Women’s rights are not the “icing of the cake” but a core value of the EU and its member states.

2015 will be a crucial year for gender equality, women’s rights and for the women’s movement globally.

The international community will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action  (BPfA)adopted in 1995. At the sEWL reportame time a new global framework for development will be adopted with new Sustainable Development Goals, and at the European level the European Union (EU) will adopt its new Strategy of Equality between women and men

The regional commissions of the UN have undertaken regional reviews of the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. –

The results of the review undertaken by  United Nations Economic Forum for Europe – UN ECE – will be the focus of the Beijing+20 Regional Review Meeting in Geneva on November 6 – 7  2014, co-hosted by UN Women and UN-ECE.  An NGO Forum is held on November 3-5.

The European Women’s Lobby, of which IAW is a member, has published a report “1995 – 2015 From Words to Action”.  The report assesses the implementation of the BPfA in Europe 20 years after its adoption by the international community.

These are some of the findings of the assessment:

Women and girls in Europe have experienced progress over the past years. They are present and visible everywhere in society, in education, employment, political and business decision-making, as journalists, artists, in research etc . A new generation of feminists are on the move, and men are joining the cause.

Nevertheless, backlash is strong. Ultra-conservative and religious groups are systematically calling gender into question. They attack women’s sexual and reproductive rights, women’s access to employment and decision-making. One result of the 2014 European elections was a larger number of populist and misogynist members of the European Parliament, which is a serious threat to the EU commitment to promote gender equality and women’s rights. The neo-liberal system and consumer society are detrimental to women’s and girls’ empowerment. Their  body and sexuality are commodified in commercials and prostitution,  and stereotypes are perpetuated.

Often the European Parliament has underlined the importance of  women’s empowerment, but member states have failed to adopt ambitious goals and legislation on women’s human rights.The fact that no strategy on ending violence against women has yet been adopted is an example of this.

Gender mainstreaming has been adopted as a central policy, but in many areas has not been implemented.  In short, women’s rights are considered “the icing of the cake” and gender equality is not taken seriously.

The report is informative, useful and inspiring. The way it is structured makes it a useful tool for the European women’s movement  and an inspiration for the global women’s movement as well.

We call on politicians to act  because “while legislation is key, it is not enough and should be accompanied by powerful political will and grassroots action to make a real change at all levels of personal life, community and society”

EWL report Beijing20