Delegation of the European Union to the United Arab Emirates

Women’s Day: EU stands with her

08/03/2020 - 12:00
News stories

Women’s Day is an occasion to reflect on the progress made over the years when it comes to women. It is a day to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in their countries and communities. But it is also a chance to call for change where it is still needed. The world has indeed made remarkable developments, and yet, no country has achieved gender equality.

women's day ©shutterstock

Despite the progress made, women are still targets of gender-based violence, harassment and hate speech everywhere, including online where they face insults, threats and disclosure of private images. Gender stereotypes can also lead to discrimination behaviours. Many women are still confronted with barriers in their efforts to thrive, and face obstacles in accessing leadership roles in politics, in companies and in their communities.


The numbers are telling: within the EU,

  • One in three women was subject to physical and/or sexual violence,
  • Even though more women graduate from universities, they earn on average 16% less than men do, 
  • Only 8% of CEO’s of the EU’s largest companies are women.


"This is not what our Union stands for. Everyone, regardless of his or her gender, should be able to live free from violence and pursue his or her chosen path in life," the EU stresses in its statement to mark Women’s Day. "We need a change and the moment is now."


EU works with partners to stand for

Women around the World


OHCHR - #IStandWithHer: It is time to change the story

At the heart of gender-based discrimination are views and beliefs about the roles and characteristics of women and social norms about femininity and masculinity. The UN Human Rights’ 2020 edition of its #IStandWithHer” campaign focuses on ‘narratives’ around gender equality and issues affecting women. The campaign aims to challenge the bias deeply ingrained in our worldviews and societies:


  • in history books that underplay women’s contributions;
  • in the information available online that often portrays women in stereotypical ways or disseminates sexist ideas;
  • and in the media, where women continue to be blamed for the violence they suffer, belittled and sexualized, and patronized and denied the ability to make their own decisions.


Some EU Delegations around the world have taken to the challenge:

YOU can also take action for gender equality by challenging harmful content you see on the web, highlighting it with the hashtag #ChangeTheStory!


Europeans making a difference: Women leading the way in the Western Balkans  

“They climb the highest mountains, excel in science, fight for human rights… They move the boundaries in every field and open doors for others. They do different things. What brings them together is their talent, resilience, courage, their commitment and drive - to defend human rights, to protect the environment, to empower and help others…” This year’s edition of the EEAS campaign 'Europeans Making a Difference' features six short video portraits of women moving the boundaries in the Western Balkans and beyond.

Watch all six videos here and read more in the blog post by EU High Representative Josep Borrell.


#WithHer: Creating a world where women and girls are safe and free

On 5 March the European Union together with UN, launched the digital engagement campaign #WithHer to raise awareness of, and challenge, harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women. It also aims to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment within and outside the EU. #WithHer draws from the Spotlight Initiative, a global partnership between the EU and UN to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.

The #WithHer campaign is launched at the same time as the EU Gender Equality Strategy. The new Gender Equality Strategy is built around our common project for Europe: a union of equality where we, women and men, girls and boys, in all our diversity, are equal. The Strategy is also the EU's contribution to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the first universal commitment and action plan to advance on equality between women and men, in all areas of life.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking Beijing Platform for Action, UN Women has launched the multigenerational campaign, “Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future”. In addition, UN Women will convene the Generation Equality Forum, co-chaired by the Governments of France and Mexico, with the leadership and partnership of civil society, in Mexico City, Mexico, on 7–8 May 2020 and culminate in Paris, France, on 7–10 July 2020.


Fighting for a generation of equality - Berta’s story, Mozambique

In Mozambique, 1 in 4 women suffer from violence. Berta, 25, works every day to promote a change in social norms towards a society of equality where women’s rights are respected. Today, she coordinates Horizonte Azul Association’s Spotlight Initiative-supported interventions in Gaza province.

