This blog documents and summaries Kari Seeley’s first week on the AIM Overseas “Empowering Women in the 21st Century” program taught in Lisbon, Portugal which runs in the January university holidays!

Warm Welcome and Sunny Skies (Sunday 15 Jan, 2017)

I had been warned: Lisbon in winter is cold and possibly wet. Be prepared!

I’ve worked in the northern hemisphere during winter, so I’m used to dressing for snow and ice but I’ve never worked near the Mediterranean in winter, so I was not sure what to expect, other than ‘cold & wet.’ I had an umbrella in my hand luggage and another one in my suitcase. I had carried a heavy wool overcoat all the way from Adelaide in case. But to tell you the truth, I had wondered on more than one occasion during transits, if I should have left such a hefty and bulky item home. As the plane taxied into the Lisbon terminal I was very pleasantly surprised to see blue sky and sunshine. I probably should have left the coat home! After negotiating a long line at immigration, I headed outside to the rearranged pick-up point to await transport and Pedro (our guide) arrived with a smile and a warm welcome to Lisbon and a brief and informative tour of the city sights from the airport to the hostel. He even kindly lugged my (very heavy) suitcase up 2 flights of steep stairs to the hostel reception. Ahhh. Safely delivered to my ‘home’ for the next 3 weeks. Time for a quick foray through the ancient cobbled streets before heading back to meet our ISCTE hosts, my 20 fellow AIM students and my 3 roommates, grab some dinner and get some rest!

Encountering Lisbon (Monday 16 Jan, 2017)

ISCTE staff met us at the hostel and accompanied us to ISCTE – Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, via the Metro (one of the easiest ways to navigate this beautiful city – with a month pass that covers all metro trains, local buses and trams, and even ferries!). The first day on campus included the obligatory “café, classroom and campus” orientation and a formal welcome and introduction by the faculty coordinators and facilitators. We were then treated to an amazing lunch of typical Portuguese cuisine including ‘stone soup’, cod fish cakes and crème caramel, along with a glass of local red wine. With a ‘healthy glow’ to our cheeks (which, of course had nothing to do with the wine…!) we headed off to a tour of the Rua Augusta Arch overlooking the Praca do Comercio (Commercial Square) at the river front, and then on to the Lisbon Story Centre, situated under the colonnade on the eastern side of the Praca do Comercio. The audio tour of the Story Centre provided a self-guided promenade tour through hundreds of years of the fascinating history of Lisbon – including the Roman and Moorish influences on culture, architecture and commerce. The devastating 1755 earthquake, resultant tsunami and hundreds of subsequent earthquakes throughout that year, attracted international aid from England to assist with the rebuilding of this important Port city. The Marques de Pombal developed a grand plan of completely redesigning the city layout and, with English and royal patronage, oversaw the rebirth of Portugal from the ruins in a matter of months. His radical approach ensured that the citizen, the merchant and the bureaucrat took precedence over the crown, church and nobility. The grid layout and the allocation of areas for specific commercial enterprises was has served the city well for the last 260 years!

Leading The Way For Women’s Rights (Tuesday 17 Jan, 2017)

On Tuesday morning, Emira Danaj presented a history of the various waves of Feminism in all its many manifestations and contexts around the world, including Global North/South and Socialist/Post-Socialist political environments.

In the afternoon, we visited the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, situated in the Maria Alzira Lemos House of Associations, in the Monsanto region just outside of Lisbon. The House provides office and meeting space for various NGO’s working with, for and on behalf of women, promoting human rights and gender equality. This space provides a natural gathering point for collaboration and cross-pollination between 25 NGO’s, Government departments and local communities. The Platform provides research support for the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) in their various missions against violence against women and girls, human rights, economic equality, social justice and well-being. It also provides support for writing official Reports in accessible and easy-to-read formats.

Official capacities of the Platform include consultative status with the UN, monitoring compliance with the Global Women’s Rights program, providing recommendations to all stakeholders and Member States, and influencing the European Union agenda through the European Council, Parliament and Commission. Portuguese law requires 30% parliamentary participation by women. However, the practice has a very different outcome, with women being included on an election ticket, perhaps winning office, but then facing pressure to resign to allow the next in line (a male, of course) to take the consequent vacancy.

