European Union External Action

gender equality, women empowerment

Gender equality and empowering women

Although inequalities still exist, the EU has made significant progress in gender equality over the last decades. This is the result of

  • equal treatment legislation
  • gender mainstreaming, integration of the gender perspective into all other policies
  • specific measures for the advancement of women

Encouraging trends are the higher number of women in the labour market and their progress in securing better education and training. However, gender gaps remain and in the labour market women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions.

The stories below demonstrate a few examples of the EU's involvement in improving the situation for some women and girls across the globe. The EU has already done a lot in recent years, also in difficult environments. Testimony to this are the stories of real women and their personal experiences. But this is not enough. The new Gender Action Plan aims to trigger more of these real examples: more transformation, more good results, more role models, as depicted in the stories these women and girls are about to tell.

Stories from the African continent

Clara and her twin five- year-old boys Francis and Caleb. ©Christian Aid/Malumbo Simwaka

In Malawi, energy prosperity has a female face. Here, the ‘Breaking the Barriers’ programme is eradicating energy poverty by empowering women through clean energy-driven economic opportunities.

The Integrated Approaches for Climate Change Adaptation in the East Usambara Mountains Project, funded
by the EU has been working alongside Muheza District and eight villages to implement climate change
adaptation activities, which all have a gender focus.

Jeannette Ramarisoa is a farm owner in Madagascar. Even though she had been a farmer since the age of 19, she had never had an official certificate confirming that she owned her land. So she couldn’t use it as collateral to borrow from a bank and expand or diversify. But then the EU worked with the government of Madagascar to give farmers official certificates confirming that they owned their land.

In the Central Sahel, conflict has spread from Northern to Central Mali and far into Burkina Faso and Western Niger. Around 436,000 Malians have been forced to flee, close to 90,000 into the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger as well as over 346,000 within Mali. The spreading insecurity has also affected zones in which Malian refugees live in countries of asylum and caused massive internal displacement in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Mestawet Mekurya, 14, 7th grade student at Ayti orimary school, Zigem, Amhara region. © UNICEF Ethiopia /2017/Tadesse

Mestawet Mekuria is one 14-year-old who is not afraid to stand up for herself. It was her courage to speak out that saved her from becoming a child bride.

Libreville, le 8 mars 2021 - A l’occasion de la journée internationale de la femme, nous voulons rendre hommage aux femmes inspirantes, telle que le Dr Nathalie DUPAGNE qui n’a pas hésité à changer le cours de sa vie pour se dédier totalement à la jeunesse et aux femmes vulnérables. Son engagement dans la conduite du changement a produit un impact positif sur les jeunes et les femmes vulnérables dans le domaine de la santé sexuelle et reproductive.

Milembe Daniel is a 19 year-old student from Tanzania. She wasn’t aware of the importance of saving for her future – or how to go about it. That’s where the EU External Investment Plan came in.

Oida in her maize garden

 

“Since I joined Tovwirane nutrition learning centre in 2018, my knowledge, attitudes and practices have greatly changed. My approach to nutrition is completely different. At first, I used to think that projects are there simply for handouts. Now I realize that being part of a project can improve the quality of life greatly. Indeed a project can change the course of your life, just like Afikepo Project has done with mine.”

The Nkhotakota district of Malawi is nestled between the sandy shores of Lake Malawi and the country’s largest wildlife reserve. Aside from tourism, agriculture is one of the biggest industries and many communities live off the land. Farmers often grow rice, maize and cassava, the traditional crops of the area, as their parents and grandparents did before them. However, if you gaze out at the land surrounding Kakowa village, you’ll see something a little different: a sea of spiky, green pineapple crowns. So how did this community come to break with tradition and start farming the tasty, tropical fruit so many of us know and love?

Child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are a violation of girls’ human rights and act as root causes for discrimination and violence against girls. Ester is one of girls who went through FGM and other taboos. But now she is one of peer educators.

From struggling to scrape by to successful business woman, Fatou Mbaye’s life has made a dramatic u-turn. “Life used to be difficult. I didn’t have any skills, or any meaningful trade. I farmed millet and groundnut, but the rains are erratic. Often the harvest wasn’t enough,” explains Fatou. “I have 5 children and we would manage with the little we had. But it was a constant struggle to get by and meet even our basic needs.”

Armed with a megaphone, mask and gloves, Denardina Mussa, 25, is on a mission: to encourage women and girls to report violence during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Ms. Mussa started working as an activist five years ago. She had heard of many girls who were raped, forced into an early union or murdered in her province of Nampula, Mozambique, and she decided to act.

The morning was cold and misty in the south of Mauritius. Les Serres du Sud is found in the middle of L’Union Sugar Estate, surrounded by a peaceful field of green sugar canes. Les Serres du Sud consists of approximately two acres of greenhouses and six acres of open fields, where peppers, lettuce, tomato, butternut squash, and many other vegetables and fruits are cultivated.

On the shores of Lake Chad, a group of women and girls work in the shade of a solitary tree. Temperatures here regularly soar past 40℃ yet the women work tirelessly to harvest and process the blue-green algae known to health-conscious consumers all over the world as spirulina. Nearby, a cage contains racks of drying spirulina paste, which, once turned into tablets, can sell for up to €20 a pack in western health stores.

