Un Women International Women's DayTo celebrate International Women’s Day 2016, we talked to the director of UN Women’s office in Brussels, Dagmar Schumacher, about reaching gender equality by 2030, the HeForShe campaign, and how Europe can lead the way in empowering women and girls

DSW: We are six months on from the agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals in New York last year in September 2015. How has gender equality and women’s empowerment been integrated into the goals?


Dagmar Schumacher
: The agreement on the new 2030 development agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals has been a key achievement. The new agenda holds the promise to transform our world for the better. It also clearly emphasizes the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment to achieve the sustainable development agenda.

Crucially, the SDGs include a standalone goal for gender equality – Goal 5 – as well as gender equality and women’s empowerment targets reflected across other goals. We have the comprehensive, transformative, stand-alone SDG 5 to achieve – not just promote – gender equality and empower all women and girls plus gender-sensitive targets in eleven other SDGs, ranging from poverty, health, education, food security to sustainable cities, as well as full and productive employment. Also, for the first time ending violence against women is part of the development agenda and its targets!

To illustrate the ambition of the new development agenda:

The SDGs envisage a world where gender equality is achieved, where a girl can be and do whatever she wants to be and do, and where women are able to participate equally in leadership across all areas of society. The SDGs hold the potential to be a game-changing agenda for women and girls and thus societies worldwide.

DSW: How can we make sure that the sustainable development agenda is realized and that the targets will be achieved by 2030?

DS: As our Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, would say: It’s all about implementation! The Agenda 2030 is anything but business as usual and Goal 5 in particular is loaded with possibilities. To achieve targets on gender equality, first of all, we must end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls. This would require removing discriminatory legislation as well as implementing laws that have already been passed. Moreover, we must eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual violence and other types of exploitation.

International Women's Day Un women

Goal 5 also talks about elimination of all harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. In this area we are already seeing countries beginning to adopt a very strong approach to fighting these practices. Goal 5 also recognizes unpaid care work. In many countries – in fact in all countries – women do the bulk of unpaid care work. The fact that countries have agreed to address this is truly a step forward. Moreover, the 2030 agenda also says that we must ensure women’s full and effective participation at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life. If we successfully address this, we can expect to see positive changes in many other domains as well.

Finally, Goal 5 calls for ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. With these provisions we now have a window of opportunity to progress, notwithstanding the challenges we face. Of course we also need to ensure that investment in gender equality is enhanced. Beyond increasing the amount of financing, including through official development assistance and domestic resources such as taxation, countries need to adopt policies that address the root causes and consequences of gender inequality and discrimination in all areas of life.

Women must participate fully in decision-making at all levels, and action should be taken to mainstream gender in national planning and budgeting processes.

DSW: UN Women launched the HeforShe movement to great fanfare in 2014. How has the campaign developed so far? As an organization, what are you particularly proud of with regards of this campaign?

h4s_dribbleDS: Be it through the HeForShe campaign, which has already galvanized citizens around the world to sign up to do their part for gender equality, or the policy and programme work, UN Women actively engages men and boys for women’s rights and gender equality. From the classroom to the streets, local leaders and everyday male champions are addressing violence against women and redefining masculine identities. It is impossible to name all events, actions and commitments that have been made by individuals, non-profit organisation, and the private sector under the HeForShe campaign.

Actually, the HeForShe movement is successful thanks to the innumerable events that have happened all around the globe during the past 17 months. For example, did you know that Mexican artists Magos&Limon produced a whole album in support of the HeForShe campaign? And also that all male Commissioners of the EU Commission have signed up to the campaign one year ago on International Women’s Day 2015?  As for the overall development of the HeForShe campaign UN Women has recently re-launched the HeForShe website. I invite everyone to sign the pledge for gender equality on that website and to thereby join the hundreds of thousands men that have already done so.

Moreover, UN Women presented the first HeForShe Parity Report during the World Economic Forum in Davos this past January. The report provides key data on the representation of women in the workforce and in leadership positions at ten of the world’s most prominent corporations whose CEOs have committed to be one of the ten Corporate IMPACT Champions under the HeForShe 10x10x10 initiative. The HeForShe Parity Report provides an important tool to measure commitments by these companies and it will inspire action from other employers.

DSW: Looking to the year ahead, what are the key priorities of the UN Women in Brussels? What will be the building blocks of your continued work with EU partners and stakeholders?

DS: The focus in 2016 will be on starting the implementation of the SDGs and the universality of the 2030 agenda. This means that the SDGs have to be implemented both internally within the 28 member states of the European Union as well as through external action.

The new Gender Action Plan for External Action and the Strategic Plan for Engagement on Gender Equality are important entry-points for this. In fact, everything that is currently on the agenda of EU stakeholders is connected to the 2030 development agenda: Migration, Climate Change, the future of development cooperation… Other priorities include the World Humanitarian Summit, the new High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment as well as the gender dimension of the refugee ‘crisis’.

DSW: Finally, as it is International Women’s Day, what three pro-women wishes would you like to see achieved in the next fifteen years?

The end of all discrimination against women and girls; the full implementation of the 2030 agenda and achieving Planet 50:50 by 2030!


Dagmar Schumacher is the Director of the UN Women Brussels Office. The office is responsible for liaising with EU institutions on joint advocacy, policy dialogue, and joint programming. Prior to joining UN Women, she worked at United Nations Volunteers (UNV) as well as with UNDP and the UN in Latin America, Vietnam and New York.

 For more information about DSW’s work on empowering women and girls, visit www.dsw.org. Make sure you join the International Women’s Day tweetchat today (March 8) from 15.00 CET to debate the way forward for women’s economic empowerment!

PALISTINE_OCTOBER_2012_ : (Photo by Graeme Robertson)