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The Åland Islands Peace Institute

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AX-22100 Mariehamn, Åland, Finland
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Six Girl Group leaders from Baku, Azerbaijan and the chairwomen of the Azeri women’s organization Yuva had the chance, during a five-day study-visit from 13 to 17 October, to discuss the joys and challenges of working with Girl Groups with colleagues from Lithuania. With the support of its local Lithuanian partners the Åland Islands Peace Institute organized the study-visit as part of the project “Open Doors”. The Peace Institute’s project staff Sarah Stephan and Justina Donielaite accompanied the visit.
Within Open Doors the Yuva has founded a youth center for girls in Baku, where currently ca. 10 Girl Group leaders are actively engaged in Girl Group activities. In Vilnius they participated together with three colleagues from Kaliningrad/Russia in a deepening training led by trainers Ruta Zitkiene and Daiva Sabuniene.

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The study visit also included a visit to kindergarten and youth center Nendre and Missing Persons’ Families’ Support Center in Vilnius as well as Kaunas’ Girl Center and to the association Trinus in Kaunas. Trinus was founded recently by two Boy Group leaders with the goal to establish a more active network of youth workers across Lithuania working with a gender perspective. In Kaunas the group also visited one of the city’s youth clubs run by the youth organization Patria. The study visit ended with a visit to the European Institute for Gender Equality and a presentation of the European Gender Equality Index and the Institute’s gender equality databases. 
Especially the meetings with the Girl Group leaders at Nendre and the Boy Group leaders in Kaunas were much appreciated by the participants from Azerbaijan as these bore much inspiration with respect to challenges such as group dynamics and conflict management. There is a very active circle of Girl and Boy Group leaders in Lithuania, where the method is used in marginalized contexts in particular, in cities as well as rural areas. The goal of the study visit was, among others, to create opportunities for networking among the Peace Institute’s partners in Eastern Europe. The long-term goal is to be able to create regular network meetings and method symposia as living fora for the exchange of experiences.