Some 1.75 million refugee children are not in primary school and 1.95 million refugee adolescents are not in secondary school, the report found. Refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than the global average (see Missing out: Refugee Education in Crisis). Through Building Resilience in Crises through Education (BRiCE) the European Union helps to improve access to quality basic education in pre-school, primary and lower secondary levels for children in fragile and crisis-affected environments.

Malawi has stretched its resources to the limit, allocating 20% of its budget towards education. Primary education is free in Malawi and most children get to attend but then tend to drop out. The transition rate from primary to secondary is very low, and secondary school enrolment is dominated by boys. Keeping girls that enrol in secondary is a challenge as girls who start secondary education drop out mainly because of financial hardship, teenage pregnancy, and marriage.

gender equality, women empowerment

Eradicating poverty, tackling discrimination and inequalities, and leaving no one behind are at the heart of EU development policy. As part of its strategy to combat inequality and support the most vulnerable, the EU supports efficient, sustainable and equitable social protection systems to guarantee basic income, prevent relapses into extreme poverty and build resilience. Through SoSuRe (Social Support for Resilience), the EU is engaged in reducing poverty and enhancing resilience among the most vulnerable households in Malawi. Mary Lakesi lives with her six grandchildren in Zomba district, in the South of Malawi. She is a beneficiary of the social cash transfers programme. Rose Gunde, her eldest granddaughter, would like to become a nurse. However, the nearest secondary school is more than 15 km away. "I saved a portion of the transfers to buy a bike for Rose. Thanks to the programme we also got a goat and good quality seeds. I am confident that we will do better now," says Mary proudly.

gender equality, women empowerment

Challenges related to peace and security, economic development and climate tie most of the countries in the Greater Horn of Africa. Asha Golicha, 46, lived her whole life in Moyale, a small market town across the borders of Ethiopia and Kenya. As most women and girls in the region, Asha married at 16 and did not have a chance to go to school. Most of the family’s responsibilities fall on Asha’s shoulders. To make a living, she also travels 200 km every Sunday to a market to buy and sell livestock. Most women in the region tend to work more than men, and carry greater responsibilities in taking care of the children and their household, which brings them to show greater solidarity towards each other. With support from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), together with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UNDP cross-border programme aims to help those hard-working women become more self-sustaining. "I want all my children to learn. I feel bad about myself because I did not go to school. If you do not learn now, you will not survive. Learning can get you out of poverty," says Asha.

gender equality, women empowerment

Across Tanzania’s Tarangire-Manyara ecosystem, more than 1,350 environmentally friendly beehives – hanging from giant baobab and acacia trees – represent much more than meets the eye. Installed by members of Tanzania People & Wildlife’s Women’s Beekeeping Initiative, these environmentally friendly hives help to preserve habitats for big cats and other wildlife while generating a sustainable revenue stream for rural women. This project is a part of the EU-funded 'IUCN Save Our Species' African Wildlife initiative.

Photo: UNICEF Mali/2019/Keita

Fifteen-year-old Tenin recalls the day when she raised her hand in class and told her teacher and classmates: “Go see my father: they intend to give me in marriage.” In Mali where nearly half the girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, this was a courageous act of self-defense. Tenin had heard that the principal of the school did not support child marriage so she took a chance. That evening, he went immediately with Tenin to her family home. Tenin was scared, but her bravery paid off. The principal explained the harms of early marriage and Tenin's parents changed their minds. In a classroom nearby, a girl named Awa followed suit. Awa's dad did not change his mind, so the principal went to the village EU-UNICEF-supported Committee for the Prevention of Early Marriage. They explained how later marriage can mean better health for women and their children. Awa's father finally agreed and the marriage was cancelled.

gender equality, women empowerment

For the world’s most vulnerable children, the closure of schools due to COVID-19 is more than a temporary evil – it could mean the end of their education. Teachers in the EU-funded Education for Life programme like Jennifer have been trying to maintain contact with students during the crisis to keep the learners’ education going on. Every day, they walk around the settlement knocking on the learners’ doors to offer home schooling and support, especially for girls like Okello who was forced to drop out of school because she became pregnant.

ECOBOMA supports communities in northern Tanzania to adapt to climate change and become more resilient to unpredictable weather patterns. Interventions introduced include income generating activities which embrace women, vegetable leather-tanning, savings and loans groups and meat drying groups as an example.

Since the beginning of the Igunga Eco-Village project funded by the European Union, climate change adaptation activities have placed women at the heart of decision-making.

If you live in semi-arid central Tanzania there are many benefits of joining small community groups who have
been supported to generate incomes and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The EcoACT project, part of
the Global Climate Change Alliance funded by the European Union has done just that, training both women
and men to run small businesses and not only turn a profit but also contribute to forest conservation efforts.

In the past, Pemba Island, which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago off the mainland of Tanzania, experienced low motivation amongst community members, especially women, to actively participate in development activities, due to cultural and religious barriers. Most people engage in fishing and subsistence farming and struggle to provide enough for their families. As a result, women have been entirely dependent on their husbands or family members for survival.

