Strengthening the Role of Women in the Neighbourhood
Cooperation to achieve gender equality
Equality between men and women is a fundamental right in the Charter of Human Rights, and is a fundamental value of the EU’s Founding Treaties and the Lisbon Treaty.
The promotion and protection of women’s rights figures highly in the EU’s external policy. In line with this commitment, in June 2010 the Foreign Affairs Council adopted the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development for the period 2010-2015, underlining that: “The EU reiterates its strong commitment to gender equality as a human right, a question of social justice and a core value of the EU development policy.”
This action plan aims to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular on gender equality and maternal health, as well as to work towards other international development goals related to gender equality. Indeed, figures show that thanks to the plan, EU Delegations and Member States are putting in place new procedures to ensure that gender issues are systematically taken into account; both in their policy making and, frequently, also in their budget support programmes.
This commitment was underlined on International Women’s Day last year, in a joint statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and European Commissioner for Justice Viviane Reding: “Equality between women and men is a fundamental right, a common value of the EU and a necessary condition for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth within the EU as well as a key principle in its external action.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs, who stressed in his statement: “On this special day, I want to make it clear: there will be no human and economic development without a sound respect of women’s rights and conditions. This is a fundamental part of the development policy that I wish to champion, providing rights and security to these women.”
Strengthening the role of women in society is one of the key issues addressed by the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, with a pledge to take measures to achieve gender equality, preventing all forms of discrimination and ensuring the protection of the rights of women.
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort towards this end, underlined by the Conclusions adopted by Ministers of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) at the second Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society held in Marrakech on 11-12 November 2009.
Following on from the first Euro-Med Ministerial Conference on ‘Strengthening the Role of Women in Society’ in Istanbul in 2006, ministers in Marrakech spelled out the cornerstone of the policy, underlining the need for “actions at national, sub-regional and regional levels, targeted towards improving women’s status, strengthening the role of women in political, civil, social, economic and cultural life, and combating all forms of discrimination against women and girls”.
UfM Ministers stressed the need for “concrete measures”, outlining specific commitments in the three main areas of civil and political rights, economic rights, and cultural and social rights, and proposing to integrate gender equality as one of the priority project areas of the Union for the Mediterranean.
The promotion and protection of women’s rights is a key priority outlined in every national Action Plan, and is systematically discussed at bilateral level between the EU and its partner countries, with gender projects funded under the ENPI.
While the EU supports equality and gender issues mainly by programmes implemented directly with civil society, the most recent regional programme “Enhancing gender equality between men and women in the EuroMed region” (EGEP), which ended in 2011, introduced a governmental dimension by granting capacity building and training to governmental and paragovernmental bodies on gender equality, the fight against violence and the follow-up of the Istanbul process.
The 3-year €4.5 million programme had three main priorities: the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the strengthening of strategies on fighting gender-based violence against women, and support to the follow-up of the 2006 Istanbul Ministerial Conference.
In October 2010, the project issued a series of reports on women's rights and gender equality in eight countries of the Southern Mediterranean, which aim to provide actors and stakeholders with a baseline study of the situation in the region. The reports present an overview of ongoing reforms and dynamics in terms of women's civil and political rights with special emphasis on legal reforms, gender-based violence and political participation.
An ENPI Info Centre feature story, Combating discrimination and violence against women, draws attention to the work of the programme, while an interview highlights its main priorities.
(actions on the ground drawn from a 2011 EEAS special feature on gender equality action)
In Tunisia the EU deals specifically with promoting gender sensitive institutional and judicial reforms and active women’s participation in elections, as well as to fight against violation of human rights violations during the Arab Spring. This work is in cooperation with UN Women. The EEAS aims to support the activities of the Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocrates (AFTD) and the Association des Femmes Tunisienne pour la Recherche sur le Développement. The AFTD is an association which has the objective of defending the rights of women and promote equality in civil and political, social, economic and cultural affairs. There are further plans for the organisation of a regional conference gathering women of the Arab region.
An initiative titled ‘Spirit of Tahrir’ has been launched under the banner of the ENPI Global Allocation to Cultural Cooperation. The ‘Spirit of Tahrir’ project will look to contribute to raising awareness about the recent political upheavals in the country and to stress their importance for Egypt’s future through arts or other cultural means.
