European Year for Development 2015 - women and girlsWhat a great start of the week! Not only did I have the chance to visit Riga, its beautiful old town and lovely people, and to see all my dear colleagues working on gender – it is such a small international community -, but I also got to attend as part of the European Year for Development 2015 the high level event on “Women’s empowerment and sustainable development – Post 2015 and Beijing +20: The synthesis for success” organised by the EU Latvian Presidency, which was a true success.

European Year for Development 2015 – women and girls

Firstly, not one but two Commissioners voiced their personal commitment to gender equality this year! Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, as well as Vice President of the European Commission called 2015 the “once in a generation opportunity” to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development called for a new implementable plan in the autumn, which should be more comprehensive and robust, more strategic, more focused on results and tailored to needs of the countries with in which the EU is working.

Secondly, as expected, everyone agreed that women’s empowerment is key to achieving sustainable development – or, as Mr Lapo Pistelli, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy put it, paraphrasing Bob Marley: “No woman, no growth”. In addition, almost all panellists throughout the day recognised the importance of removing barriers to gender equality: achieve universal access to and respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), end harmful traditional practices and violence against women and girls (early and forced marriage, FGMs, etc.), access and completion of quality education for women and girls, access to financial assets etc.

Best Practice

Thirdly, best practices on how to achieve this were shared: how to engage women in entrepreneurship and how to go beyond jargon such as mainstreaming – everywhere meaning often nowhere – to truly put gender at the heart of programmes and budgets. Dr. Caren Grown, Senior Director for Gender, World Bank explained, for example, how the Rio subway stations are now being redesigned taking into account lighting, emergency call stations, video cameras, among other things to reduce the number of incidents of violence against women.

Fourthly, as the evil is in the details, most of the discussions focussed on the need for concrete and measurable indicators, effective accountability mechanisms and the necessity of quality disaggregated data, which are critically lacking.

European Year for Development 2015 – Gender Action Plan

Finally, it was also an excellent opportunity for my colleague from the CONCORD Gender Working Group, Jessica Poh-Janrell, to present some of our recommendations on the next EU gender action plan (GAP) to Commissioner Mimica and other participants of the conference.

Overall, a great way to launch the month on women and girls of the European Year of Development, and an impressive major event for the EU Latvian presidency. Now let’s see how this translates into the new GAP, a draft of which is expected in the autumn.

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