Stories from the Americas

The moving double ceremony was held at the annex building to the Executive Tower and was attended by the President and Vice President of the Republic, among other authorities.

In San Nicolas, in western Honduras, three friends, Alma, 42, Domitila, 58, and Rosa, 45, have come together to develop a new business. As mothers, they have always wanted to work to support their families, and be able to look after their children at the same time.

Could something as simple as doughnut change the life of a whole community? Could a delicious traditional snack bring people together? When you don't let the limits apply to you, when nothing seems impossible, then yes. Discover the story of a woman whose fierce belief in her dreams was the means to make them a reality. Meet Fatima and join her in her story that will change your perception of what is truly possible when someone focuses their entire being on one goal. In the end, the future is there waiting for us all.

It's the smell of coffee wafting through the house as the first rays of sunlight appear, heralding the dawn. It's the love felt when surrounded by family, every moment of every day. It's the knowledge that a house is nothing, unless it is made into a home.

It's the smell of coffee wafting through the house as the first rays of sunlight appear, heralding the dawn. It's the love felt when surrounded by family, every moment of every day. It's the knowledge that a house is nothing, unless it is made into a home.

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the EU Delegation to Chile launched the campaign “Raise your voice clear and strong “ (Alza Tu Voz Clara y Fuerte) to raise awareness about violence against women and girls.

gender equality, women empowerment

The main purpose of the video is to promote a reflection between men and families about the role of men in their homes. Furthermore, it seeks to make visible the mental burden that thinking, planning and coordinating household chores and family care may have on women. The video is part of the #YoMeOcupo campaign, in line with the EU-UN spotlight initiative.

gender equality, women empowerment

Six-year-old Aylín holds up a poster and reads it aloud. “I have the right to a loving family,” she says. “All girls deserve to have a loving and caring family.” Lady Carmona, 8, reads her own poster. It’s about the right to control her own body. She says that if someone touches her inappropriately, the first thing to do is to inform an adult she trusts. "There are laws that protect girls so that this doesn’t happen," she says. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is partnering with local governments and grassroots organisations across El Salvador to end violence against women and girls in Latin America.

gender equality, women empowerment

Nyla Innuksuk, founder and CEO of Mixtape VR, started the company in 2018 with the aim of producing mixed media content in collaboration with Indigenous communities, specifically Inuit communities in the Nunavut territory. Nyla’s background in film travels back to her childhood in the northeast of Canada. Mixtape VR became a Signatory of the EU funded Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) in June 2020 and is committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment through their innovative mixed media work. With the WEPs as a pathway, Nyla’s company will continue to lead the way for diverse and inclusive hiring practices and interactive art production. Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work through Responsible Business Conduct in G7 Countries (WE EMPOWER - G7 Programme) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER G7 Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

gender equality, women empowerment

Ly Nguyen and Tori Watley, co-founders and joint CEOs of Leigh & Siena, founded a retail formal wear company focused on women’s empowerment throughout the shopping experience. Leigh & Siena signed the EU funded Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) in July 2020 and plan to utilize the principles as a framework to follow as they grow. Starting as a small company with the WEPs gives the opportunity for developing diverse and inclusive practices within the company and community. Leigh & Siena continues to operate despite the setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, with Ly and Tori pivoting the company to meet demand. Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work through Responsible Business Conduct in G7 Countries (WE EMPOWER - G7 Programme) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER G7 Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

gender equality, women empowerment

Jamila Belabidi-Chahid, Purchases Director, Global Women Economic Empowerment and Global Innovation at Procter & Gamble, sits down with the EU supported WE EMPOWER team to share about the importance of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) as a guideline and blueprint for inclusive practices not only at the workplace, but also the marketplace and community. This interview was conducted during the 2019 WE EMPOWER and Win-Win Forum in New York City. Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work through Responsible Business Conduct in G7 Countries (WE EMPOWER - G7 Programme) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER G7 Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

Stories from Asia

 

Gender Equality is at the heart of the EU!

We continue to work towards the cause through various initiatives.

Here is the story of Deepthi, whose dreams have been unlocked:

Deepthi is the daughter of Jagadish, one of the auto-drivers from an initiative funded by the EU in Bangalore. Earlier this year, Deepthi appeared for her 10th Board examination where she performed exceptionally well by scoring 603/625 marks.

breaking gender stereotypes, gender equality

Can a little girl play with construction materials? This question could be non-sense to most of us. However, many teachers in the center of Vietnam have worked hard in recent years to convey a “Yes” to this question. In Vietnam, gender stereotypes often limit boys and girls at very early ages in preschools and in their daily life.

In pursuit of a better life, Abegail Compuesto decided to leave her home with her sister, hoping to find a job in Malaysia to help her and her family financially. But when she was about to depart, things didn't turn out quite as planned. "At immigration, my sister and another young girl were then taken aside by someone who appeared to be an NGO worker, who suspected that they were being trafficked. Then two police officers came and took them away. But I had already passed through immigration and was forced onto a boat with the other women who had gone through. Abegail is a member of Batis AWARE Women’s Organisation, supported by the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, that helped her recover from this trauma.

