EU strategy towards a gender-equal world
JOSEP BORRELL and JUTTA URPILAINEN
In early 2020, Awa had just turned 15 years old when she heard that her marriage was being arranged. Escaping it seemed difficult, but Awa found the courage to defy her father’s decision.
Her small village in Mali had a committee for the prevention of early marriage, and she took her case to them.
The committee of respected people presented Awa’s father with all the arguments against early marriage, and managed to convince him.
It is to help the cause of young girls like Awa that the European Union (EU) supports this committee and many other related projects around the world.
Our goal as EU is for everyone to have the same power to shape society and their own lives.
Due to the significant setback that Covid-19 has brought on the global work on equality, and as we watch civil society organisations face shrinking civic and democratic space, stepping up in building a gender-equal world is more important than ever.
Awa’s story is similar to those of many girls around the world, who manage to gain control over their lives and stand up to gender-based inequalities.
They have a voice, they drive change and they have the EU by their side to support.
Because women’s rights are human rights and because gender equality is a non-negotiable value of the EU-it should be reflected in EU’s external action and in the design of all EU development programmes.
It is with EU support that Tufahah Amin, Aziza Al-Hassi and Amine Kashrouda developed an application for online education in Benghazi, and the Gaziantep Women Platform was launched last year, to help more women participate in Syria’s political process.
It is in the framework of the EU supported Digital2Equal initiative that 15,000 women in India will get training in hospitality skills and can improve their earnings.
The challenges to gender equality are as varied as the contexts in which they emerge, and call for context specific responses.
Through our education programmes, we aim to help more girls attend, learn and think of themselves as future drivers of change.
We believe that education is also one of the most powerful ways of putting an end to isolation and abuse, for there is no exit option without economic self-sufficiency.
We are embracing the notion of human security and integrating gender equality into our training programmes for EU crisis management operations.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the level of gender-based violence increased significantly and the EU partnered with the United Nations to offer shelters and helplines, and to give lifeline support to women’s grassroots organisations.
Yet beyond immediate action, we must remain aware of the challenges facing women in a shrinking labour market and shifting global economy. But challenges also bring opportunities.
We celebrate the fact that women are increasingly taking part in shaping global transformations, with new generations active in grassroots movements for a green and just transition democracy and inclusive societies.
Positive change is possible and the post-Covid-19 recovery must be an opportunity to address structural inequalities.
Underscoring women’s role in the green and digital transitions ahead is key. Change is still needed.
This year, it is 25 years since the Beijing Declaration on women’s rights and 20 years since UN Security Council Resolution 1,325 on women and peace and security were adopted.
While progress has been achieved since, not a single country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030.
Too many women still do not have access to resources, essential social services and equal power. The call for more action is therefore immediate.
The EU’s Gender Action Plan is not a paper exercise. It is a call for action, with concrete measures.
We want to empower more women and girls, in all their diversity, to be economic, political, or environmental actors and leaders. —Borrel is the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security. Jutta is the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships