The EU is strongly committed to the promotion of gender equality both a goal in itself, but also as a means to contribute to equitable and sustainable development and reduce poverty.
In failing to take into account gender equality and the rights and interests of women and girls, countries are under-investing in the human capital needed to ensure sustainability. Even though women account for over one-half of the potential talent base in the world, as a group they have been discriminated against, marginalised and their economic, social and environmental contributions go largely unrealised.
Despite some progress in recent years, there are several areas where we need to focus our attention. Let me mention a few:
1. Firstly, persistent gender inequalities prevail as regards the access to education and school retention in many developing countries. Enabling girls to stay in school and raising the education levels will increase female productivity as well as enhancing the well-being of families and children. Gender equality is a decisive factor for social sustainability, allowing for the best use of human resources of both women and men on the labour market.
2. A key driver for sustainable development is the maintenance of good health. However MDG 5 on improving maternal health is the MDG where the least progress has been made.
3. Another area that is crucial for sustainable development is social equity. And in too many parts of the world, womens civil and political rights are not respected. We take this opportunity to welcome the role of women in the peaceful movements seeking democratic reforms in North Africa and the Middle East and express our hope that also women and girls will benefit from these developments.
4. Finally, when it comes to environmental sustainability gender equality has to be at the forefront of our action, women and men are often differently affected by environmental degradation
The EU has adopted an EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development. One of the objectives of this Plan is to take gender equality into account in all EU development programs because sustainable development can be achieved only if gender equality is adequately promoted
Question to panellists
The language of development has been punctuated by gender commitments for many years. However, the gap between policy and practice remains. How have these commitments with regard to education been reflected in the actions on the ground, more importantly, in the experiences of girls and women?
We often overlook the important role played by local authorities and actors such as the private sector in promoting gender equality in. In this sense, how can such actors further contribute to equality between men and women as a driver for sustainable development?
Women have contributed significantly to sustainable development through innovative entrepreneur schemes, frequently financed through micro credits. How can women’s role in the free economy be strengthened?