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For International Women's Day in 2019, European Union Ambassador to the United Nations Joa͂o Vale de Almeida joined several colleagues: Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador of Ireland and the Chair of the 63rd Session of Commission on Status of Women (CSW63); Joanna Wronecka, Ambassador of Poland; Sven Jürgenson, Ambassador of Estonia; Mariangela Zappia, Ambassador of Italy and François Delattre, Ambassador of France, to speak about importance of the day.
EU Ambassador to the UN Joa͂o Vale de Almeida stressed that the International Women's Day is an occasion to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and to reflect on remaining challenges.
He added that, at the United Nations, the European Union and its Member States are at the forefront of the efforts to promote all human rights of women and girls. "We want women and girls to achieve equality in all aspects of life, from education, health and family planning, to the labour market, the economy and politics," Ambassador Vale de Almeida highlighted.
Despite progress, more women than men live in extreme poverty underlined Joanna Wronecka, Ambassador of Poland. The pay gap stands at an inexcusable 23 per cent. This is why the EU pushed for the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women empowerment in the Agenda 2030. Nearly 40% the EU's Official Development Aid has a gender dimension. "We can do better," Ambassador Wronecka stated. Last December, the EU Foreign Ministers committed to integrate gender in all the EU's external policies.
"Education is key to achieving gender equality," Sven Jürgenson, Ambassador of Estonia said. Over 15 million girls of primary school age do not go to school around the world. At the initiative of the EU and Latin American countries, the [UN] General Assembly adopted last December an ambitious resolution on the rights of the child, which reaffirms the right to education. And we are turning our words to action: the EU is helping boost access to education in approximately 100 countries by strengthening education systems and promoting dialogue, Ambassador Jürgenson stressed.
Mariangela Zappia, Ambassador of Italy, had strong feelings about sexual violence "30% of women over the age of 15 have experienced physical or sexual violence," she said "this is unacceptable." Two years ago, the EU launched together with the UN the Spotlight Initiative. With unprecedented funding of EUR 500 million, Spotlight aims to start a global movement to end all forms of violence against women and girls in all regions of the world, Ambassador Zappia explained. Last year, the EU also took on the leadership of the "Call to Action for Protection Against Gender-Based Violence", which brings together over 60 countries and organisations striving to ensure that gender-based violence is addressed in humanitarian crises. "We are also stanch supporters of the initiatives by the African Group at the General Assembly to address harmful practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation and Child Marriage" Ambassador Zappia concluded.
"After the MeToo movement, we need a #UNToo movement," said François Delattre, Ambassador of France. The EU supports the Secretary General Guterres' "zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment at the UN". Last year, France and the Netherlands introduced a new resolution at the General Assembly, which for the first time focussed on sexual harassment. The resolution was adopted in December and describes a series of actions to be taken by States to prevent and stop sexual harassment, added Ambassador Delattre.
Ambassador Zappia continued saying that advancing women's leadership and economic empowerment is also an essential part of our efforts on gender equality. The EU adopted last December a new Strategy to Women, Peace and Security and will soon present its own regional action plan. In Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan, the EU supports the voice of women in the political processes "This is very important," Ambassador Zappia emphasized.
Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ambassador of Ireland and the Chair of the Commission on Status of Women 63 (CSW63) confirmed: "gender equality is about 'smart economics' - women’s participation in the economy is essential for sustainable development and economic growth," Ambassador stressed. This is why, in January last year, the EU launched with UN Women and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) "WE EMPOWER", a programme aimed at supporting sustainable economic growth in G7 countries, through gender-responsive business conduct, Ambassador Byrne Nason added.
Being proud Chairperson of the CSW63, Ambassador Byrne Nason continued: "the Commission on the Status of Women will open next Monday at the UN and will focus on Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality. The EU will fully engage in the work of the Commission to highlight the needs and important role of women in this context and will work with all partners to ensure a successful outcome."
EU Ambassador Vale de Almeida concluded "gender equality is not just about fairness and justice – it is a necessity to achieve sustainable peace, development and economic prosperity. Today - and every day - women and girls, can count on the EU to promote and foster gender equality."