Empowering women and girls

Empowering women and girls © European Union, 2018
Commissioner Neven Mimica © European Union, 2018

Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Co-operation and Development, explains that only a global movement will end violence against women and girls.

Violence against women and girls is omnipresent and persistent – affecting all nations, generations, and every corner of our societies. One in every three women – that’s one billion – have reportedly suffered violence or abuse in their lifetime. The real magnitude can easily be higher as we know that abuse is usually under-reported, thriving in silence. This is a global problem of immense proportions. And it is simply unacceptable!

What is the Spotlight Initiative?

This is why the European Union, in partnership with the United Nations, launched the ‘Spotlight Initiative’ last September. With €500 million of initial funding, this unprecedented joint action aims to cast light on violence against women and girls all around the world; women and girls trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation, those threatened with domestic and gender-based violence, femicide, and all forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM).

Such a bold display of partnership and resolve could not have come at a more significant moment. The recent #MeToo campaign has triggered a global chain reaction, emboldening millions of people – especially women – around the world to speak out and to inspire others, like the recent #TimesUp campaign. These highlight the sheer scale of this scourge, but also the strength and determination to put an end to violence and discrimination once and for all.

With the #SpotlightENDViolence we also want to spark a global movement. We want to work hand in hand with everyone from the grassroots levels to the highest offices: men and boys; women and girls, politicians and CEOs, survivors and activists. We have put our money where our mouth is, and now we’re calling on all partners to join us and help transform women’s lives to the better.

What will the Spotlight Initiative focus on?

Our ‘Spotlight Initiative’ will support concrete and targeted measures to eliminate all forms of violence. We will prioritise prevention, protection, and the provision of services, alongside broader efforts to ensure women’s economic empowerment and their participation in all aspects of society.

We need to debunk myths about gender that concern both women and men. Men and boys can both be part of the problem and make up the solution. We need to get them on board to maximise our impact. We need to address deep-seated cultural and societal norms that underpin the unequal treatment of women and girls.

Tackling inequalities

In many places, legal frameworks in favour of women are already in place. But when it comes to implementing the positive laws that have been passed, local customs and cultural or religious traditions often prevail. To take merely one example: despite female genital mutilation and cutting being illegal in almost all of the EU’s partner countries, it is still widely, and profoundly, practised.

So, while we must continue to close the gaps and inequalities in legislation where they exist, we also need to scale up our support for existing programmes, gain better evidence, and ensure women’s and girls’ access to justice. Most crucially, we need to shift deep-rooted mindsets and attitudes. While they sometimes may seem immovable, I am firmly convinced they are not.

BOTSWANA – ‘Enough is enough’

Boitumelo Joyce Ramphaleng, has five children and has experienced a horrible marriage.

“I tried by all means to make it a success. But there came a point when I realised that I might end up losing my life. I knew then that I had to make a change. Because life comes first. If you have children and they happen to experience such cruelty in a couple, they will end up copying what you are doing.

“There was a moment where I even thought that maybe I’d be better off dead. At the same time I thought of my children and how young they were….

“After the umpteenth violent quarrel, my husband broke my harm and I eventually decided to disappear. I took 20 pills and I ended up at the hospital where I remained for two weeks.”

She then met a lady.

“We were received with open arms at the Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter,” her daughter Agisanyang said. “And we started getting help. We were taken to a safe house, where we received help physically, emotionally and in all areas.”

In Botswana, two out of three women have experienced gender-based violence during their lifetime, which makes it a pressing human rights issue.

The EU is supporting local NGO Kagisano Women’s shelter to reach out with dramatised real life stories on national television and with messages of non-acceptance.

We need to start engaging all men and women, local leaders, teachers, the media, in our efforts to ensure a brighter, more equal and better society for all. In my role as European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, but also as a father, a grandfather, a colleague, and a feminist, I will do everything in my power to ensure that women and girls – who represent half the world’s population and half of its potential – have a voice and a choice. Join me!

Join us at the European Development Days 2018.
Follow the debate on social media: #EDD18 #shEDDs

Neven Mimica
Commissioner responsible for International Co-operation and Development
European Commission


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