From the 26th to the 29th of January the Young European Socialist Feminist & Queer Network in cooperation with Mladi forum hosted a seminar in Velenje, Slovenia. Our group of around twenty comrades from all over Europe was split into two groups over the weekend. One was working on the issues of human trafficking and prostitution whereas the other group did a Trust Team training. I was part of the first group that worked on a resolution for the YES congress, that will take place in Duisburg, Germany, beginning on the 9th of April. After our arrival comrades of Mladi Forum picked us up at the airports and drove us to Velenje. On our way to Velenje they told us that between 1981 and 1990 the town was known as Titivo. Velenje is also called the red city due to its socialist heritage that can still be seen as the tallest statue of Tito in the world graces the central (Tito) square. In the evening the plenary discussion with guests such as Sonja Lokar (European Women’s Lobby), Alberto Mossino (writer and social worker, expert in the field of human trafficking), Karolina Leakovic (Vice president PES women), José Santoro (PES Activist Coordinator and Secretary General of Rainbow Rose), Polona Kovac (Society Kiuc, Center for fight against THB), and Violeta Neubauer (Independent gender equality expert) functioned as the kick-off of the seminar to give the participants an overview of different approaches on the topic of prostitution and the current situation of prostitutes in Europe.
On Saturday the group was split into two groups: the trust team workshop teamed by Aldo Perez of SJÖ, in which the participants should learn how to react/act in cases of sexual assault or critical situations at conferences/camps etc. in order to be a trust team member during events organized in the framework of their member organization as well as become eligible as members of trust teams at YES events.
The other group, that was focusing on prostitution and human trafficking, was teamed by YES Feminist and Queer Network coordinator Elisa Gambardella of FGS and trainer Anuschka Ruge of Jusos Germany. We started the session with an input by Alberto Mossino the expert that stayed with us over the weekend, who gave us an insight into the structures and forms of human trafficking. We talked about different forms of prostitution (indoor, outdoor, commercial) and the reasons why people, migrants in particular, turn into easy targets for traffickers such as poverty, wars, persecution, or poor working conditions of migrants in their country of origin. Afterwards we tried to define words and phrases that are associated with our topic in order to make sure that all participants knew the basic terminology. Once we got the basics we moved on with another input by Alberto, whose organization called Piam (Progetto Integrazione Accoglienza Migranti) Onlus helps and provides shelters for victims of human trafficking. He described how he got involved in the fight against human trafficking and told us about the work that he and his colleagues do such as going to the harbours on the Italian coast in order to talk to the people that arrive and offer them a way out of prostitution or trafficking. His input was followed by a group work, in which each of the groups discussed and summed up measures, that need to be implemented in countries of origin such as prosecuting traffickers or establishing safe and legal migration routes, an increase in international cooperation concerning countries of transfer, or long term funding of NGOs and shelters, that help victims of human trafficking in the countries of destination. Furthermore we received material that explained the different theoretical frameworks concerning prostitution from a socialist, marxist, liberal, or existentialist perspective or examined the various legal approaches in the EU member states, by dividing them into three categories: abolitionism, prohibitionism and regulationism.
On Saturday morning we started the day with a keynote by the Slovenian Minister of Defence Andreja Katic. She talked to us about how women can function as builders of post war societies. In this segment of the weekend we got to meet other comrades, that participated in a workshop called “Empowerment for participation for young women in politics” that was held at our venue at the same time. The aim of this seminar, that is divided into several weekends, was to create a network of women, who are active in social democratic/socialist parties and youth organizations in the Balkan region. It was very interesting to see how we are all fighting the same fight, that we all think that it still takes a lot of patience and hard work to get to the top positions in politics or to smash the glass ceilings. Moreover, it seems that our strategies of how we promote women in our organizations is quite similar as we Jusos just started our Fempowerment programme, bringing girls together from all over Germany to empower them, give them input on feminist history, get creative and create material and activities for future campaigns or teach them skills that will help them get elected or appointed to the positions they aspire to achieve.
After the keynote Sonja Lokar, who worked for the European’s women lobby, spoke about gender based violence and women’s/queer issues in general such as equal marriage, abortion or sex education. Her input, that focused on the development of women’s rights in the Balkan region, was quite impressive. She started by explaining to us, how the Gender task force that was established in 1999, an amalgamation of different women’s groups began its work, training over 30.000 women in order to get them to achieve positions as decision makers and agents of change until 2009. As a result of the implementation of these small workshops, that taught women about gender equality mechanisms, the quota of women in parliament in the Balkan region rose from around 7% in the 1990s to 24% in 2009. In her speech Lokar called on us to exchange our perspectives and work together in a time where women’s rights are at stake and threatened by conservative and right wing governments. She stressed the role of the civil society that needs to engage in our fight for a social Europe that should represent a stronghold that safeguards not only the rights of women but of minorities such as migrants or the LGBTIQ community.
After the morning discussion, we continued in our groups and my team started writing the resolutions for the YES Congress. In the evening we finished the seminar by checking out the night club scene of Velenje together with the girls of the Empowerment seminar much to the joy of the locals.
These three days made me feel hopeful regarding this year’s elections not only in Germany, but France or the Netherlands and their outcome that could reshape the European Union completely, because even though our opinions on certain issues differ, if we keep on our discussions and talk with each other making sure that we act as a united European left movement with a common vision or an overall idea of how our society should look like in order to fight the people who want to destroy the European idea, we will succeed.