Sabrina BELLOSI - Senior Communications expert
When people ask me what I do, my first reply is always: I try to showcase why the European Union is the best place to live on Earth and the best partner for good causes. To be honest, sometimes I see in the eyes of my interlocutors a glimpse of scepticism that makes me fear that I am not so good in doing my job.
I am journalist who has been in the last six years deeply committed to communicating the EU foreign policy in its complexity and in its – too often unfortunately - unrecognized impact on the daily life of so many people around the world. I would say the best synthesis of my aspirations date back to when I was young: witnessing historical moments and telling stories. I have been so lucky to fulfil those aspirations.
It is always difficult to measure or list personal achievements. I would prefer to talk of the greatest experience. And on this I’ve no doubt: the negotiations of the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, back in 2015. I had the privilege to follow the talks and to learn a lot from the women who led those negotiations on the EEAS side and to team up with wonderful female colleagues in managing the communication around it.
Again, this is something for others to say. But to me, my greatest strength is patience. It is the capacity to climb a high mountain one step at a time without getting discouraged, to tackle a problem piece after piece, trying to find a common ground even when it takes time and endurance.
When I was a journalist, my biggest challenge has always been to try and defend the quality of information as the backbone of any democracy. As a communicator, it has been and still it is to convince colleagues and hierarchy that communication is deeply linked to policy, that these need to go together if you want to be effective. It is not a matter of good packaging, but of turning words into reality. You can put in place the best programme in the world but if you do not communicate it in the right way, it simply does not exist. And in the long term this undermines the effectiveness and credibility of our action.
As a woman? I hate to say it, since it sounds stereotypical, but the biggest challenge has been to strike a good work-family balance and to defend the right to have children, quite an ordinary fight for women while men seem to be entitled to have kids without any repercussion on their career.
During my first interview for a job, the boss of the company asked me if I had the intention to have kids. I was young and single, and my reply was: ‘Not for the moment, but yes. I hope it will happen’. I got offended at first. Almost humiliated. But then I thought that it was him humiliating himself with that question. By the way, I got the job and I had two kids a few years later.
It is the same advice I would give to any young woman. Don’t let anyone, especially a man, tell you what you can or cannot do.
And when you get what you want, don’t act and react like a man. Women are used to be patient, inclusive, to find compromises, to make the best out of even the most challenging situations. To be emphatic, sensitive, smiley when possible and stubborn when needed. Consider all these qualities as strengths, not weaknesses.
We all see how the coronavirus pandemic has deeply affected the whole world, with growing inequalities also when it comes to women’s rights, while old crises are still far to be solved. So there is much to do for women in diplomacy and they can make the difference.
The EEAS has clearly shown since its foundation a certain degree of courage in investing a lot in women at all levels, from the headquarters to the delegations, to civilian and military missions and operations. And I am sure that it will continue to be the case. Not out of the need to respect quotas, but out of vision. Women in diplomacy and in mediation have proven to be quite effective so I hope that ‘quotas’ will not be needed anymore and very soon.
I think that the time has come for women to have the place they deserve in the economic, social and cultural reconstruction globally. Not as a kind concession but as a new normal.