Citizenship and Gender Equality (Wednesday 18 Jan, 2017)

Pedro Vasconcelos provided an introductory overview of Gender Theory, Role Theory, Deconstructionist & Practice-based perspectives and Gender Structures and intersectionality. In the first instance role theory could explain the ‘what’ of gender inequality, but not the ‘why.’ The 3rd Wave of Feminism presents gender as a structural process and a political issue; a dynamic multiplicity of relationships which produce an asymmetrical distribution of value/capital/power.

Our field visit this afternoon was to the head office of the Commission for Citizenship & Gender Equality (CIG) which is responsible, among other things, for the development of public policies on gender equality and the reconciliation of professional, personal and public life. The organisation is directly responsible to the PM through the Council of Ministers (rather than being relegated to part of a single portfolio or Department). CIG coordinates National Plans on Gender Equality & Citizenship, Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which is criminalised. They mainstream gender equality at all levels through the strategic instruments of public policies at central, regional and local levels and facilitate inter-Ministerial dialogue. See www.cig.gov.pt for more on our visit to CIG.

On the way back “home” we dropped in to the Pastelaria Versailles – an institution in the local area, specialising in serving amazing pastries & coffee in a setting that remains unchanged since it first opened in 1922. This is a MUST SEE (and must partake) on any visit to Lisbon!. This is one experience you don’t want to hurry – just sit and soak up the elegance of a bygone era.

Out And About Around Lisbon (Thursday 19 Jan, 2017)

Emira Danaj was back again this morning to present a lecture on “Women, War & Peace.” She raised the idea that gender is weaponised by politicians, and that state structures are needed to combat both the visible and invisible constructs of society that enshrine power imbalance. We looked at gender, politics, nationalism, empowerment, agency and resources, and the classification of rape as a war crime. We watched a video entitled ‘I Came to Testify: Women, War & Peace – the case of Kosovo’

After such a heavy and disturbing session, we were glad for the opportunity to take a walking tour of Lisbon city which told the story of 6 women who had significant parts to play in the History of this fascinating city. The stories that our guide, Ines, shared included: a young actress who married an elderly King, but was never really accepted by society; a queen who established a shelter and charity that continues to this day (Santa Casa Misericordia de Lisboa) and a hospital with a dedicated Emergency Department, hundreds of years ahead of ‘modern medicine’; and a celebrated Fado singer who was admired for her forthright nature and flamboyant lifestyle.

The tour gave us both a strong sense of history and a sense of place, as we uncovered hidden gems around the city in backstreets and alley ways. It also provided some current context to the various areas established by the Marques de Pombal back in 1755 with the Moorish quarter, the various commercial areas, etc. Even today, different cultural and ethnic communities tend to congregate together in different parts of the city.

Measuring Inequality (Friday 20 Jan, 2017)

Renato Miguel Carmo and Ana Rita Matias, from the Observatory of Inequalities, presented a lecture on gender inequalities around the world and how to measure and analyse statistics. The 3 dimensions of inequality include ‘vital’ (life expectancy issues), ‘resources’ (income distribution) and ‘existential’ (freedom, recognition and respect). Our afternoon class time was taken up by developing our group assignment focus across 7 different dimensions of gender: gender (de)segregation, gender and work-life balance, the political role of women, gender and inequality, gender and migration, environment and gender, gender-based violence and human trafficking.

Experiencing Sintra (Saturday 21 Jan, 2017)

On our day trip to Sintra, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we visited the Pena National Palace which was the summer residence of the Portuguese monarchs throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries. We also visited the Quinta De Regaleira, an extraordinary palace and gardens built in the early 20th Century, with hidden underground passageways and curated gardens, waterways and towers:

Hey, I’m Kari Seeley. After several years working in the media industry, I decided to go to Uni (first time ever) to get qualified! In 2016 I finished my first year of a double degree – B.Media/B.Arts (Politics & International Studies) at The University of Adelaide, and am delighted with the opportunity to undertake the “Empowering Women in the 21st Century” course in Lisbon, Portugal. I’m also excited to have you along for the adventure, via this blog. :)