22 September 2021 – In the framework of the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) initiative aimed at evaluating progress made in gender equality in the region, the UfM Regional Dialogue on Women Empowerment, it was decided to establish a follow-up mechanism backed up with indicators to monitor and measure progress and provide policy recommendations to close the gender gap. These findings will be included in the 2nd UfM Regional Progress Report on gender equality which provides statistical data, data analysis and policy recommendations for the 2022 UfM Ministerial Declaration.
In order to prepare for this Report, a first Ad-Hoc Working Group was set-up early 2021. During the 3rd WGM, held on 21st September, the UfM provided an assessment of the data gathering process, based on progress reports submitted by the Gender Focal Point of 14 countries hailing from both the EU and Mediterranean Countries.
Co-chaired by Egypt and with the UfM as facilitator, this virtual meeting brought together 52 participants from the country Focal Points, National Statistical Institutes, Regional and international organisations, stakeholders and experts, Civil Society organisations and the UfM Secretariat.
Among the key findings of the first draft of the 2nd Regional Progress Report, it if worthwhile mentioning the following:
- Gender equality continues to represent a common goal for all the Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean. The process of definition of national gender equality strategies has become a common practice among the majority of the UfM countries. Development of an effective dialogue with civic society, academia and other stakeholders was given a greater importance
- Legal frameworks in many countries were reinforced, new programs and policies were developed in order to increase women’s participation in political and economic spheres and protect women from gender-based violence.
- Women’s economic empowerment continues to represent one of the regional priorities. Despite the initial progress, the Covid-19 crisis has had a retroceding effect on the economic situation of women and has clearly demonstrated the need for a stronger commitment from the countries in the protection of women’s rights.
- Violence against women and girls, and more precisely intimate partner violence continues to be a major issue in the region. The vulnerable situation of women suffering from this form of violence has worsened since the beginning of the pandemic when pictures of domestic violence were registered in all countries. To address the issue, the countries have had to improve their victim protection mechanisms within a very short timeframe and in difficult conditions generated by lockdowns.
The discussion highlighted a few challenges to be tackled such as relevant differences between countries and regions in the level of monitoring of gender-related indicators or the need to consolidate quantitative and qualitative data analyzing the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on women and girls
The European Commission encouraged the UfM member states to join the reporting exercise report and confirmed its support to the UfM efforts in translating the Ministerial Declarations Action Plan into tangible actions.
The participants agreed on the need to complement the future policy recommendations with priority actions: the need to building back better requires a more operational approach.
Countries also welcomed the UfM’s support in terms of capacity building actions on data collection, updating and analysis. that will be delivered in the second part of 2021.
The UfM also shared the proposed work plan to implement in the last quarter of 2021. It includes four thematic capacity building seminars, which will target statistical methods for data gathering on gender and will be carried out. These tools will be instrumental to widespread a common approach to analyze data which will be instrumental for the finalization of future aggregated regional surveys.
Countries also called for a coordinated programme involving the UfM, the EU level and the regional stakeholders, focused on reinforcing regional capacities in terms of gender data monitoring.
The final Regional Progress report should be endorsed at the next UfM Regional Dialogue meeting foreseen to take place in Cyprus mid-December 2021.