Job title: Empowerment educator
Lena Bielska is a certified WenDo trainer who works as a human rights educator with a focus on consent, anti-discrimination, and empowerment. As the founder and president of the HerStory foundation, she cooperates with the Women’s Rights Center in Wroclaw, where she conducts individual support processes for women who have faced violence and discrimination. For nearly ten years, she has actively worked in human rights activism, particularly in the field of women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. She gave up her academic career to dedicate herself to grassroots work in the fields of (anti-violence) education, empowerment, and therapeutic work. Lena currently works as a coach and provides therapeutic support for people who have experienced trauma, whether it be in the form of violence, minority stress, discrimination, and/ or exclusion. As a DO School Berlin scholarship holder in 2017 and the originator, producer, and host of Dirty Talks Night, Lena has run events that strengthen the voices and media visibility of women and others who are at risk of discrimination. In her work, she develops methods to work with people from post-traumatic stress communities and to support people in activism. She works with public institutions and non-governmental organizations in Poland and abroad. Currently, Lena is based in Wroclaw, Poland, and is studying psychotherapy and Gestalt training. In her free time, she trains in martial arts and plays musical instruments. Lena is a football enthusiast, a vegetarian, and a friend of animals.
The last five years of political and social changes in Poland have shown a significant increase in the oppression of women and minority groups. In political and media discourse, there has been a visible increase in hate speech against the LGBTQ+ communities, refugees, and women.
There are profound crises in the realms of human rights, democracy, and social justice. Perhaps due to this, there has also been an increase in activity from humans rights activists. People in activism often experience minority stress, oppression, violence, and discrimination themselves.
In the last few years of Lena’s activist work, she noticed that there was a lack of spaces in Poland dedicated to the support and development of activists and people experiencing some form of oppression. This often led to burnout in relation to activists, and the deepening of the crisis for discriminated groups.
This lack of support led Lena to work on the Activist Support Center in Wroclaw. It is important for her to strengthen activist skills and to identify potential among young people. It is important to strengthen the activist environment, to encourage people to broaden their sense of agency, and to change the difficult situations in Poland. Lena would like to reach a large group of people and help to begin their activist journey by aiding them in acting in local groups, providing educational support in writing projects, and connecting them with other people and organizations.
Over the next year, Lena will develop the Activist Support Center through three activities that she has already been working on in the past two years.
- Mentoring young activists in women's and LGBTQ+ rights in Wroclaw and smaller towns in various parts of Poland. This strengthens a new generation of activists by giving substantive support and aid in building teams, counteracting activist burnout, solving conflicts, project work, and therapeutic support.
- Developing and popularizing support groups. This medium is not currently popular in Poland, but it is an effective way to build group strength and empowerment in oppressed communities, to share experiences, to self-organize, and to work with trauma or minority stress.
- Hosting Dirty Talk Night events. These events strengthen stage skills and increase the visibility and ability of the experiences of marginalized people in public debate. The entire event is a coherent process run by Lena. It serves to nurture social relationships and connections. Lena believes that these are some of the most important goals for the near future.
Lena believes that this would be a great starting point for a difficult but incredible new chapter of Polish activism and the human rights movement. She believes in social relations and that change is possible. Her work and activism have helped previously silenced voices, which is why she wants to continue sharing her energy and strength with those who may feel weak due to oppression. She wants to extend a hand to young activists and support those who feel burnt out. Lena aims to stand by those against whom Poland has turned its back.