News and Views

The following post is written by Barbara Cleary, Trustee at NAWO.

European Women’s Open Forum Meeting June 2018

Representation on the Lobby has changed.  My term of office for NAWO came to an end in June 2018 and representation of the UK has passed to Scotland. Emma Ritch is the UK Board member and Emma Johnston NI is the alternate.  NAWO’s representation on UKJCW has also changed and Margaret Clark a new NAWO Trustee has taken on this role.

It has been a truly rewarding experience and an opportunity to work with colleagues across the EU supporting each other and helping to shape and implement the women’s agenda at European level. I met so many interesting and passionate women, some working in very difficult and challenging environments particularly with the rise of right wing populism and nationalism.

I feel very honoured that I had the opportunity to work within the Lobby even more so that I was elected to the Executive Committee which brought with it many more opportunities – working with EIGE, attending the Colloquium for Fundamental Rights, speaking at an UNESCO conference in Paris and meeting Frans Timmermen the First Vice President of the Commission.

I should also mention the Lobby Secretariat who do amazing work and cover a lot of ground and never miss an opportunity to advocate for gender equality. In the last year the significant political change we have witnessed has created volatility in Europe and has made life increasingly more challenging pushing forward on gender equality including our own position in the UK.

I know there are concerns about the UK’s continued membership of the Lobby after Brexit. We have had and will continue to have discussions about how the UK can continue to be part of the Lobby after leaving Europe. I believe there is a very strong commitment to find a way to make this a reality. The other members are keen to keep us in the Lobby albeit the membership may be on a slightly different basis. As the Brexit negotiations continue to unfold a time will come when the options for the Lobby will become clearer. We will keep you updated and seek your views as necessary.

In June the Lobby held its second European Women’s Forum. The focus of this year’s forum was ReshapingPower ((RE)power). We celebrated our successes, heard inspiring stories amd participated in awareness raising actions.

At the Open Forum meeting on the first day the 50:50 Women For Europe, Europe for Women campaign was launched. The campaign aims to achieve equal representation of women and men, parity in the European Parliament in the 2019 elections and in the appointment of the new college of European Commissioners. It mirrors our own aspirations for gender parity in the UK Government. Even though achieving equality between women and men is an official goal of the European Union and enshrined in its Treaties as a fundamental principle, gender equality has not been realised and women are still seriously under-represented in power and decision-making. After the 2014 EU elections, only 37% of the MEPs were women and this number has since decreased. Only 2 out of the 15 European Parliament Presidents have been women and only 9 out of 28 European Commissioners are women. In Turkey there is now a male dominated Parliament.

The event was attended by EWL members, EU policy makers, and private-sector influencers. Keynote speakers and grassroots activists shared their experiences, information and insights on how women can (RE)shape power in Europe and globally. Feminist writer and blogger Minna Salami and speaker at the event emphasised “We live in contradicting times where on the one hand, campaigns like Me Too and Black Lives Matter are positively changing the way we interact to be more progressive, inclusive and equal societies. On the other hand, misogynist and xenophobic politics are on the rise. A diverse, global minded and conscientiously feminist Women For Europe campaign is more timely than ever!”  You can read Minna Salami’s key note speech here.

Click here to sign the petition which invites to you show your support and commitment to a world where women can enjoy equal rights and full participation in every level of decision making.

Governance Meeting

At the General Assembly and Board governance meetings focus was on the EWL strategy for 2020 and the ambitious work programme to implement the goals.  Read the Strategy here.  Board members were actively involved in planning and creating and exchanging best practice for future campaigns and projects.

Emergency motions are put forward by EWL National Co-ordinations or European Wide Members, calling on EWL and its members to take actions and position on a number of issues that are of strong importance to women’s rights. At the General Assembly five emergency motions on different questions, including  childcare, anti-feminist extremism and populism, women and girls impacted by the conflict in Syria and rape were adopted. The motion on rape was put forward by the UK Co-ordination. Many of us have become increasing concerned about the human rights violations where survivors of sexual violence experience systematic barriers to justice.  The motion called for an urgent gender-sensitive review of the criminal justice system in N. Ireland, the reversal of Crown Office policy in Scotland that would see rape complainers compelled to testify, the effective implementation of the National Violence Against Women Strategy in Wales, protection for the Human Rights Act. Read the emergency motions here






At the General Assembly all the new Board applicants were elected. You can download the full list of EWL’s Board members and their alternates here. Meet the New President and ExecutiveTeam at the Lobby elected at the Board meeting on 10 June.

The new President is Gwendoline Lefebvre from the Coordination Française, the Vice Presidents are Laura Albu from the Romanian Women’s Lobby and Ana Sofia Fernandes from the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights,  the Treasurer is Annelies Pierrot-Bults from the University Women Europe  and Executive members Pirkko Mahlamäki from the European Disability Forum (EDF), Pauline Mukanza from the European YWCA and Anna Zobnina from the European Network of Migrant Women.  I have extended my warmest congratulations to the new Team and wish them well.

Couple of quick updates since my last update in March:

Work Life Balance Directive

The EWL co-signed a letter to call on the Members States to approve the Work Life Balance Directive  at a meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council and to work towards making a more social Europe a reality. Read the letter. On 21 June 2018, “the Council agreed its negotiating position (general approach) on the directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. On the basis of this mandate, the Council Presidency will start negotiations with the European Parliament once the latter has adopted its position”. We will track developments.

Istanbul Convention

On the first anniversary of the signature of the Istanbul Convention by the European Union (EU) on the 13th June 2017, the European Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls released a statement calling on the EU and all member states to urgently ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention. One year on the EU has unfortunately made little progress with the ratification process and only 19 of the 28 EU member states have ratified the Convention. Read the statement here.

In the UK we are continuing to campaign for the ratification of the Convention. As we understand the position thus far the Government remains committed to ratifying the convention which is dependent on a number of legislative changes including extra territorial jurisdiction (article 44 requires that all signatories take the necessary legislative measures to establish ETJ over any offence established in accordance with the convention) which will form part of the new Domestic Violence Bill for England and wales currently being consulted on.  Scotland and NI will have similar provisions.

On the 1 July 2018, Austria assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The motto of the Presidency is “A Europe that protects”. The European Coalition to End Violence Against Women and Girls has asked the Austrian Presidency to stand up for women and advance the  ratification process as quickly as possible.

If you would like more information on any of the issues in Europe please do get in touch.

I wish the new UKJCW Team and UK representatives in Europe the very best for the future.