[Brussels, 26 June 2018] From 6 to 9 June, EWL members came together in Brussels for our annual European Women’s Forum, which gathers over 100 feminist activists and members for four days of strategising, learning and mobilising for women’s rights. The timing of the Forum was particularly crucial this year as it took place less than two weeks after the European Elections, giving us an important opportunity to work together to advocate and campaign for a feminist Europe.
The flagship event of our European Women’s Forum was the public event held on 6 June on ‘Making Europe Work for Women’. We were honoured to receive five amazing women alongside our members to engage in crucial discussions with our members and the audience on how we ensure that Europe works for women in the next five years. EWL President Gwendoline Lefebvre opened the event and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, former French Minister of women’s rights, introduced the discussion by telling us about her own experience in French politics and the difficulty of getting the topic of women’s equality on the political agenda. She also shared her thoughts on the importance of feminist alliances to change the patriarchal structures at all levels. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem then joined a panel of speakers with soprano and concert singer and activist Ms Barbara Hendricks, Adviser to European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Ms. Monika Ladmanová, MEP Frances Fitzgerald and MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen. The discussion was moderated by Joanna Maycock, EWL Secretary General, and the panelists talked about what has already been achieved for women’s rights at the European level, while also exchanging on the challenges left and how we can overcome them together. EWL’s Vice-President Ana Sofia Fernandes concluded the event by highlighting the importance of gender mainstreaming at all levels to improve all women’s rights in Europe.
Check out some pictures of the event in our Flickr album by photographer Lyse Ishimwe by clicking on the picture below:
The European Women’s Forum also included a meeting of the EWL Board and our annual General Assembly and meetings of several EWL working structures.
Our General Assembly took place over 1,5 days where our members planned, discussed and exchanged on EWL’s collective work and our strategies for 2020. We spent half a day reviewing our 2016-2020 Strategic Framework ‘Together for a Feminist Europe’, exploring our progress against our aims and our priorities for the next period. We held elections for vacant seats on the Board of EWLand we are pleased to welcome new members on our board: Sylvie Lausberg as Alternate Board Member for Belgium, Ellen Calmon as Board Member and Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir as Alternate Board Member for Iceland, and Marie Therese Cuschieri as Board Member and Lorraine Spiteri as Alternate Board Member for Malta.
During our Assembly, EWL Members adopted our work programme for 2020, which includes continuing to campaign for the demands laid out in the EWL Manifesto for the European elections, especially on our call for a political strategy for equality between women and men and parity in all EU institutions. To reinforce this work, members spent time at the Assembly devising key actions and strategies for the upcoming months to ensure women’s rights are prioritised at all levels of the EU institutions. The General Assembly also approved changes to EWL’s Internal Rules, including one addition that guarantees continued full membership of existing members even if the country they represent changes its formal relation with the EU, hence protecting our UK National Coordination’s membership in EWL in the context of Brexit. 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 position on a number of issues that are of strong importance to women’s rights and EWL, specifically on: the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by the Czech Republic, actions against legislative threats against women’s rights in Italy and in others EU Countries, green ecological transition and women, revise and reform the EWL’s membership fee payment policy, and reproductive health and rights in Northern Ireland.
After the General Assembly, we also held meetings of different thematic EWL working groups. The Women in Politics Working Group, gathering around 40 EWL members from across our National Coordinations and European Wide Members, spent time reviewing our 50-50 campaign, its success and lessons learnt as well as planning the next steps in our ongoing work to advocate for equality between women and men following the elections. Our Feminist Economics Working Group, attended by 20 EWL members, met to discuss different key topics such as women in the digital space from a feminist socio-economic perspective and our upcoming ‘Purple Pact’ for a feminist socio-economic model for Europe. EWL’s Central Eastern European, Baltic and Balkan States Taskforce also gathered in Brussels during the same period, to review the work of the Taskforce so far, including its report on women’s rights in the region, and plan actions and activities for next year.
The European Women’s Forum were four days packed with meetings and discussions, but members also had a chance to get together informally, and take part in lively singing and dancing during our members’ dinners. It was an inspiring and hopeful programme, and members left Brussels energised and ready for the next steps. Thank you everyone for being part of this amazing European Women’s Forum!