So what are my main take-aways from this year’s EDDs? As Plan International’s CEO, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, said during one of her interventions, “we need EU actors to step up and join us as girls’ rights advocates and challenge the hugely unequal power relations between men and women, and boys and girls”. As a longstanding feminist, I fully recognise that shifting social norms is the only way to make progress. With gender equality being the main theme of this year’s European Development Days, it underlines the fact that sustainable development can only be achieved through gender equality. On the EU-level serious progress can and must be made in the near future: gender budgeting could become a reality and a more equal representation within the European Parliament is up for grabs with the elections around the corner. Currently only 37.3% seats are held by women. I very much hope that this edition of the EDDs will mark the start of significant change.
Rotimy Djossaya, Regional Director, Plan International West and Central Africa Regional Office, also called on the EU to realise its policy commitments, such as those in the Gender Action Plan and the European Consensus for Development. These policies should be the basis for allocating funding to mainstreaming gender equality in the next EU budget and for dedicated funding for specific actions. It’s also within this context that at our stand participants were able to share their thoughts as to why the EU should invest in girls, Ola, one of the EDDs youth leaders, simply said: “Because girls' voices power progress for all!”. In the meantime, the youth activists of the Girls’ Rights Watch were speeding through dates to underline the importance of our message that girls’ rights are human rights. Of course, they are the ones that are already fully acquainted with our Girls’ Rights Platform, the world’s most comprehensive human rights database.
All in all, for me, these European Development Days were a true reflection of the EU’s desire to realise gender equality globally. But of course the EU must go beyond organising inspiring events! To actually realise gender equality, the EU needs to move from words to actions and live up to the promises it has made in international treaties and commitments. I, together with my colleagues, will keep a close eye on the steps the EU takes to do just that. This year’s EDDs occurred at a propitious time since the negotiations of the next EU seven-year budget (2021-2027) are ongoing. We all know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Will the EU prioritise advancing girls’ and women’s rights in the next budget? Will the EU contribute effectively to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and abide by the principle of leaving no one behind? I sincerely hope so.