EU 1979: A People’s Parliament

A Digital Art Exhibition on Democracy, Human Rights and Women’s Political Participation


EU 1979: A People’s Parliament – Democracy, Human Rights and Women’s Political Participation is a European art-based project using creative processes of film, a feminist framework and online digital resources to remember the first 1979 European parliamentary elections through a celebration of the stories and names of the 67 powerful women MEP’s elected at that time.  

Out of the 410 MEP’s elected in the 1979 European parliamentary elections by universal suffrage, 67 (16%) were women with 2 women MEP’s from Belgium, 5 from Denmark, 12 from Germany, 18 from France, 2 from Ireland, 11 from Italy, 1 from Luxemburg, 5 from The Netherlands and 11 from the United Kingdom. 

A key moment was the election of French woman Simone Veil (1927-2017) as the European parliament’s first president on 17 July 1979. She was a French lawyer, politician, feminist and holocaust survivor and a woman who fully embodied the deep values and profound historical reasons for the European integration project. In her eyes, the construction of Europe was the only way to avoid repeating the horrors of the past. She had been firmly convinced of this since her return from the camps at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen in May 1945. She survived through courage and determination and began her career as a magistrate in 1974 going on to become the most celebrated and popular female politician in France serving as Minister for Health and then as first President of the European parliament.

The last generation of survivors and witnesses from the Holocaust are disappearing and it is essential that we continue to find ways to ensure that learning and education on the Holocaust continues. A key aim is to show, through stories such as that of Simone Veil,  how the historical roots to the EU lie in the Second World War as Europeans are determined to prevent the atrocities, killing and destruction from ever happening again.  

In 1979, the introduction of direct popular elections marked an important step in the life of the European Parliament.  The 1979 European elections were the first parliamentary elections held across 9 European Community member states in which over 110 million citizens of Europe voted, electing 410 MEPs.  The parliament was elected by universal suffrage and these elections were the first world-wide international elections in history thus  becoming the first international parliamentary assembly elected directly by the people of its member states. 

This project remembers and celebrates the 67 powerful women MEPs elected to the 1979 European parliament.  The names and stories of all 67 women elected to the European parliament in 1979 will be acknowledged as trail blazing role models to inspire future generations. The stories are used to create EU: 1979, an online exhibition featuring a digital map and showing through creative visual design, information on the 1979 European elections, biographies of the 67 powerful women MEPs elected and contributions from male and female MEP’s today from Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

The Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law,  and was set up to ensure an end to  fascism, dictatorships and war. By remembering and celebrating the contribution of 67 powerful women MEP’s to the 1979 European elections, this project highlights the important role of the EU in promoting democracy, human rights and equality for all, as well as recognising the significant role the EU has played in the promotion of women in political life both at national and EU levels.

A series of EU Inspiration Days are conducted in each partner country with diverse groups to showcase the EU: 1979 online exhibition and film, highlighting how the EU was founded with its roots in WWII and the Holocaust, the history and importance of the 1979 first European parliamentary elections by universal suffrage and the role of the EU today to promote co-operation, democracy, equality, peace and human rights for all. The project culminates in an international conference in Dublin, Ireland. A total of 380, 316 citizens are reached by the project. 

The project isco-funded by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union and the four European partners are Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company (lead partner), Ireland,; St Dona Daria, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, University of Hannover, Germany and Francais Pour L’Insertion Sociale et Professionnelle en Europe, Paris, France.


Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality

The Smashing Times International Centre for the Arts and Equality, incorporating Smashing Times Theatre and Film Company and Smashing Times Youth Arts Ensemble, is dedicated to the promotion, study and practice of the arts, human rights, climate justice and gender equality.  Smashing Times is an international organisation working with artists and communities to create collaborative art practice in local, national, European and international settings. Our mission is to lead the development of the arts to promote and advance equality and human rights and to connect citizens to the arts, human rights, climate justice and gender equality.  The centre operates as a world class arts space and digital hub for artists, citizens, communities and the general public across Ireland, Northern Ireland and internationally. Core services consist of membership, resources, advice and the implementation of a range of innovative projects promoting professional and collaborative arts practice and a youth arts Ensemble. The centre promotes membership, networking, training, mentoring, guidance, support and advocacy in relation to using high quality creative processes, collaborative arts practice, research and new digital technologies to promote equality and human rights for all.

Led by Director Mary Moynihan and producer Freda Manweiler, the centre produces an annual inter-disciplinary arts programme with a focus on cultural engagement, economic and international development, tourism, education and new digital technologies. All artistic mediums are supported with a focus on the performing and collaborative arts including theatre, film, visual arts, dance and music. With its global reputation for excellence, and its history running arts and human rights-based projects both nationally and internationally, Smashing Times draws upon its vast experience in the creation of this innovative space.

Dona Daria, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Dona Daria is a centre of expertise for emancipation, participation and social inclusion based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  Dona Daria works on a national and international basis and was established in 2006 through a merger of six organisations with different cultural roots. Because of this merger, the organization has a diverse network of citizens that work independently and on a voluntary basis on themes of gender equality and inclusion.  Dona Daria works with a range of hard to reach groups including people from areas experiencing social and economic disadvantage and with victim of domestic violence or child abuse. We work with different target groups, we advise  government, we train and coach both governmental and non-governmental professionals in the social domain and we develop empowerment programs for citizens. Dona Daria specialise in dissemination of working materials related to inclusive practices and produce creative campaigns and training to raise awareness of gender equality for all.

University of Hannover, Germany

The University of Hannover has over 21,000 students and 1,300 staff.  The Civic Education Research Group is a key part of the university and enables both young people and adults to acquire key skills and competences necessary for active citizenship and participation at all levels of social and political life. The research group offers a wide range of teacher in-service and induction trainings covering all aspects of citizenship education in teaching and learning. The trainings are offered at university-level to students as well as on a national and European level.  The Research Group has a strong record in developing innovative approaches to teaching and learning, including various projects that apply, adapt and test – in concrete learning situations – tools and policy approaches.  The Research Group consist of 14 researchers and practitioners who focus on identifying and developing the integration of the European dimension in teaching and learning.

Francais Pour L’Insertion Sociale et Professionnelle en Europe (FISPE), Paris, France.

FISPE is a non-profit organization working with migrants and refugees in Paris enabling them to learn the relevant language skills to be able to work and live a normal social life. The company promotes the  social and professional integration of migrants from Europe and elsewhere through an introduction to the French language using a holistic approach and an empowerment process orientated towards the needs and goals of the learners themselves in order to prepare people to be both both, actor and author, of their own lives. Fispe has developed a network of local partners who they collaborate with closely and in addition to providing language learning and support servies for refugees and migrants the company conducts training with other organisations involved in community engagment and presents a series of cultural activities for all learners.  The company’s approach is centered on diversity in learning through empowerment and authorship.