After years working on women’s rights in Africa and Asia, Joanna joined the European Women’s Lobby in 2014 during an eventful and exciting time for Europe and for women’s rights, with a rising mobilisation of women and girls demanding their rights globally and in Europe.
In a moment when Europe had stopped progressing on women’s rights through a combination of complacency, a lack of political will, Euroscepticism and deeply ingrained gender stereotypes exacerbated by austerity and at the beginning of the now well-known backlash on women’s rights, Joanna fought to foster the structural and transformational change needed to enact a major power shift and stir policies and actions towards women’s equality.
In the past seven years, the European Women’s Lobby has grown stronger and stronger, together with the members, we were successful in impacting a wide range of political struggles, keeping women’s rights at the heart of the EU political agenda and always several steps ahead of the political currents.
During the leadership of Joanna, EWL successfully worked for legislation and funding to combat male violence against women and girls, especially campaigning for the Istanbul convention at national and international level. We are now setting the path for legislative measures and are pushing for a European Directive to end all forms of violence against women and girls including online violence and sexual exploitation. The work that the EWL has done to understand and demand action to combat cyber violence against women and girls has been at the forefront of action at European and national level.
EWL members across Europe continued our work to end sexual exploitation, trafficking and the violent system of prostitution by building campaigns and the recognition of the Nordic model at national European and international level.
We have developed principles and recommendations for feminist sexuality education, which is urgently needed today with the hyper sexualisation of girls and women and the widespread availability and access to violent pornography.
We brought decades of expertise and work to develop a vision of a feminist economy for Europe through our Purple Pact, which is a roadmap for transforming our economies by reforming public spending, taxation and social protection systems. We are calling for measures to tackle structural discrimination of women in paid and unpaid work so that we can end poverty pay and pension gaps.
We have fought for stronger institutional mechanisms for gender equality including demanding more women in decision-making and strengthened gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting.
Joanna leaves EWL witnessing a woman president of the European Commission and a gender equal Commission, as well as 40% women in the European Parliament. This does make a difference.
While contributing to this change, Joanna always realised that sharing power with others is key to building ever stronger movements for change. She harnessed cooperation with the members of the European Women’s Lobby, exchanging passion and expertise with them to advance the cause for women’s rights in Europe and ensure that the voices of women from throughout Europe are brought into the European decision-making processes.
Joanna was also highly esteemed by our partners in the European Commission, European Parliament and member states, as well as colleagues from civil society, foundations and think tanks. Her credibility among them has certainly contributed to building an ever stronger reputation for EWL as a credible, reliable and essential stakeholder and ally, when it comes to advancing women’s rights.
Joanna brought a fresh approach to her colleagues in the secretariat, working hard to build a professional, feminist, and compassionate team rooted in sisterhood and solidarity for our collective efforts, and a passion for the values and vision of the European Women’s Lobby. She led the Secretariat through the past year and a half of the pandemic, fostering resilience, sisterhood and teamwork, and inspiring great strength while never forgetting empathy and care.
Among the objectives Joanna had particularly at heart was to include and engage with young feminists. She encouraged the connection between the vibrant movement of younger feminists that had been growing and mobilising over the past decade and the European Women’s Lobby through various programs. The young women’s feminist summer school the Agora and Generation Abolition, which was incubated within EWL laid the basis for young feminists to grow a confident voice and achieve impact, learning from our members and from the work of the European Women’s Lobby.
Joanna’s fierce determination to raise awareness and seek solutions to women’s poverty and the burden of care intensified during the Covid emergency, as she and our colleagues denounced the so-called silent pandemic of violence against women and girls in the main international fora and contributed to a louder public conversation about the discrimination and disadvantages experienced by women.
In parallel, the past seven years have been key to understanding and rasing awareness of the disproportionate burden carried by minority women, lesbian women, women with disabilities, women of colour, Roma women, younger and older women, violence survivors, survivors of prostitution. Under Joanna’s guidance, the EWL fought to look for ways to lift the barriers to their full participation in European political life, to bring the diverse voices and perspectives of women to be heard by decision-makers and into the public discourse.
Having catalysed all these collective achievements, Joanna has been an incredibly motivating leader for EWL and her inspiring spirit will be deeply missed. Nonetheless, she leaves the organisation and her future successor with an encouraging message of hope:
“Mainly today I feel hope because the Europe we want to build is the Europe that we are building together: a feminist Europe that puts care for self, others and the planet at its centre. A Europe where all women and girls live free from violence and where their voice opinions and contributions are valid. This Europe is closer. The just feminist transition that we need is closer and the pandemic has helped in some way to show that the systemic change is imperative. Women are louder more organised more powerful than ever before and the European women’s lobby is a more powerful and connected movement to act loud and united with our allies to ensure the future of Europe is feminist!”.