[Brussels, 5 July 2017] In the beginning of June, we organised our annual General Assembly meeting in Brussels, a moment where nearly 100 feminist activists from across Europe come together to discuss our collective work. This year, we extended the meeting with a few days of strategising; meetings of working groups and a we marked 20 years of action of the Observatory on Violence against women under the slogan ’Loud & United’ to end violence against women and girls. The European Women’s Forum, as we called the 5 day event, was bursting with feminist energy and set out action plans for tackling key women’s rights and gender equality issues in Europe during 2017-2018.
We were very lucky to welcome two special guests: globally recognised American feminist and activist Gloria Steinem and the European Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans.
On the morning of June 8th, Google Europe hosted an intimate conversation between Joanna Maycock and Gloria Steinem, as part of Google@Thought, a series of events that brings inspiring thinkers to share experiences and views with invited guests in Brussels. Through the dialogue with Gloria, which followed a participatory "talking circle" methodology, an audience of Google employees, policy makers, and CSO leaders, explored the topic of activism in an era of technology and its impact on social engagement. The circle methodology enabled many participants to share their personal stories of fighting sexism and oppression in the workplace, and wanting true freedom and equality for their daughters and sons.
Loud and United
The highlight of the European Women’s Forum was, a public event followed by a demonstration “Loud and United" to end violence against women and girls”. You can read the Press Release on the event here, with translations into French, Portuguese, Romanian and Polish.
Watch our video "Loud and United to end violence against women and girls"
Find some great press coverage and articles by member and partners on the events here:
- The Guardian
- Blogger Sister Outrider
- The European Green Journal
- Elle France
- MO magazine interview Gloria Steinem & on #LoudUnited march
- Brussels Express
- Metro FR
- News RTBF - Belgian TV
- Tribuna Feminista
- Expresso Portuguese media
- Nederlandse Vrouwenraad
On the occasion of the Forum, we created a factsheet on the continuum of violence against women and girls, based on the contribution of the experts of the EWL Observatory on violence against women.
Meeting Frans Timmermans
First Vice-President Timmermans came to talk with us about the rise of populist movements and its impact on women’s rights in Europe. He heard from many of our members about some of the key issues women face in their own regions and environments, from the attacks on civil society in Hungary to the rise of far right political movements and narratives in Germany, France and elsewhere, and abortion rights for women. We asked him questions about gender budgeting, poverty, the EU’s commitment to equality between women and men. He invited us to be "whistleblowers" on women’s rights issues, and we will definitely take him up on that invitation! Gloria shared her impressions from the days she spent with the EWL in Brussels and left us with a message of hope that together we are stronger and can achieve change.
The rest of the agenda was packed with exciting discussions; EWL members unanimously adopted our first ever members’ engagement strategy. The General Assembly also adopted seven new emergency motions presented by different EWL members, which are: a call for solidarity against sexual apartheid in sports, presented by the French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby (La CLEF); an urgent call to repeal the UK ‘Family Cap’ and ‘Rape Clause’, from the UK Joint Committee on Women; a call for solidarity with abused Romanian women farm workers in Ragusa, Italy, from the Romanian Women’s Lobby; a motion to have an EWL feminist definition of and vision for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), presented by the Bulgarian Women’s Lobby; a request to set up a Task Force against pornography, from the Swedish Women’s Lobby; a call against Europe normalising prostitution for migrant and refugee women from the European Network of Migrant Women (ENOMW); and a call to act on obstetric violence in the Czech Republic presented by the Czech Women´s Lobby. Members also heard updates about the EWL’s achievements and highlights over the last year.
Working groups and structures
During the 5 days EWL’s different working structures also met. The Observatory on Violence Against Women had a fruitful meeting around the EU’s decision to sign the Istanbul Convention. The Feminist Economics Working Group meeting is covered in this storify article by EWL Irish Board member Emma Ritch. Furthermore there were meetings of the Task Force on East Central European, Baltic and Balkan States, read this article by Borbála Juhász of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby the Women in Politics Working Group, with an article by Katerina Hodicka, Czech Women’s Lobby, and the Youth4Abolition group, read also a blogpost by an activist member of the group, Nikki.
We presented our Work Programme for 2018 which was unanimously adopted by our members, and we got a chance to elect two new Board Members and alternates for the vacant seats on our Board from Spain, Poland and Germany; welcome to our new board members Małgorzata Tarasiewicz (Poland) and Maria Teresa Nevado Bueno (Spain), and our new alternates Julia Gierczak (Poland), Rosa Maria Fernandez Sansa (Spain) and Lisi Maier (Germany). And of course there was our usual singing and dancing during our members’ dinner - thank you everyone for being part of this amazing European Women’s Forum!
Thanks to our sponsors Kering Foundation, Google, NOVO Foundation, City of Brussels, and the European Commission.