[Brussels, 30 September 2020] On 8 September, EWL members and staff came together for EWL’s annual General Assembly meeting. Even though the meeting had to take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our General Assembly was full of ideas, exchanges and solidarity.
Our annual General Assembly is an essential part of the democratic life of our network, bringing together delegates and observers from across EWL’s 48 full member organisations as well as a number of observers from our Supporting members, alongside staff from the EWL Secretariat in Brussels. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical General Assembly planned for early July in Paris was moved to an online meeting on 8 September, preceded by a virtual meeting of the Board of EWL on 7 September.
During a four-hour virtual General Assembly, over 120 members from across Europe and EWL staff met online to plan, discuss and exchange on EWL’s collective work and strategies for 2021. During her opening speech, EWL President Gwendoline Lefebvre welcomed everyone to what was an unusual setting for EWL members and staff, commending their tenacity and resilience during these challenging times, and expressing a shared wish that we can meet again in person in 2021. At the meeting, EWL’s Secretary General Joanna Maycock presented EWL’s report of activities of the last 12 months, which gave members a chance to reflect on and celebrate the collective work undertaken in the past year to advance the rights of women and girls in Europe within the context of a growing backlash and the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to disproportionately impact women and girls.
During the General Assembly, members discussed and approved EWL’s financial accounts for 2019 and planned budget for 2021. Members also reflected on and approved EWL’s Work Programme for 2021, which lays out our collective priorities for next year within EWL’s current Strategic Framework. Among the many priorities agreed, in 2021 we will continue to advocate for the full implementation and monitoring of the EU Strategy on Gender Equality; we will develop recommendations for a “Care Deal for Europe”; we will advocate for a comprehensive legal framework on male violence against women and girls; we will strengthen the visibility and voice of EWL members; and we will approve our next Strategic Framework.
Five new emergency motions were also adopted by the Assembly. These are put forward by EWL National Coordinations or European Wide Members, calling on EWL and its members to take actions and positions on a number of issues that are considered urgent by members. This year, members adopted five new motions – they are the following:
- The Swedish Women’s Lobby (SWL) called on EWL to step up its work against surrogacy and to work for a ban on all forms of surrogacy, in light of the growth of the reproductive industry and the recent debate on surrogacy. EWL will further work on a women’s rights based anti-surrogacy position in the European debate and offer a feminist alternative to conservative groups that oppose surrogacy on other grounds.
- The Network of the East-West Women (NEWW) in Poland called for a visible and immediate campaign at national level to counter the attacks against the Istanbul Convention. The Emergency Motion invites members in Poland, Turkey, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia to lead and work on a strategy for a visible campaign to achieve a more concrete political commitment at all levels.
- The EWL Coordination for Turkey urged EWL members to join forces to tackle women’s deepening poverty resulting from the COVID-19 crisis and to boost the understanding on feminist economics. We will work to make the Purple Pact more visible at local, national and EU level, in particular through trainings, in order to develop feminist models for recovery plans and to ensure they prioritise gender equality.
- The Lobby Europeo de Mujeres en Espana – LEM Espana called on EWL to act on three legislative projects (On Sexual Freedom, Protection of childhood and the Modification of the Education Law) in Spain which contain wording that causes confusion between sex and gender, which would have a negative impact on policies promoting women’s rights in Spain.
- The Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights demanded EWL for an urgent reaction to a recent study commissioned and published by the European Commission, “Legal gender recognition in the EU”, conflating gender and “gender identity” and therefore colliding with key principles of European law and International Conventions. Steps will be taken internally to progress on the issue and consult with external experts to look at next steps to ensure existing principles enshrined in EU and international law are upheld by the EU.
A review of EWL’s membership fee policy was also on the agenda, with a presentation by EWL’s Membership Committee on the research and analysis carried out over the last year. Members discussed the next steps in this process, with the aim to have a new membership fee policy approved by the GA in June 2021.
The meeting ended with a round of thank you’s to all the members and staff of EWL, with a special note from EWL’s Treasurer Annelies Pierrot Bults to our colleague Mary Ann Struthers who retired in the summer after nearly 18 years of dedicated service at the EWL Secretariat in Brussels. We miss you Mary Ann!
While COVID-19 left us physically separated this year, our virtual General Assembly reminded us of our strong collective feminist voices and our unwavering connection and solidarity. Until our next GA in June 2021, we will continue to advocate together for a Feminist Europe, with equality between women and men as a lived reality!