A group of 13 women living in lower valley of Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, came together to study in the government’s “second chance” education initiative called Non-Formal Education Program. This initiative provides functional literacy and numeracy skills to those who have missed out on education. The 13 women are from low income families and work as daily wage workers, babysitters and home makers. They are united in their aspiration to try and do something to improve their economic circumstances. As their confidence in their literacy and numeracy skills grew, they formed an idea to try learning a vocational skill and to see if they could translate this into an income. Thus, was formed the group called Zheten Shayen Amsu tshogpa.

gender equality, women empowerment

Bhutan lags a bit when it comes to women’s political participation and leadership. In local governance, for example, there are currently 2 women in a total of 205 Gups (elected county leaders) and 24 women in a total of 205 Mangmis (elected deputy county leaders). Hence the initiative “Enhancing women representation in local government – targeting the 3rd local government LG Elections of 2021” was conceptualized and undertaken as part of the EU funded project to support Civil Society groups and organizations in Bhutan.

gender equality, women empowerment

The Auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) service sector in India is male-dominated. The Namma Auto Project funded by the European Union tried to break this stereotype by enabling women to drive electric autos, by training them and facilitating easy financing options. Chaaya is one of the electric auto drivers in Bangalore, who not only broke the age-old norms of this profession, but also adopted a new technology while doing it.

gender equality, women empowerment

Khushi Kumari first learned about composting through a book that belonged to her daughter. “Before, my family had no option but to dispose our household waste near our house in the open and wait for the waste collectors’ vehicle to come. Sometimes the collector wouldn’t show up for days. So the waste piled up and the foul smell grew unbearable.” Khushi started composting with the technical assistance from the EU-supported Aga Khan Foundation.

gender equality, women empowerment

Ms. Miki Oikawa, President of POLA Inc., shares about the company's long standing commitment to empowering women. POLA Inc provides high-quality skincare, hair-care and cosmetics products across Japan through their slogan, "Science. Art.Love." They are known for building the capacities of their women sales agents - Beauty Directors - to become entrepreneurs (shop owners) and provide quality services in many communities across Japan. POLA Inc. became a signatory of the EU funded Women's Empowerment Principles in September 2020. Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work through Responsible Business Conduct in G7 Countries (WE EMPOWER - G7 Programme) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER G7 Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

gender equality, women empowerment

Cre-en, Inc. is a Japanese company which provides integrated business management and corporate reporting services with a goal of realizing a sustainable society. Ayako Sonoda, Founder of Cre-en, Inc., shares her and her company's experience in dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, and how this has shifted their strategy towards a "post COVID-19" society. In 2019, Cre-en, Inc. became a signatory of the EU supported Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs). Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work through Responsible Business Conduct in G7 Countries (WE EMPOWER - G7 Programme) is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by UN Women and the International Labour Organization (ILO). The WE EMPOWER G7 Programme convene multistakeholder dialogues in the EU, Canada, Japan and the US to exchange knowledge, experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the context of the changing world of work.

gender equality, women empowerment

Through the EU SWITCH-Asia Parya Sampada project, UN-Habitat and implementing partners joined forces to respond at best to the numerous challenges posed by the COVID-19 spread in Nepal. Actions are being directed mainly towards the production of personal protective equipment (PPE), including protective face masks and hand sanitisers, and providing cooked food supplies in project areas and beyond, where these resources are scarce and rapidly running out. New jobs are also being created for local women home workers.

Stories from Eastern Europe and Central Asia

When they were little, twin sisters Nini and Ani Merabishvili, now 16, loved watching animation films. But unlike other children, who were swept along by the story, the twins were fascinated by another kind of magic – how these movies had been created.

Yagut Akhmedova, from the village of Zeynaddin in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, has a talent for drawing since childhood. When she was in school, it took her only four years instead of the usual six to complete a course in drawing, and she graduated with honours.

gender equality, women empowerment

‘Effective Communication with youth’ is a part of this curriculum launched in May 2021 with 15 teachers at the Donetsk Law Institute in Ukraine. In this workshop, EUAM Adviser on Community Policing Larissa Rootmensen explains how police should talk to and act with youth to gain respect and trust, establish good relationships and encourage youngsters to behave accordingly.

Young entrepreneur Marina Andreev talks about the obstacles she faced and the grant that saved her. She was very young when she stepped into the harsh world of business. With ambition, perseverance and hard work, she managed to open a uniform manufacturing company and created 15 jobs for 15 women from the village of Ustia, Dubasari district. This story is about Marina Andreev, the entrepreneur who, thanks to a grant from the European Union, proved that successful businesses can be set up in rural areas.

In December 2020, five men from Straseni, Falesti and Chisinau, with different social and family backgrounds, met for a quite uncommon activity — to bake bread and discuss how to break down the stereotypes related to the traditional activities for men and women in the society and promote the image of a father engaged in the family.

Dining out may not be an option this Valentine’s, but Anna Movchan has a good solution: her bouquets are made of food and her business done with passion. Edible bouquets in Ukraine: how EU4Youth helped Anna establish an innovative business.

