[Brussels, 29 June 2021] From 4-7 June 2021, the European Women’s Lobby held its annual General Assembly, the second to be held online in EWL’s herstory.
Our annual General Assembly is an essential part of the democratic life of our network. It brings together representatives from across EWL’s 48 full member organisations and our supporting member organisations, alongside staff from the EWL Secretariat in Brussels, to reflect on and plan our work together. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that, again this year, we had to organise our meetings virtually. The General Assembly took place over two days on 5-6 June. It was preceded and followed by meetings of the EWL Board too. It was a packed agenda!
During the General Assembly, over 130 EWL members and staff exchanged on EWL’s collective work and strategies for 2022. Our President at the time, Gwendoline Lefebvre opened the General Assembly, welcoming everyone to what we hope is our last GA online. EWL’s Secretary General Joanna Maycock presented EWL’s report of activities since our last General Assembly. This was a chance for us all to look back on and celebrate the collective work undertaken in the past year in sometimes challenging circumstances and within the context of a growing backlash against women’s rights. Watch this little video capturing EWL‘s online reality in the last year!
At the General Assembly, members discussed and approved EWL’s financial accounts for 2020 and the proposed EWL budget for 2022, as well as the proposed Work Programme for 2022. In 2022 our collective focus will be on:
- the implementation and monitoring of commitments in the EU Strategy on Gender Equality, gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in the EU budgets and recovery funds;
- developing recommendations and advocating for a “Care Deal for Europe”, building on EWL’s ‘Purple Pact’;
- continue advocating for a comprehensive legal framework on male violence against women and girls, particularly towards an EU Directive on all forms of VAWG, including sexual exploitation and online violence.
EWL’s General Assembly was also invited to vote on three Emergency motions proposed by EWL members ahead of the meeting, following the agreed procedures. Emergency motions 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. EWL members accepted the following three Emergency motions:
- The EWL Belgian Coordination called on EWL to stand with their Ukrainian sisters who are facing outbursts of violence, and to put pressure on national governments and EU institutions to act for peace and women’s human rights.
- The European Network for Migrant Women called on EWL to support lesbians across Europe and address the increasing violence and discrimination they face, through its programmatic work.
- The EWL Coordination for Turkey urged EWL to continue its strong mobilisation on the Istanbul Convention, in the current worrying context with Turkey’s decision to withdraw and other attacks in different State Parties. They ask EWL members to work together in overcoming the obstacles and upholding the Istanbul Convention.
The Swedish Women’s Lobby, in collaboration with the EWL Emergency Motions Committee, presented a statement on the need to stop the feminisation of poverty, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impacts on women across Europe. The statement was supported by 28 EWL full member organisations.
During the weekend, we had a chance to continue our discussions on EWL’s next Strategic Framework, which will be finalised by the end of 2021 and will lay down EWL’s strategic aims for the next five years. We also heard feedback and recommendations from the three workshops organised by EWL members (called Issue Groups) ahead of the General Assembly. They were the following:
- BPW Europe’s workshop on ‘European-wide organisations building synergies’
- Soroptimist International Europe’s workshop on ‘Restore and broaden the base for women’s human rights after Covid-19 in Europe’
- The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)’s workshop on ‘Ensuring the future of a feminist Europe: Increasing the participation of young women in EWL and its member organisations.’
EWL’s Membership Committee, composed of five EWL Board members, also presented their research, analysis and proposal for EWL’s next membership fee policy, which will be developed and agreed in the next 12 months.
This year, the General Assembly elected its new Board of Administration for the mandates 2021-2023. On 7 June, the newly elected Board members then met online to elect the new EWL President and Executive Committee for the mandates 2021-2023. You can read more about the EWL elections hereand meet our new President Réka Sáfrány in this article.
While COVID-19 left us physically separated again this year, our online General Assembly reminded us of our strong collective feminist voices and our unwavering commitment to making equality between women and men a reality. Thank you to all the delegates, observers and staff who organised and took part in our online General Assembly. Thank you also to all our outgoing Board members, Executive Committee members and previous President Gwendoline Lefebvre for their passion, commitment and work. We now look forward to continuing our work together to advance women’s rights all over Europe.