the voters.
I am confident that the new knowledge and experience I received in the course of EWA will also help my party "Civic Position" to achieve more substantial accomplishments in upcoming elections. It has been enriching to learn from the experiences of European partners, amongst which successful campaigns but also mistakes. EWA gave me the feeling that my party can rely on a strong friendly shoulder and arm of support. When we add to all these factors our own successes, spotless reputation and our great desire to make Ukraine a country of happy people, we understand that success is inevitable!