European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to attend first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society 14-15 November

For the first time, the 35 members of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership are meeting at ministerial level to discuss how to strengthen the role of women in society on both sides of the Mediterranean sea. The European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will represent the Commission at the conference which is being held on 14-15 November in Istanbul. The conference is being held in line with the Five Year Work Programme agreed on during the 10th Anniversary Barcelona Summit in 2005. The Istanbul conference will approve ministerial conclusions that include a short political declaration and a work plan to boost women’s role in the political, social, economic, educational and cultural spheres, and will guide the mobilisation of funds for gender equality from all Euromed partners

On the eve of the meeting, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “We have certainly seen improvements in the last few years: Mediterranean countries are on track for achieving the millennium goals target for girls’ enrolment in primary schools. But there are some striking gaps, such as the ratio of women to men in paid employment, and women’ s participation in national parliaments. We must never forget that there are also flaws in Europe’s own equality record.”

She added “I am proud to be attending the first ministerial meeting on the role of women in the Euro-med region. I hope this conference will prove to be a significant milestone on the road to women’s equality throughout the region. We need to speak out strongly about remaining problems, and regularly monitor progress. This is not a women’s campaign: gender equality is one of the main drivers of development for everyone”.

Although the Barcelona process has supported in particular Mediterranean women’s access to economic life, a great deal more can be achieved by introducing a more systematic approach. The Euromed Conference on Strengthening the role of Women in Society seeks to lay the groundwork for a more coherent effort.

Ministers will agree that equal participation of women and men in all spheres of life is a crucial element of democracy, and will undertake commitments to achieve this. Conclusions from the meeting will focus in particular on implementation of political and civil rights; social and economic rights; and women’s rights in the cultural sphere, including in the media.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will seek to draw attention in particular to the need to give equal access to education to women and girls, combat violence against women, and boost the representation of women in political life.