Equal opportunities and equal access to resources for both men and women is key to sustainable development. With the European Strategy to promote gender equality in development cooperation adopted today, the Commission translates into practice the EU commitment to put gender equality at the heart of its development policy.
The strategy suggests concrete actions in five key areas for the promotion of gender equality: governance, employment, education, health and domestic violence.It provides guidelines on how to improve gender mainstreaming in development policy and shows the potential of budget support for the promotion of gender equality.
Commissioner Louis Michel said today: "To eradicate poverty, we must give women and men in developing countries equal opportunities and support them to achieve equal access to resources. To make development policy deliver better results, gender issues must be considered more thoroughly at all stages when conceiving such policy, inside the EU and in the dialogue with partner countries."
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "Women's rights are not a side issue, but central to the future prosperity of any developing country. We support gender equality at all levels - in countries' own national strategies, through work with civil society, parliaments and media. Inequality is not only morally wrong. Neglecting the contribution that half the population can make is an error no country can afford."
Equal opportunities and equal access to resources for both men and women is a key to sustainable development. In Africa, for instance, women constitute 52% of the total population, but contribute 75 % of the agricultural work and produce and market 60 to 80 % of food. By contrast, over two-thirds of the worlds illiterate are women, girls are about 11% less likely than boys to attend secondary school in developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women earn only 10% of income and own only 1% of assets. Marginalisation of women is also present in decision-making: although women constitute half of the electorate, only 12% of parliamentary seats are held by women. Health statistics show a most dramatic gender gap. In sub-Saharan Africa 60% of HIV-positive adults are women and among young people, 75% of the newly infected with AIDS are girls.
As part of a series of EU policy initiatives aiming to coordinate better the development assistance of Member States and the Commission, the 'Communication on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Development Cooperation' draws up for the first time a European strategy for the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment. To this end, the European Strategy acts on three fronts:
Firstly, it provides 41 concrete suggestions in the areas of governance, employment, education, health and domestic violence as examples for how gender equality can best be supported in a specific region or country.
Secondly, the strategy suggests increasing the efficiency of gender mainstreaming in political dialogue with partner countries through the establishment of effective partnerships for a dialogue on gender and development. This includes governments, the civil society, academia and international organisations. Gender issues must also be mainstreamed more effectively in development cooperation itself. This requires that the key role of women for growth and development is better taken into account in the preparation and implementation of development strategies. To make sure that gender issues are more effectively integrated into each development project, the strategy proposes checklists to evaluate each action against its contribution to gender equality. The European Union already has a vast track-record of best practice examples for development projects addressing gender equality. The European Commission has made available for instance 2.8 million EUR per year under the thematic programme for gender equality since 2004.
Thirdly, the strategy explores the added-value for gender equality of support to the general budget of developing countries or to specific sectors such as health or education as opposed to individual project support. Budget support ensures that partner countries develop higher ownership for results and thus are also more sensitive to gender issues. It strengthens public finance management systems and promotes a wider dialogue on the partner countries´ policy priorities.
(Source: EUROPA - Rapid press releases )