“When I saw a vacancy for a truck driver, I called the company and asked about the requirements. They wanted to know if I was calling on behalf of someone else, and when I told them I was interested in the job, they said that they would not consider me as a candidate” - Viktoriya wants to be a truck driver. She has a license and she has the right.

A batch of assistance totaling € 155,000 and consisting of 9,000 liters of disinfectants, 21,500 protective masks, 1,100 reusable rubber gloves, 90 infrared thermometers, 800 food and hygiene packages and 1,000 sets of educational materials is made available to 70 localities from Cahul and Ungheni districts. The equipment and products are donated under the “EVA - Promoting Gender Equality in Cahul and Ungheni districts” Program funded by the European Union, co-financed by UN Women Moldova and implemented in partnership with UNICEF Moldova.

Nazira Parpieva, heads the group of village activists. Her village moved entirely from Uzbekistan. In 2016, the European Union, in partnership with the Aga Khan Foundation, as part of a project to develop medium and small businesses in Aksy and Ala-Buka regions of Zhalal-Abad oblast, allocated a grant to build a greenhouse for a group of women and helped them to get basic greenhouse training.

Belarusian women are legally limited in their choice of occupation, and on top of that they often face a glass ceiling in their careers. Read how the European Union helps them reject the norms imposed by the state.

gender equality, women empowerment

With the help of the EU supported “Programme for Social Reintegration for Women-Victims of Domestic Violence” 33-year-old Natalia, 18-year-old Chinara, and 43-year-old Iana, all victims of domestic abuse, are prepared to regain their independence from their abusers. Iana is a violinist. Her ex did not allow her to play. "Once, he took my violin, threw it away and it broke (...) After coming to the shelter, when they asked how to help me, the first thing I asked for was to repair my violin, and the project satisfied my request." Natia and her three children were given temporary shelter and psychological services, and she was also given the help she needed to develop skills to continue living an independent life. Chinara became a victim of domestic violence because of her father who forced her to marry at a young age. The ombudsman’s office helped her to leave home a few days before the wedding.

gender equqlity, women empowerment

In EU countries, gender equality is a core value. Women are supported in their rights linked to equal economic independence, equal pay, equality in decision-making, ending gender-based violence, and tackling gender stereotyping. In Ukraine, the EU supports projects focused on protecting women against domestic violence, developing their leadership and business skills, as well as helping women affected by the conflict in the Donbas region. In an interview with Kraina FM radio station, Ukrainian journalist and #HeForShe ambassador, Yanina Sokolova said "My only request to you, dear women and maybe also men, is not to be silent and not to endure. We have only one life to live."

gender equality, women empowerment

Sveta Khachatryan is the first female veterinary student with a disability in the Armenian city of Gavar, Gegharkunik Province. The 18-year old woman is training in veterinary medicine alongside her main studies at Gavar State Agricultural College. Sveta is learning how to take care of animals as part of an informal education course organised by the EU project EU4Youth – SAY YES Skills for Jobs. “My parents did not want me to study veterinary medicine because they thought it was a ‘male subject’. In Armenia this is not a prestigious job and we do not have many female vets, but I like the profession, so I followed my instincts.”

gender equality, women empowerment

Ulviyya Babayeva was born and raised in a remote village in Azerbaijan. Since childhood, Ulviyya has dreamt of becoming a leader in her community. She has been particularly worried about the position of women and the ingrained gender stereotypes that prevent locals from unleashing their full potential. While working in Barda, Ulviyya learnt about the EU-funded Eastern Partnership Civil Society Fellowship programme, and applied without hesitation. With the EU's support, Ulviyya developed a small project in support of women in the region of Barda, called ‘Stronger hand by hand’. "My goal was to help young women to overcome gender stereotypes and strengthen their own self-esteem. We taught them to assert their rights, and developed their IT literacy, soft skills, leadership skills and confidence," says Ulviyya.

gender equality, women empowerment

In the summer of 2018, 27-year-old Aizat, together with 25 other young people with disabilities, entered the IT Academy as part of the 'Programming without Barriers' project, implemented by the Kyrgyz Association of Software and Services Developers with the support of the EU. "Before that, I was very reserved, I did not go anywhere. I always thought why everyone looks at me, I had complexes. After the training, my environment has changed..."

gender equality, women empowerment

In the current crisis, the European Union provides support to multidisciplinary teams that are involved in combating and solving cases of domestic violence in the Cahul district of Moldova. This is a message to the victims of domestic violence, as well as to children and families at risk that they are not alone during this period.

gender equality, women empowerment

During these difficult times, our thoughts are directed to the victims of domestic violence. The European Union provides support to multidisciplinary teams that are involved in combating and solving cases of domestic violence in the Ungheni district of Moldova. We hope that this assistance will send a message to the victims of domestic violence, as well as to children and families at risk that they are not alone during this period.

Women have made incredible advances in the world of work over the last several decades, however, they still face many challenges in realizing their potential. Mentorship and role models are important ways to help women overcome some of those challenges and barriers to better succeed in their current environment. Last June the EU Delegation to Russia organised its first virtual mentoring day for twenty pre-selected Russian women to equip them with the concrete tools and inspiration to thrive in their workplace.

