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Workshop: Developing your Advocacy Skills with Elisabeth van der Steenhoven

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” That was merely one of the surprising claims made by Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, WIL’s guest speaker at the first workshop of this block. Elisabeth is the director of the European branch of the UN-accredited 'Arabic Network for Women's Rights KARAMA’. As a lobbyist, she centered the workshop around the theme ‘Advocacy’.

The workshop was divided into two parts. The first being an introduction session, while the second was an interactive exercise. At the beginning of the session, Elisabeth shared valuable insider information on how to lobby powerful institutions such as the UN and parliaments. “Speak louder! Be bold! Take tasks you’re not qualified for!” were some of the tips for women getting into the field of lobbying. Women shouldn’t behave if they want to move forward. They need to sometimes physically push their way through and make a lot of noise. Of course, it shouldn’t be empty noise. You have to think rationally and make politicians believe you have access to the newest information.

Elisabeth also stressed the importance of making alliances and cooperate with fellow women to get your message across. To efficiently promote a treaty, women from all over the world have to make alliances and act as a collective block.

By using her own work experience as an example, she provided practical tips and strategies on how to get your message across and gain attention in such a deafening environment. Some of the key tips included:

· Be creative

· Make yourself visible

· Be concrete and precise

· Involve media

· Keep politicians accountable and informed

For the second part of the workshop, the WIL members had to keep these tips in mind when conducting an exercise. The members were divided into four different groups of which each had to lobby a case by writing an email to a certain UN representative. The groups had 30 stressful minutes to employ Elisabeth’s tips and convince the given UN representative to support their case. At the end of the session, each email was presented and discussed to evaluate its efficacy.

Not only did the workshop provide basic facts and an overall guide to approaching lobbying, it also allowed the WIL members to get an insight into the real life of a lobbyist. The introduction and interactive sessions further enabled the members to gain practical, everyday tips, which could then be practiced via the email exercise. One last tip that Elisabeth was able to offer before the end of the workshop was the idea of morals. Just because you want to please policymakers for future collaboration doesn’t mean you should neglect your morals. “As a lobbyist, don’t comprise your morals. You’ll come to regret it.”

Blog post by: Anh Thu Nguyen

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