27 November 2017, Cairo. – Ministers from the 43 Member countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) gathered today in Cairo at the 4th UfM Ministerial Conference on “Strengthening the Role of Women in Society”. They agreed on a common agenda to strengthen the role of women in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The Ministerial Conference was chaired by the Jordanian Minister of Social Development, Hala Lattouf, in the presence of the UfM Secretary General, Fathallah Sijilmassi. It was hosted by the Arab Republic of Egypt represented by the President of the National Council for Women, Maya Morsy.
The ministers acknowledged the efforts made by UfM countries to foster gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment and stressed the need to address the obstacles that still hinder the full participation of women in the public and private spheres. They also encouraged further efforts to consolidate and advance on the progress achieved. To that end they adopted a Declaration with concrete and operational recommendations, actions and measures focused on four priority areas: raising women’s participation in public life and decision-making; improving women’s economic participation; combating all forms of violence against women and girls; and eliminating gender stereotypes.
The Conference saw the presentation of a Progress Report on the advancement of gender equality in the region, prepared as part of the UfM regional dialogue process on women’s empowerment by UfM officials and representatives from the main international and regional organisations.
The report shows that significant progress has been made in some specific areas related to women’s and girls’ rights, namely on access to education and the public sphere. However, it also reveals that there is still a clear gap between legislative and policy efforts and implementation. Discriminatory practices, social barriers, insufficient institutional protection and unequal access to services and resources were identified among the main obstacles to gender equality in the region. Moreover, violence against women and girls constitutes a major issue in all UfM countries, where millions of women and girls continue to experience physical and sexual violence. In this regard, the ministers decided to support the launch of a regional awareness campaign to prevent violence against women and girls. The campaign will be implemented by the European Commission.
The UfM Secretariat was mandated to develop a regional follow-up mechanism on agreed indicators to monitor progress on women’s rights and promote specific region-wide projects and initiatives.
On the margins of the Conference, the UfM Working Group on Women’s Economic Participation & Leadership will be meeting this afternoon to discuss the first steps to implement the Ministerial Declaration’s recommendations on this specific area. Additionally, a meeting on Partnerships and Engagement will also take place involving the main regional and international organisations as well as financing institutions working in the field of women’s empowerment. The objective of this meeting is to highlight stakeholders’ engagement on gender equality as well as explore synergies and deeper coordination among all the key regional actors with a view to improving impact on the ground.
The Jordanian Minister of Social Development, Hala Lattouf, said that: “The UfM Ministerial Process on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society is a major tool for promoting and supporting women’s rights and gender equality both regionally and nationally. Jordan has witnessed three migration waves since the beginning of this millennium. We should work together to protect and support women and girls, we should work closely to achieve the eradication of violence of all kinds towards women and build a future for them, their families and their children in which they feel safe, secure and empowered to play their rightful part in building a new future.”
The Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, Fathallah Sijilmassi, said that: “Human development is a key driver for stability and security in the Mediterranean region, and in that respect women play a fundamental role. Today’s Conference represents a step forward in implementing a positive and shared agenda for women’s empowerment in the region, notably through the implementation of region-wide initiatives, dialogue platforms and specific projects.”
The President of Egypt’s National Council for Women, Maya Morsy, said that: “Egypt has always paved the way for cooperation among countries between the two shores of the Mediterranean with the vision of achieving developmental and societal welfare. We are very delighted to host the 4th UfM Ministerial Conference given that regional frameworks and the UfM play an important role in strengthening the role of women in societies. We are very keen to ensure progress towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), and in particular goal 5 ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’, by sharing and offering innovative solutions that would break the glass ceiling for women in the region.”
The European Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, says that: “Our major objective at the Ministerial meeting of the Union for the Mediterranean is to further enshrine the importance of strengthening the role of women in society. We intend to work closely together to translate our words into actions, by having an effective dialogue on women-related policies and implementation of the measures contained in our declaration. Equality between women and men and the promotion of women, is not only a matter of human rights, it is an essential feature of democracy and development. Remarkable progress has been realised in the region in relation to women and girls’ rights. All UfM countries have mainstreamed gender equality into their legislative, constitutional and international frameworks. However, all of our countries still face considerable obstacles to equality: violence, discrimination, stereotypes, glass-ceilings, etc. We must work together to remove all barriers that prevent women from fully developing their potential. “
UfM Ministerial Declaration on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society
The UfM Secretariat is actively working with all its partners across the region to enhance women’s empowerment via specific region-wide projects and initiatives. Below some examples:
Forming Responsible Citizens – Promoting citizenship education to prevent school violence, particularly against girls and women. The project’s goal is to influence policies and legislation in an effort to promote principles of inclusive and sustainable development, women’s empowerment and gender equality, and to prevent violence against women and girls through equality of education for full citizenship in schools. National education authorities, including ministries of education, are fully involved in the implementation of the project.
Promoting women’s empowerment for inclusive and sustainable industrial development in the MENA region. With a total budget coming to €4.5 million, the project is promoted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and partly funded by the Italian Government. The project aims to enhance women’s economic inclusion by harnessing the enormous potential of women entrepreneurs in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia and creating the conditions for sustainable and inclusive growth.
WOMED: the “next generation of leaders”. The project targets young women with high potential from Southern Mediterranean countries in order to strengthen their leadership skills through an intensive training programme delivered by Sciences Po Paris.