Stories from the Pacific

Team Europe is working with the Timorese authorities to help preserve forests and to improve livelihoods of the rural communities in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. On Timor-Leste’s National Day of Sandalwood and Forests the European Union, together with Germany and Portugal, launched the distribution of 70,000 seedlings that will improve lives, bolster biodiversity, and help to preserve the environment.

“Hakbiit Feto” – Empower Women - is a new European Union-funded project, implemented by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in collaboration with Rede Feto and the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), aiming to support women’s social and economic empowerment.

On the face of it, Timor-Leste has done well to escape the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been only 28 positive cases so far, all from outside the country, with no community transmission detected. Everyone affected has recovered while in isolation, and no one has died.

Stories from the Southern Neighbourhood

©UNFPA/UNICEF

Hegazeya is a participant of the UNFPA-supported Champions of Change program, where she was taught how to be assertive and eloquent. This encouraged the 18-year-old Egyptian girl to take up karate which was her chilhood dream. “I used to be scared of walking by a group of boys," she recalls, "but now the boys don’t cross the line with me, when they see me they know Hegazeya does karate."

Yemeni doctor fights for women’s health

It’s no small feat to be a woman in Yemen living without your family. Bring into the mix managing eight mobile health teams and several health facilities in one of the most remote areas in the world and helping women give birth during a global pandemic, and you start to understand just how extraordinary 27-year-old Dr. Bushra Al-Aghbari is.

Ibtissam comes from the city of Zawia. She is 40 years old and has 4 children. Her voluntary work made her a target of Gaddafi’s militia forces, which made her leave the country. Originally from Benghazi, 34-year-old Safa is a single, voluntary project assistant for the organisation “Fab Lab Libya”, founded in 2017. Safa was never able to work in her profession because she was a woman. These are two stories of Libyan women who had to fight for her place in society.

Using their daily commute to defy societal norms and express their right to freedom, a group of Egyptian women has triggered the wheel of change in their communities, as part of the nationwide online campaign “Better by Bike”. Launched by the “Tabdeel” initiative (which means both “Pedaling” and “Change” in Arabic), the campaign has brought together like-minded women seeking to challenge the preconceptions about women biking and promote their love for urban cycling.

Ms. Fatima Kadem is a strong promoter of women’s rights. She currently works as the Gender Adviser of the Federal Intelligence and Investigations Agency (FIIA) in the Ministry of Interior.

Mrs. Suad Al-Asadi, a mother of four lost her son during the abhorrent sectarian violence in Iraq. Despite all the challenges, she has worked endlessly to promote women’s rights and gender equality in Iraq. She currently works as the Director of the Female Training Institute and the Head of the Women Empowerment Committee in the Ministry of Interior. Here she shares her inspiring story as an Iraqi gender advocate.

There is strength in unity and together Amira, Takia and Messaouda are the embodiment of this strength and willpower. In Oued Mzi, a village in the foothills of the Amour mountain range in the high-plateaus of Western Algeria, they founded the organisation ''Tradition and modernity for the development of rural women'' (TMDFR) in 2018.

Sajeda has always dreamt of becoming a geologist and of working in nature. Since she was a child, she knew she was going to follow her passion and she is now convinced this is why she excels academically. Geology, however, is a niche sector, especially if you are a woman. “As women,” explains Sajeda, “[…] it is rare to have job opportunities in our field or major.”

If one word could describe young Mariam Konan Rasheed, it would be resourceful. Stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 33-year-old Jordanian came up with the most entertaining way to educate her younger peers: online educational videos.

Empowering women Jordan

"The most important thing for us at the Cooperative was to empower local women to carry out their own projects."
Sahar Al Salmane, 34, is from Al Ramtha district in Northern Jordan. In 2012, she set up a Women Cooperative Society to provide both local and Syrian refugee women with much needed job opportunities.

Malika Salhi wants to make net mending her profession. A seamstress by training, she is encouraging her friends who have followed the training to create a net menders’ co-operative. ‘Thanks to Diveco2, we were trained in business creation and management. Ideally, at this stage, we should come together and create a co-operative. This way, we could use our knowledge and provide quality services to the region's fishermen.

In the midst of a global pandemic, under-reported crimes often become further obscured, leaving victims in a state of helplessness and disarray. In Libya, where the plague of conflict related sexual violence (CRSV) has been affecting a worrying number of girls and women, local organisations have stepped up to counter the critical challenges posed by COVID-19 and avoid falling prey to the detrimental impact it has had on their previous work. Two civil society organisations in particular, Albayan NGO in Tripoli and Women Union in Sabha, have been exerting even greater efforts to continue providing support and protection to survivors of CRSV, through the UNFPA Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS). They are supported in their action by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF Africa) as part of its Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention and response activities.

gender equality, women empowerment

The European Investment Bank invests in funds like Badia Impact Fund, which offers mentoring and capital to young people and women. Around 8,000 Jordanian women turned their activities into booming businesses. Amina, Hayat, Adla, Shua’a, Amani and Chirine—are charting a new path for women entrepreneurs and professionals in the EU’s Southern Neighborhood. They share their stories.

