/ Good policies need brave women!

Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger - ­­Deputy Chairwoman of the Management Board of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and former German Minister of Justice

Empowerment programme for politically active women

In Germany, women are still under-represented at almost all levels of politics. This gender imbalance extends all the way from the lower, voluntary levels of politics right up to the top. If you listen to women, you soon realise that they do not lack the motivation to assume political office. Women, including liberal women, are deterred from getting involved in politics for personal reasons, professional reasons and sometimes simply because they view politics as too ‘masculine’. They would also like to have access to active networks and a targeted mentoring programme because integration into informal structures and a knowledge of the unwritten rules are essential to a career in politics.

That’s where the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom Empowerment Programme comes in. It supports women who are actively involved in social or political causes with the courage to embrace change and good ideas for their local communities to step up onto the political stage.

Exchange and discussion with active women politicians are an important part of the programme.

The several-month programme is flanked by hard and soft skills training to help the women develop their professional and personal competences. It is also designed to provide inspiration and motivation through exclusive interaction with top-notch speakers and a mentor who is actively involved in politics for each participant.

The programme’s success has exceeded all expectations. Over one hundred women applied to participate in the first group. The 36 women who were selected travelled to Berlin in February 2020 for a four-day workshop. This was just the kick-off event, but then the COVID-19 pandemic arrived and the Empowerment Programme had to be put on hold. All further workshops and the commencement of the second group of the year were initially postponed. Then, as was the case for the rest of the education programme, alternative virtual training concepts were developed for the Empowerment Programme. In September and October we were able to hold presence workshops again with a stringent hygiene concept, and the second programme flight with another 23 women commenced. Then, when infection figures rocketed again in November, the programme switched back to virtual sessions until the end of the year. Many of the women taking part in the programme were suddenly confronted with major personal and political challenges as a result of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the majority of them remained motivated and committed to completing the programme. In many cases the interactions with mentors during lockdown were a positive and productive experience for both sides.