Women’s Role in Leadership and Peacebuilding
Being a participant of the eponymous panel discussion by Eastern Partnership on the 30th of March, this article would be to share the main bullet points from the event as well to comment on them.
The opening ceremony consisted of a brief speech by the representatives of YEAs (Young European Ambassadors) in Azerbaijan. They have highlighted that this event is the first in the history of the newly-opened Debate Club inside the YEA.
Personally, the selection of the topic of the panel discussion, honorable guests, and the way that delicious catering was held is a good sign for a successful beginning!
During the first Panel Discussion participants could have the delight to listen to the experience of:
Vladanka Andreeva, UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan.
Vija Buša, Deputy Head of Mission of the Latvia Embassy in Azerbaijan
Tinneke Everaert, Deputy Head of Mission of the Belgium Embassy
Vafa Ali, Azerbaijani Instagramer and influencer
Here it would be mentioned mostly highlights from the first Panel Discussion as, personally, it was the most insightful and interesting part to discuss.
Being 21 years in the field of humanitarian coordination, partnership building, and international development Vladanka Andreeva has traveled and seen a lot during her life. In 2021, destiny brought her to Azerbaijan. Her main focus is to strengthen the implementation of evidence-informed, human rights-based, and gender-sensitive country programs.
She started her speech by sharing her pleasure to see that more and more events are dedicated to the women, women’s issues, so “We do not only do it on the 8th March”.
We are all interconnected. Issue that touches one person, touches another as well. So that if humankind wants to achieve all SDCs, they firstly should achieve Goal 5 (“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”).
Talking about her opinion on “Women’s Role in Leadership and Peacebuilding”, she clarified that the most suffering part of citizens during armed conflicts are women. However, there are pretty much no cases where women had a seat at the table of peacebuilding missions. At least, it would be fair to give an opportunity to the main victims to speak up.
This thought was supported later by another speaker from the Second Panel Discussion, Mr. Andreas Holt — Counselor of the German Embassy. He mentioned that it is vital to take into consideration all perspectives in order to come to an agreement that would be suitable for all people. So that “Diverse spaces are more productive”. I would agree here with Mr. Holt that the main problem of our modern society is the one-sided and stigmatized point of view on global issues.
Coming back to Vladanka Andreeva’s insights, the idea of “equality by default” has really touched me. In these words, Ms. Vladanka meant that equality will not grow and nurture from nowhere but it should be done on the basis, of the family environment.
Overall, Vladanka Andreeva has become my personal favorite because of the way of her charismatic representation, passionate but precise speech, and lovely sense of humor.
The second speaker comes from Latvia, a country of female prevalence in such fields as Military Service and International Foreign Affairs (more than 60% of representatives are women). Vija Buša has passed through a tough period at the beginning of her career as it was the 90s — challenging times for all countries that were parts of the USSR.
The main focus of Vija Buša’s agenda was and is educational promotion, ecological awareness, and gender equality. As a result of effective collaboration, 169 students from Azerbaijan are studying in Latvia in the 2020/2021 academic year (168 in 2019/2020). In the 2020/2021 academic year 9 scholarships were granted for studies and 8 scholarships were granted for participation in international summer schools to students and researchers from Azerbaijan. That is one of the fruitful results of her initiative and the Latvian Embassy.
If you want to chance the perception about the woman’s role in the World, precisely in diplomacy and negotiations — start with appropriate education. Education is a key to solve this problem.
Being a mother of three children, it is hard to keep up with superwoman’s vibe. However, ladies from the panel discussions are straight and visible examples that are possible to maintain a work-life balance. You may skeptically comment that these are only words without a concrete plan on how to achieve their level of productivity and well-being. You would be right. However, the plan also exists and it is in finding a mentor.
Women’s power is their unity and togetherness.
Mentoring issue was mostly highlighted by the youngest speaker, Tinneke Everaert. Remember, a mentor can be anyone from your surroundings. The most important is that it would be a person that shares your worldview, is as passionate as you, and also strives for the best. In the future, you might be acquainted with bigger and more prominent figures. However, at this moment of the present do not frame with the ideas about a bright future. Instead of it — carpe diem.
Tinneke Everaert was getting her Bachelor's Degree in Law when she was firstly faced with “unspoken assumptions”. It was tough for the minor female part of the faculty to get over the pressure from the male part. They were under personal attacks about their appearance, outfit, answers, and assignments.
Men doubted us with their confidence. We were constantly not in the studying process but in the constant proving that we are worth to be here. In another words, that we are better than men.
However, she together with her peers could have overcome it with a strong community feeling, with constant support and empathy for each other. İn this case, the words of Vafa Ali suit the best “Whatever barriers we face, they make us stronger”.
Frankly speaking, I would agree with Vladanka Andreeva that, in this case, in order to fight prejudices and inequality, the best scheme is “women supporting women” AND “men supporting women”. Separating into small gender (even supporting) groups makes the environment around us only worse and more divided.
Talking about support and real faith, it wouldn’t be extra to mention how stereotypes influence people’s minds. Negative stereotypes about a person in-group can hinder performance (stereotype threat) and positive stereotypes about a person in-group can facilitate performance (stereotype boost). Unfortunately, there are rare cases where stereotype acts as a boost.
The influence of negative and positive stereotypes on performance rate was studied by Shih, Pittinsky, and Ambady (1999). Before doing the math test, observers divided all participants into three groups. The first group of Asian American women was positively told about their Asian identity and stereotyped with high math ability. Another group was judged by their female identity and stereotyped with low math ability. The third group was not primarily judged or told anything.
Of the three groups, Asian-primed participants performed best on the math test, and female-primed participants performed worst. The participants who did not know about the Asian or female-identity stereotypes about math also did not perform worse when this stereotype was primed.
So that it is better to assess people’s real knowledge and abilities rationally. People may surprise you with the result if you would perceive them as a normal individuals :)
In conclusion, this article will be enlightened with a motivational phrase from Ms.Vladanka “Dream Big and Support Each Other”. Hope one day we will talk only about our dreams and passions but not about war, injustice, and inequality.