gender equality, women empowerment

Ghida Anani is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Public Health at the Lebanese University. She is an expert in Gender-Based Violence and Child Protection. In June 2011, she founded ABAAD — Resource Centre for Gender Equality, which has received EU funding and was awarded the 'Womanity Award'. "My vision is for a world free of violence and discrimination, where all people live in freedom, dignity, and peace. A world where women live in dignity and agency have fair access and control over all assets and resources and can pursue their dreams."

gender equality, women empowerment

Hanan Ammash, resident of the Palestinian Ukba Al Jaber refugee camp, had a vision and started a project 3 years ago. Today, she is the owner of Palestinian Chef Products, a company which delivers fresh pizzas and other similar products to Palestinian schools, governmental and social organizations. Through the Southern Neighbourhood Microfinance Risk Capital Facility, the EU and its bank the EIB aim to provide access to finance to SMEs in Palestine in order to help people build their businesses, trigger economic growth and create jobs.

gender equality, women empowerment

Eslam is a 25-year-old Jordanian girl with a bachelor’s in Criminal and Delinquency studies who couldn’t find a job in her field anywhere in the country, so she turned to her childhood hobby of 'drawing on computers'. Eslam enrolled in a graphics design course with the support of the EU via the Trust Fund, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which help more than 1.3 million vulnerable beneficiaries in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey by improving their overall wellbeing. ”I am very proud of myself for studying graphic design. […] My friends have started seeing me as someone who has a good job. Whenever they need something like a poster, for example, they come to me because they see me as someone capable of working… they don’t look down on me because I’m working… to the contrary, they look up to me!” she says with enthusiasm and pride.

gender equality, women empowerment

When a society loses all its bearing due to an unprecedented global pandemic, the best solution remains to resort to individuals’ inventiveness and determination. Tufaha, Aziza and Amine, a group of young Libyan female entrepreneurs, have responded to this challenge, by creating an innovative educational app ‘Panda’, an EU-funded initiative bridging the gap between Benghazi’s schools and parents. “We want to make sure that, thanks to Panda, all students will be able to complete their academic year from the safety of their homes.”

EUAM Iraq’s Gender and Human Rights adviser Sahra El Fassi from Germany reflects on her work in Baghdad in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

Syrian women

"The situation of women has been better during the conflict than before, despite the war… during the peaceful protests in 2011, the voice of women became equal to that of men and the revolution was an opportunity to demand more rights for women", says Ghaliya Al Rahal, a Syrian women's rights activist and director of a network of centres for women empowerment in Northern Syria.

Stories from the Western Balkans

If you really, really want something… you can move mountains!

Mrika Nikçi, Kosovo

With a passion for mountains that goes back to her childhood, Mrika Nikçi has become the youngest female on earth to climb the Seven Summits – the highest peak on every continent at 17 only years of age. Climbing with people from all over the world, she realised that on the mountains we are all equal.

The fight for equal society for both women and men is not over!

Maja Raičević, Montenegro

Shocked by the stories she heard when she was volunteering at a women’s shelter in Montenegro, and inspired by the courage of her two grandmothers, Maja Raičević realised what was going to be her fight. Today, she fights violence against women and works for a more equal society.

#EuropeansMakingADifference: Detina and Argita Zalli

Detina and Argita Zalli, Albania


The twins Detina and Argita Zalli emigrated from Albania to the UK at the age of thirteen. Today, they are internationally renowned scientists, lecturing at Harvard, Oxford and Imperial College. Through their “We Speak Science” project, they connect students and scientists from all over the world.

Selma Prodanović, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Her efforts to empower female investors have earned her the nickname "Business Angelina". Meet Selma Prodanović, a Sarajevo-born entrepreneur who's dedicated her life to connecting people and supporting early stage start-ups, and now wants to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Tamara Todevska, North Macedonia

Tamara Todevska made her country proud when she won the jury vote and finished 7th at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest. With its message of empowerment and equality, her song "Proud" came to symbolise the European aspirations of her newly renamed country.

When dreams are at stake, giving up is not an option

Nataša Kovačević, Serbia

She was the rising star of Serbian basketball until one day disaster struck. In 2013, the 19-year-old Nataša Kovačević lost her lower left leg in a bus accident. But thanks to her fighting spirit and the support of athletes from all across the region, Nataša could bounce back and join her team again.

Stories from missions and operations around the world

gender equality, women empowerment

‘Effective Communication with youth’ is a part of this curriculum launched in May 2021 with 15 teachers at the Donetsk Law Institute in Ukraine. In this workshop, EUAM Adviser on Community Policing Larissa Rootmensen explains how police should talk to and act with youth to gain respect and trust, establish good relationships and encourage youngsters to behave accordingly.

Civilian CSDP Missions mean business in promotion of female leaders

The civilian CSDP Mentoring Programme for Women was launched this Tuesday, 13 April, with a virtual kick-off event.

“It is important to have both male and female police officers working together side by side and respecting each other as professionals. It increases effectiveness and professionalism in policing and can also improve approaches to addressing sexual and gender-based violence.” With over 29 years’ experience in policing, Detective Superintendent Anu Aro, EUCAP Somalia’s Head of Police Unit, knows how challenging police work can be in many countries.

