Ashley Fowler '14 leads workshop in Lithuania on LGBT issues
The political science and international studies double major is a Lumen Scholar studying the evolution of LGBT rights in parts of Europe.
Elon University senior Ashley Fowler traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania, during Winter Term 2014 to help organize and facilitate training for the Lithuanian Gay League.
Fowler worked with Aliona Polujanova, the volunteer coordinator for LGL, whose goal it is to educate and train members of the local community on LGBT* issues. The experience enhanced Fowler’s Lumen Prize project "Human Rights Norm Change: LGBT Rights in a Wider Europe."
The first day of training began with team building activities that encouraged participants get to know one another. The rest of the weekend focused on identity and values as they relate to activism.
Fowler, a director in the university's Center for Leadership, gave a presentation on the development of LGBT* rights in both Lithuania and Croatia, explaining how the two countries compare politically and socially on these issues. The presentation educated participants on the current situation for LGBT* people in Lithuania and also allowed them to ask any questions that they may have about the situation.
Fowler also helped facilitate several other activities throughout the training, explaining in more detail how leadership and personal identities and values relate to activism. Once participants better understood their own personal values, they were able to think more about what role they should take on as volunteers. Participants gained a better understanding of their own motivations for volunteering and how they could use their own skills and strengths to help advance the local LGBT* rights movement.
Several of the participants were coming from outside of Vilnius so this was their first exposure to LGL as an organization as well as to the larger LGBT* movement.
“Activities for the LGBT* community mostly happen in Vilnius, so this training was important for those coming from outside towns," said participant Elena Dapkūnaitė. "They were able to network with LGL staff members and other volunteers. They come from a more hostile and homophobic environment than we have here.”
Many participants indicated this was the first time that they were in a safe space where they could discuss LGBT* issues with others.
“I am honored to have been a part of the volunteer training hosted by LGL," Fowler said. "It was refreshing to meet so many people who were so eager to learn more about the LGBT* situation in Lithuania and how they can become more involved personally. I am excited to see how each person is able to use their own individual strengths to further the LGBT* rights movement in the future. The training left me feeling inspired and very hopeful for the future of not only LGL, but also Lithuania.”
- Story submitted by Stacey Rusterholz (Markham) ‘11, Student Life Fellow for Leadership