Watch Berta's story:


“I help people going through the same hardships we had” - Sabare’s story, Thailand

Photo: UN Women/M R Hasan
Photo: UN Women/M R Hasan

As part of EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, the ‘Safe and Fair programme’ implemented by UN Women and ILO, launched a photo exhibition last November to celebrate the strength of women migrant workers in the ASEAN region. Sabare is one of the survivors who had moved to Thailand from Myanmar with her family for a better life. It was not easy at first. She worked in the fields picking corn, which was hard work as she was pregnant with her second daughter. Then she moved to a noodle shop with a friend but her employer treated them badly, such that when her friend made a mistake he poured a bottle of hot sauce into her mouth. Sabare left without getting paid. She had no idea about her rights at the time. Eventually she found a full-time job with an NGO that supports poor Burmese migrant families. Besides distributing food she listens to them when they have problems, for example, when they aren't paid, thus she is helping people through her own experience. Read Sabare’s full story.


“I am passionate about promoting peace” - Lyop Chong’s story, Nigeria

Photo: UN Women/James Bigila
Photo: UN Women/James Bigila

Lyop Chong is one of few women to become a member of her local traditional council in conflict-affected Nigeria. She is one of the women mentors trained by UN Women as part of the Northern Nigeria Women, Peace and Security Programme, funded by the EU. She helps married women and men in her community who frequently experience violence at home to mitigate conflict and resolve their differences peacefully. Her story is related to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment and ending violence against women. It also contributes towards SDG 16, which promotes women’s role as peacebuilders. Read Lyop Chong’s full story.


“I didn’t want to get married. I wanted to continue going to school” - Tenin’s story, Mali

Photo: UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita
Photo: UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

Fifteen-year-old Tenin still remembers the day when she raised her hand in class. She told her teacher and her classmates: “Go see my father: they intend to give me in marriage.” In a country where nearly half of the girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, it was a courageous act of self-defence. Tenin had heard that the principal of the school did not support child marriage so she took a chance. In fact that evening, the principal of the school went immediately with Tenin to her family home. Tenin was scared, but her bravery paid off. Thanks to an explanation of the harms of early marriage, Tenin's parents changed their minds. Read Tenin’s full story.


“If you find yourself in a place that allows you to make a real difference in other women’s lives, obstacles will not stop you anymore” - Ayah al-Wakil’s story, Gaza Strip

Photo: UN Women/Eunjin Jeong
Photo: UN Women/Eunjin Jeong

Ayah al-Wakil is a lawyer working at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in the Gaza Strip. Some years ago she was selected as one of four female lawyers to train with the PCHR, supported by the UN Women/UNDP, EU-funded joint programme, Sawasya (meaning “equal” in Arabic), to defend women’s rights at the Shari’a court. Through the Sawasya programme, she and her colleagues started providing awareness raising workshops on so-called “honour killing”, a tradition that sanctions the killing of women by their family members in the name of family honour, still prevalent in Gaza. Although most men who attended did not change their opinion immediately, Al-Wakil believes the solution lies in the law. “Law is above tradition, and that is why law should be amended to protect women. We should work hard and put all our efforts together to make necessary changes,” she stated with hope and determination in her eyes. Read Ayah al-Wakil’s full story.



The joint programme of the EU and UN Women, WeEmpowerAsia, aims to increase the number of women who lead and participate in private-sector businesses in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, thus advancing inclusive and sustainable growth along with more gender-equal trade opportunities with Europe. "Women who are economically empowered have greater access to income and economic assets, better control over their own economic gains and more equitable decision-making power to translate these gains into social, economic, and health benefits for themselves, their families and their societies,” Ambassador Mara Marinaki, EU Principal Advisor on Gender stated during the launch of WeEmpowerAsia, last year.


EU-UN building friendships between youth - Samira and Happy's Story

At UNICEF’s EU funded social hubs in Cox's Bazar, inspiring friendships are forged between Rohingya and Bangladeshi youth. Girls like Samira & Happy help foster social cohesion and build bridges between their two communities. The girls recall the first time they met. "I was very sad when I saw their condition. But then I remembered a quote from a book 'To share someone's pain is to lighten your own'" Happy concludes.

Get inspired, watch their story!

Samira and Happy's video coming soon... watch this space!