Meeting of the “Basqueskola” network of Basque women mayors and councillors with Rigoberto Menchú

The network of local elected representatives promoted by EUDEL and Emakunde was presented this morning in the Conference as a pioneering initiative and best practice in favour of equality at local policy level.

Idurre Bideguren, Mayor of Bermeo, and Izaskun Landaida, Director of Emakunde-Basque Women’s Institute, put forward the initiative in the “Participation, Policy, Power” space

Basqueskola is led by a plural group of Basque female elected representatives from all political persuasions and diverse municipalities of all sizes.

Bilbao 12 June 2018. This morning, within the Conference of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) on ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Bilbao 2018’, a meeting was organised between  Rigoberta Menchú, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and guest speaker at the conference, and women mayors and councillors from the ‘Virginia Woolf Basqueskola’ network.

The protagonists of this meeting were 18 representatives from the main group and collaborators from the Basqueskola network: the mayors of Amurrio, Elburgo, Ayala, Asteasu, Santurtzi, Bermeo, Abanto-Zierbena and Gatika, and the councillors of Bilbao, Getxo, Pasaia, Donostia/San Sebastián, Rentería, Barakaldo, Galdakao, Sondika, Sestao and Ortuella.

Together with Izaskun Landaida, Director of Emakunde, the representatives from the network had the opportunity of presenting its working dynamics and objectives to Dr Menchú. The Guatemalan activist is a strong defender of human rights and the empowerment of women.

In the words of Idurre Bideguren, mayor of Bermeo and Basqueskola representative: “Change in policy implies a change in culture. Therefore, changes will be noticed in the future. To this end, I think that women who enter politics have to forge our own path, instead of treading the one already made by men. Citizens are used to male leadership and a way of being mayor, but over time we’ll win over their appreciation for the female mayor style. In this regard, the mayor of Bermeo valued the importance of consolidating policies of equality in town halls “They’re really important. Although I think we’ve advanced, we still haven’t achieved equality in our culture and we don't measure men and women by the same standards.”

For her part, the Director of Emakunde, Izaskun Landaida, pointed out that despite important progress being made, “the structures and spaces of power are basically androcentric, and continue to be fundamentally designed by and for men. This means women have to face difficulties added to those related to fulfilling their own position of responsibility, such as that of mayor or councillor in their locality. This is why strategies based on empowering women, as is the case for Basqueskola, are crucial.”

The meeting with Rigoberta Menchú also saw the participation of the Bilbao Councillor for Equality, Cooperation, Coexistence and Festivals, Itziar Urtasun, who explained that “Women are half of the global population, and our voice must not just be heard, we also have to participate in decision-making corresponding to our representation in society. The political system desperately needs women, and women need the political system to keep driving changes that allow us to move forward towards equal access to decision-making bodies as voters, candidates and elected representatives. According to Itziar Urtasun, governments must go further than the equal representation of women in the political sphere “they must include recognition of a social transformation towards an egalitarian social model. Remember that we women only want half of the sky, half of the earth and half of the power.· 

PARTICIPATIVE DYNAMIC AND OBJECTIVES OF THE NETWORK

VWBasqueskola came about in 2012 at the hand of Eudel and Emakunde as a space for encounter, training and political influence for Basque female mayors and councillors. It addresses all of the elected representatives, over 1100 women who are working in government or opposition, from all political persuasions and all Basque municipalities. In addition, it came about with international vocation to forge alliances with other networks of female elected representatives in Europe and further afield.

It is the representatives themselves who lead and mark out the Basqueskola strategy, organising themselves through a diverse and plural driving group with representation from all areas of Basque municipalities. Comprised of the Mayors of  Santurtzi, Bermeo, Ayala, Amurrio, Elburgo, Asteasu, Abanto Zierbana and councillors of Bilbao, Getxo, Pasaia, Donostia and Rentería they elaborate, in a coordinated, networked manner, the strategies necessary for incorporating the interests and needs of women into the public agenda, driving leadership and participation of women with their own voices and positions.

The large majority of the representatives collaborating with the network do so in three areas:

  1. Political Influence, designing strategies of socialisation for the project
  2. Time and Conciliation, promoting initiatives for equal conciliation between home and political life
  3. Welcome 2019, accompanying the new mayors and councillors in their entry into politics

Further information: virginiawoofbasqueskola.eus

AN INITIAL CHALLENGE: USES OF TIME, CONCILIATION IN POLITICS

One of the challenges that VWBasqueskola works on is to reflect on uses of time and the cost it has for women.  To reinforce this debate there will be a Seminar on 14 July in Vitoria-Gasteiz, aimed at all Basque elected representatives, and for which the expert participation of Soledad Murillo is confirmed, Professor of Sociology at the University of Salamanca, member of the United Nations (CEDAW) and holder of the first post in Government (2004-08) responsible for the Law on Equality and the Law against Gender-based Violence.

The aim of this session is to present and debate on measures already being implemented in municipalities, and which have a positive impact on the organisation of time in local politics. Via the exchange of experiences and real cases, reference models will be extracted that may lead to best practices applicable across Basque Local Councils as a whole.