EWL News

Girls Can Inspire, Succeed & Thrive: the EWL at the European Week of Action for Girls

[Brussels, 23 October 2017] For the second year, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) has been a member of the European Week of Action for Girls, together with 7 other European and international human rights NGOs. The week has been a great success with the highlight of the week, the Girls Summit, being both inspirational and informative. Many other events and activities took place throughout the week; you can see below the full programme.

The EWL youth delegation was comprised of 5 young women, from EWL youth member organisations WAGGGS, YWCA and Young Medical Women. For us the week began with the screening of “Girl Unbound” at the Cinema Galeries in the centre of Brussels on Tuesday evening; a moving story of an inspirational athlete and her family that truly embodied the key themes of the week. During the reception, EWL youth delegates were able to network with the other EWAG youth delegates, and to exchange ideas with public attendees to the screening.

Inspiring and successful Girls Summit

The Girls Summit took place on Wednesday and was designed to facilitate the development of recommendations by participants and motivating delegates to be relayed to key decision-makers. The day started with encouraging opening remarks from moderator Kim Chakanetsa, journalist and presenter of The Conversation on the BBC World Service, followed by a keynote speech of Barbara Pesce Monteiro, Director of the United Nations in Brussels, and an inspiring call to action by Aline Zeler, captain of the Belgian national women’s football team, the Belgian Red Flames.

The summit included a panel discussion between Kim and a group of youth delegates from around the world. The inspirational panel included Sreypich Houen, a 16-year-old activist from Cambodia and member of World Vision Citizens voice; Motshedisi Likate, Founder of Beat She Can and Save the Children Girl Champion from South Africa; and the EWL delegate from our member YWCA, Ruxandra Diaconescu, board member of YWCA Romania. You can read Ruxandra’s speech for the Summit here.

It was clear that the benefits of intergenerational support are invaluable; nurturing the passions of young girls and thriving activists who make real change within their communities remains an important factor in helping girls to thrive and succeed. The summit then divided into three separate workshops focused on the specific topic that affects girls globally today: education, leadership, and ending violence against girls.

“Education develops the fullest potential in women and girls”
Antonella Azzilonna, EWL youth delegate, Volunteer at World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

Girls Summit speakers plenary

The Succeed workshop which tackled education discussed the reality of education saving the lives of girls and the sexist dimension of poverty that prevents girls from accessing education; the fact remains that over 130 million girls worldwide didn’t go to school today. The group developed recommendations regarding increased funding, improvement of the Global Partnership for Education, implementing systematic gender mainstreaming including through tackling sexist stereotypes, and expanding EU gender equality directive to the education and media sectors. The recommendations were relayed to the participants and decision makers through our Rapporteur and delegate from WAGGGS, Jemma Lee. Education is a right, not a privilege; there needs to be more political will to improve education systems and for dissemination in order to create awareness globally. You can read about Jemma’s experience at the Summit here.

Workshop Succeed

The Thrive workshop looked into protecting girls from violence; violence against girls remains prevalent globally with FGM, forced marriage and sexual violence as central issues for the discussion. The process of enabling girls to thrive when violence against girls remains such a large issue is indeed a challenge, so the group discussed facilitating the input of girls in political decision making and acquiring free, quality health and social care. Our delegate Sonia Adesara from Young Medical Women acted as Rapporteur and relayed recommendations such as temporary affirmative action, strong laws against male violence, changing social norms and the importance of safe spaces for girls to express their ideas on how to be protected to violence.

Lastly, the Inspire workshop focused on girls in positions of leadership and discussed how to ensure girls contribute to decision-making from an early age. The group discussed policies that tackle discrimination against girls and how to implement policies on equality. The EU should prioritise the participation of girls in the political sphere to ensure the realisation of women’s and girls’ political and civil rights. Mechanisms must be put in place to keep girls safe whilst they progress from empowered girls to women who lead change! Our delegate Krist Petraj Ziçishti was present at the workshop and you can read about her experiences in both the workshop and the entire Summit here.

“The EU should do more the create role models”
Irena Andrassy, Deputy Head of Cabinet for EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development

Having heard the recommendations from the EWAG coalition, presented by Aurore Guieu, Irena Andrassy, representing the EU institutions, committed to the increased focus, funding and dedication of the EU Commission to working to support girls to thrive and succeed. Andrassy emphasised the potential significance of the Spotlight Initiative – eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls recently initiated by the EU and UN.

Jobs for Girls workshop bring ideas!

The day concluded with two workshops on Jobs for Girls with keynote speakers EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager and MEP Assistant Lea Haas. Commissioner Vestager provided real insight into her own journey and connected with the participants on common ground with genuine and valuable insight in how to work toward becoming a woman in power making changes. To the girls in the room Vestager advised, if you want to engage in your society you have to overcome. She emphasised that you can always start small and begin to include others to so that girls can start making changes together. Lea Haas is head of the office of MEP Terry Reintke and shared her experience as a young woman working in politics, and more specifically in the European Parliament. Discussion with participants included the obstacles for women to engage in politics, the prevalent sexist culture of the political world, and the lack of prioritisation of women’s rights into political programmes. Several youth delegates shared their experience in their country, and got vitalised by Lea’s optimism and commitment!

The participants were then treated to a presentation by Manon Van Hoorebeke, Digital Girl of the year in 2014 and only 14 years old! Co-organised by EWL, Save the Children and the Digital Leadership Institute, the workshops provided a delegation of young girls from across Europe with valuable advice on how to become a woman in a leadership role, how to tackle gender stereotypes and how to pursue a career in the tech industry.

EWL #HerNetHerRights online conference

For EWL, another highlight of the Week was our online conference #HerNetHerRights, which took place on 13 October. More than 61 persons participated in this online event, which gathered decision-makers, activists, researchers, frontline workers, and EWL members, to discuss the scale of online violence against women and girls, and was to eradicate it. Visit our webpage #HerNetHerRights to find out more about the project and watch the online conference. Click here to get a fantastic summary of the online conference and the tweetchat, thanks to a Storify presentation. The blog #NewMediaActivism has also issued a dynamic article about the online conference; you can find it here. The blog #NewMediaActivism has also issued a dynamic article about the online conference; you can find it here.

The European Week of Action for Girls was certainly a success and the EWL was proud to take part and make sure that several EWL youth delegates were actively involved throughout the week. They all had the opportunity to engage at EU level, experience Brussels and to connect with each other in order to build a strong and inspiring network of women who will lead change in the future! You can find a short video of the Summit and more information about the events below.

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Loud and United to end violence against women and girls, European Women’s Lobby Conference, 6 December 2017, Brussels.

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