Another ongoing project is the partnership with Democracy Reporting International. This initiative, in support of civil society organisations, will help to create and foster links between civil society and civic interest groups that formed during last year’s protests. It will also work with Egyptian actors to support them in providing the Egyptian public with analysis on the political reforms that will be undertaken in the moths to come. Both women as a group and gender aspects overall are a cross-cutting dimension of the entire action.
The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDR) has been actively supporting the role of women’s activists and gender civil society organisations in the European Neighbourhood Policy by funding a wide range of actions across a variety of areas.
Projects in Egypt that are currently being supported include: supporting the causes of marginalised women, supporting women leadership and participation in elections, and enhancing marginalised women’s enjoyment of economic rights.
Women’s empowerment and social rights in Jordan is the focus of the strengthening the capacity of two ‘Village Business Incubators’, which promote rural women participation in the labour market.
In Jordan, the EIDHR has launched schemes focused on the prevention of any form of violence against women and girls, women’s political participation, non-discriminatory access to the labour market, and the establishment of a legal framework that would eliminate any form of discrimination against women.
(drawn from the EC’s 2011 Report on the Implementation of the Gender Action Plan)
The EU has completed the formulation of a €35 million sector budget programme supporting the implementation of the Agenda for the Equality between Women and Men adopted by the Moroccan government on 17 March 2011. The programme is part of broader EU support to the consolidation of democratic governance in the Mediterranean. The formulation took place in a unique historical moment, that of the Arab Spring and, in Morocco, of the announced constitutional reform which placed a particular emphasis on women's rights. The programme's main objectives include promoting a social, economic and political environment conducive to gender equality, contributing to mainstreaming gender in development policies and programmes, and strengthening the capacities of the national institutions in charge of implementing the Agenda for Equality. Support to the Ministry of Finance and line ministries to institutionalize gender responsive budgeting tools is also foreseen. Due to the relevance of this programme, gender equality and women's rights issues are treated in all the high level meetings concerning EU development cooperation in the country.
Every year since 2007, the European Commission's EuropeAid Directorate General has run an international children's drawing competition on gender equality. The aim of the competition, which is launched every year on International Women’s Day on 8 March, is to motivate children from the EU’s partner countries to take part in an exercise to raise awareness of the role of women in society.
In 2011, over 40,000 children aged between eight and ten, from 60 countries in seven regions – Africa, Asia, Caribbean, the Pacific, Latin America, Mediterranean, the Middle East and the European Neighbouring Countries of the EU – sent in their visions of how to make the world a fairer and more equal place. A nine-year-old from Algeria and an eight-year-old from Israel, were the winners for the Mediterranean and Middle East region. A nine-year-old Russian and a child from Kosovo were the winners for the EU neighbourhood countries region.
On Women’s Day 2011, EU Guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them were released in Arabic. The guidelines, which were adopted in December 2008, mark the EU's clear political commitment to treat the subject of women's rights as a priority Together with the 'EU Action Plan on gender equality and woman's empowerment in development' adopted in June 2010, the guidelines provide the main EU policy framework for cooperation with partner countries on gender issues.
EuropeAid Cooperation and Development: Gender webpage
EuropeAid fact sheet - International Women's Day 2012
European External Action Service – Euromed and Women
European External Action Service – Women’s Rights in EU External Policy
EEAS feature - In partnership with women: empowerment through action
EU and Gender Equality webpage
Enhancing Equality between Men and Women in the Euromed region fiche
Enhancing Equality between Men and Women in the Euromed region project website
ENPI Info Centre – Gender webpage
Gender Drawing Competition (EC-2011)
ENPI Info Centre – Photos on gender
ENPI Info Centre – gender publications
UfM Second Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society – Conclusions (Nov. 2009)
EEAS Istanbul Conference follow up webpage
EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development for the period 2010-2015 http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/genaff/115157.pdf
2011 Report on the Implementation of the Gender Action Plan
EU Toolkit on Mainstreaming Gender in development cooperation
Monitoring the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)-2007 http://www.enpi-info.eu/mainmed.php?id=45&id_type=9&lang_id=450&subject=12
EuropeAid Feature - Masarat - A journey through Palestinian women's lives
ENPI Info Centre feature: Combating discrimination and violence against women
ENPI Info Centre feature: Breaking the wall of silence
Culture and Communication, Key Factors for Changing Mentalities & Societies - Study by the Anna Lindh Foundation for the 2006 Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on ‘Equality of Opportunities’
Euromed Women’s Conference Barcelona + 10 (Nov. 2005)