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Spotlight on women's rights at the UN Human Rights Council

21/06/2019 - 12:56
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During the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council from 24 June to 12 July in Geneva, the European Union actively promoted the human rights of women, their empowerment and the advancement of gender equality in various occasions, including in interventions and side events aiming at raising awareness about the importance of women’s empowerment for sustainable development.


Thursday 27 June marked the annual full-day discussion on the Human Rights of Women at the Human Right Council. On that occasion, Ambassador Mara Marinaki, Principal Adviser on Gender and on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security to the European External Action Service (EEAS), visited Geneva to participate in the discussion at the Council and to take part in a side event on women empowerment organized by the European Union Delegation in Geneva.

During exchanges with the panel on violence against women in the world of work, Ms. Marinaki reiterated EU's "firm commitment to advancing gender equality, to promoting and protecting the human rights of all girls and women and to empowering them at all levels around the world."  She recalled that statistics confirm that women are disproportionately affected by violence, harassment and unwanted sexual attention on a daily basis because of their employment status, the type of work they carry out, or because of the conditions in the sector in which they work. She also stressed how the EU has reinforced its policy framework "to underpin actions to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women in the world of work."


During the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Marinaki reiterated that the EU remains "alarmed by the degree and persistence of stereotypes related to women’s roles," and recalled various programmes and actions developed by the EU, aiming at promoting gender-equality both inside and outside the Union, including "actions that place women's economic empowerment as a prerequisite for inclusive and equitable economic growth, promote gender balance in companies and tackle discrimination on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation."

The second part of the full day panel on women's human rights put a special focus on the rights of older women. Population ageing is one of the most significant global phenomena of the 21st century. The number of persons aged 60 and over is increasing at an unprecedented pace. Latest statistics confirm that women already outnumber men among those aged 60 or older, and are twice as numerous among those aged 80 or over. "The situation of elderly persons, including older women, is at the centre of policy debates and processes at EU level," we emphasized in our statement in the panel discussion.


The European Union Delegation in Geneva co-organized with the African Union a side event on women's empowerment and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting experiences and ongoing efforts aiming at enhancing the empowerment of women on all levels as well as discussing current shortcomings and challenges faced while advancing women’s rights in Europe, Africa and globally. The panel included Ms. Aicha Vall Verges, Member of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ms. Judith Fessehaie, Policy Lead of the "SheTrades" Initiative at the International Trade Center (ITC), Ambassador Kadra Hassan, Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the UN in Geneva, and Ambassador Maria Marinaki.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Walter Stevens, Head of the EU Delegation in Geneva expressed his appreciation for the joint organization of the side event between the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU). In that regard, he recalled that gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is a shared priority of the EU and the AU: "Our leaders have repeatedly expressed their joint commitment to uphold and support the full potential of women and girls", he said.

Ms. Marinaki opened her remarks by reaffirming that the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible without the achievement of gender equality, and inclusive and peaceful societies. "Women need to be part of the equation to have a voice in all decisions taken," she appealed. In light of the Maputo Protocol taken by the African Union, Ms. Marinaki elaborated on concrete collaborations on the ground between the EU and the AU to improve women's situations.

She also raised concerns about violence against women in all forms, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, or child marriage, and called on creating a new narrative, moving from shame to a narrative of power.


Concluding the day, we attended the dance performance organized by the Permanent Missions of the Netherlands and Canada in Geneva at the Human Right Council, illustrating domestic violence against women and girls. "Sometimes images say more than words can do," said Ms. Rosemary McCarney, Permanent Representative of Canada.

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