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My time as an ECDA Fellow for “Sievietei paveicās”- The Lucky Woman

Marta Kraujina

I have always liked stories and maybe that is why I have a bachelor’s degree in film and theater production. I thought that would be my career, but, nope, that did not happen. I knew I would like to be an activist; I knew I had this strong feeling of justice that I needed to channel into my work.

A photo of Marta Kraujina- Co-Founder of “Sievietei paveicās”
Marta Kraujina- Co-Founder of “Sievietei paveicās”

I became a communications specialist for a progressive party and I thought, this would be it. I worked for the party for three years. Those were three years filled with a lot of new people, ideas, and community. I did enjoy it, but in the end, I found myself in deep depression and struggling with burnout. I knew again that something was not working for me and that I must change something.

I think those few years in politics, even though there was a lot of good, took away my own, personal voice. I did not see myself being able to express my ideas about the issues in the country, I did not see how I would be able to do something for the people in this country. I knew I wanted to keep on telling stories – be it my stories, or other people's stories. I knew how storytelling can unite people.

On the side, I had the idea of “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”). It was an internet movement that I had started with my colleague two years ago. I kind of knew it had potential, but, my God, now I can really see it!

"Sievietei paveicās" (“The Lucky Woman”) started as an online movement that portrayed the inequality of women in public discussion. Discussions, panels, awards: sometimes it looks like some mystical plague has wiped out all women because they don't seem to exist. Be it the stock market or sustainability, the talking heads are men. Sometimes, a lucky woman manages to slip in a word. Now, we are an organization that stands against violence against women. We stand for gender equality and women's rights.

Stories of women. I wanted to tell them. At the time no organization had taken on this role as publicly, loudly, and visually as we are doing right now. And then the ECDA Fellowship came into the picture.

Remember - I am burning out and depressed. I know I must change something. There was this specific moment when I decided to quit my job and apply for the fellowship. I called David from ECDA and asked him what exactly the fellowship was about. I already had an idea about online community building, email list building for organizations, and other things that awaited me in the fellowship. To be completely honest, for me, a huge help was the fact that the fellow would receive a monthly stipend. So, I applied, got in, quit my job, and just went for it with the story of “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”).

Now we are in the 3rd and last month of the fellowship and it is hard to put into words what this opportunity has given me personally and to all the people who follow “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”). I think that this message I sent Mar Garcia, the Co-Director of ECDA, after the first fellowship meeting in Brussels encapsulates it perfectly:

“Hey, Mar! I just wanted to jump in here to tell you that I am grateful from the bottom of my heart for the fellowship. You & your team have given me personally an incredible empowerment. Like I can do this, I can fight for women's rights and there will be a community that will support me. Today at home I feel like I have gained the muscles of a bodybuilder. It is incredible. Thank you!!!”

And I still feel the same. Every day.

A live session of the ECDA Fellowship Program
ECDA Fellowship Program- live session

The first petition of “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”) was an open letter to the coalition in parliament. The open letter was about the need to ratify the Istanbul Convention (The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence). The government had promised to do it in 2023. It was already the beginning of November, and no ratification of the Istanbul Convention was in sight. So, we started this open letter. Afterward, we had a letter campaign where people wrote letters to MPs, asking them to ratify the convention. Each MP received around 300 letters. We had a silent auction where outside, in front of the Cabinet of Ministers we put pairs of shoes representing women who have been killed due to femicide in the last five years. We teamed up with other organizations and after a month of campaigning, the Istanbul Convention was ratified. I can’t and won’t take full responsibility for its ratification because there are people who have been standing for it for years, but I am sure that this last push was needed for it to happen.

This is all due to the fellowship; the skills that I have gained, the people that I have met, all who have been a part of the organization “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”), and the success of our first actual campaign. And what is most important for me – my happiness. I am doing what I love, with people who support me and my ideas.

I have a very good feeling about the future of “Sievietei paveicās” (“The Lucky Woman”). We have a growing community of supporters, we have smaller and bigger plans for campaigns, protests, and other actions. And it seems that people are engaging with the organization in the way that the fellowship taught us to communicate and mobilize. And if this is just the beginning of our story – I can’t even imagine what success awaits us in the future.

I am grateful for the ECDA Fellowship. I am grateful that they gave me tools to lift the community. I am grateful to have this never-ending feeling of purpose going through me.

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