Mrs. Suad Al-Asadi, a mother of four lost her son during the abhorrent sectarian violence in Iraq. Despite all the challenges, she has worked endlessly to promote women’s rights and gender equality in Iraq. She currently works as the Director of the Female Training Institute and the Head of the Women Empowerment Committee in the Ministry of Interior. Here she shares her inspiring story as an Iraqi gender advocate.

"We are deployed in Operation ATALANTA, to fight against Piracy in the Horn of Africa."

"To all the young women I advise to be prepared with skills to face all the challenges of today’s world. The same skills will match the same opportunities, and this allows us to conduct our lives in all possible directions."

EUPOL COPPS empowers Palestinian women

Lina Zettergren is a Judge Referee at the Supreme Court in her native country, Sweden. She joined EUPOL COPPS as a Senior Criminal Justice Expert in October 2019. In her role in Ramallah, she supports changes in the Palestinian criminal justice system, including issues related to fair trials, witness protection, anti-corruption and access to justice. But if you ask her to name a project especially close to her heart, she will immediately talk about mentoring and empowering female lawyers.

gender equality, women empowerment

On 19 May, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) launched the “Speak Up on Time” media campaign on the importance of biological evidence preservation in sexual violence cases. Sergeant Fidane Ballazhi's encourages victims to speak up, "If you are a victim of sexual violence, report the case to the Kosovo police because we are here for you."

EUAM Iraq’s Gender and Human Rights adviser Sahra El Fassi from Germany reflects on her work in Baghdad in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

Women@EEAS

"Sometimes people think that because you are a woman you did not get a job or have been invited for a certain position because of your competences. This can frustrate you and start to have doubts in what you capable of doing. Don’t let that happen to you. As women, we are capable of doing everything that we want to do. Just believe in yourself and fight for your dreams."

"I’m fascinated by the determined Iraqi women and men who work relentlessly to improve the lives of Iraqis" #Women4Security - EUAM Iraq’s Gender and Human Rights adviser Sahra El Fassi from Germany reflects on her work in Baghdad in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic.

"Believe in yourself, in your instinct. Believe in who you are, never doubt yourself just because you are a woman. I have followed closely the negotiations leading to the Iran Nuclear deal in 2015 and was always amazed watching our EU 'women' diplomats negotiating. They were meticulous, professional, persistent, resilient negotiators and inspiring diplomats."

"I often find myself in a situation where young ladies ask me how I got there, sometimes very young… Our EUDEL driver's 4 year-old-daughter could not believe that her dad's boss could be a woman, so that one day our driver took her to our offices to meet with me. It was amazing seeing her eyes grow as big as two apples on her face when she saw me."

"The professional world likes to think of itself as masculine, but it is not. You also have your place there as a woman. But we're going to have to work hard at it and better than anyone else. A position, a situation or a diploma does not define you. But your choices define you and say more about you than you will ever say."

"You have to learn to manage setbacks. To fail and rise again. With a smile. You also need to learn to make your point, to get your voice heard, particularly important for women. And yes, as many other women with family – and fortunately now also more and more men – I have suffered from a culture of long working hours, late meetings or after-work socialisation around glasses of wine that help build networks, but is often in competition with family time."

"It is very difficult to combine a young child and a full-time job. I fully understand why some young mothers feel discouraged to work full time or to take any additional, more challenging responsibilities. Luckily, our society and the employers have become more tolerant and flexible, and from year to year it becomes easier to combine a job and a family life. There is definitely a positive tendency and I hope it will continue."

"I was lucky to work for a director who once talked and played with my 3-year-old daughter whilst I was finalising a document for the Council but I also knew another director who didn’t accept my request for two-days leave when my 7-year-old son underwent surgery. Women are too often considered in function of a quality matrix applied by and to men. Men and women are equal, should be considered so, not identical. Women’s identity should be better recognised, so our world can walk on both its feet."

Civilian CSDP Missions mean business in promotion of female leaders

The civilian CSDP Mentoring Programme for Women was launched this Tuesday, 13 April, with a virtual kick-off event.

“It is important to have both male and female police officers working together side by side and respecting each other as professionals. It increases effectiveness and professionalism in policing and can also improve approaches to addressing sexual and gender-based violence.” With over 29 years’ experience in policing, Detective Superintendent Anu Aro, EUCAP Somalia’s Head of Police Unit, knows how challenging police work can be in many countries.

"Even if the Military profession has been traditionally related to men, we are step by step balancing between males and females."

"We are deployed in Operation ATALANTA, to fight against Piracy in the Horn of Africa."

"During my first interview for a job, the boss of the company asked me if I had the intention to have kids. I was young and single, and my reply was: ‘Not for the moment, but yes. I hope it will happen’. I got offended at first. Almost humiliated. But then I thought that it was him humiliating himself with that question. By the way, I got the job and I had two kids a few years later."

"To all the young women I advise to be prepared with skills to face all the challenges of today’s world. The same skills will match the same opportunities, and this allows us to conduct our lives in all possible directions."