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A new EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy to ensure Girls Get Equal

22 January 2020
The European External Action Service (EEAS) is working on the review of the EU 2020-2024 Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, to reinforce the implementation of the EU's human rights policy in all its activities. We came up with ways we believe the action plan could advance children’s rights and equality for young women and girls and protect and empower them in the face of the backlashes they are facing in today’s world.

Current status of the rights of children and young women and girls worldwide

The world’s population consists of 1,266 million young people aged 10-24, the majority of which live outside of Europe.[1] Ensuring equal rights for all these young people remains a challenge in many regions, in particular for girls and young women. In addition, preventing a backlash against gender equality and women and girls’ rights remains paramount in the upcoming years.

We have witnessed an increase in opportunities for women and girls’ rights: their political, social and economic situation has improved in the last decade and they have greater representation and more decision-making power than ever before. Young women increasingly express their social and political engagement through protest and campaigning, and new means of communication have enabled global movements for women and girls’ rights. However, no country in the world has achieved gender equality.

Right wing and fundamentalist movements seek to limit girls’ and women’s rights and their decision-making power directly threatening the progress we have made over the past years. In addition, in many countries, girls and women still face particular legal obstacles, which restrict their lives and impact their ability to develop their full potential and pursue their ambitions. Women human rights defenders face unique challenges and risks of violence for raising their voices and standing up for their rights. Gender norms and stereotypes present a significant obstacle to gender equality, and limit women and girls’ to exercise their rights both in the private and public sphere.

Our asks for an EU that ensures Girls Get Equal

We firmly believe that the EU Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan should continue to protect and promote women and girls’ rights and gender equality as it will remain a key issue in the future, affecting girls from an early age throughout their life cycle. The following recommendations will be key in ensuring coherence with and support for the human rights approach of key EU documents that take action for girls and women’s human rights.

Girls Get Equal Power
For equal, democratic societies where all individuals are empowered, it is important to support the meaningful, inclusive and safe participation of women, young women and girls in decision-making. Given that girls and women make up approximately half the world’s population, it is essential to make them visible by properly addressing their particular challenges throughout the Action Plan. This should be done by mainstreaming gender throughout the whole action plan and always applying an intersectional lens. That means recognising that different forms of discrimination might be present and active at the same time, such as discrimination based upon sex and age.

Girls Get Equal Rights
In order that girls have equal rights, we urge the EU to support the fully ratification and implementation of conventions such as the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Moreover, next to these conventions there should be internal coherence with other EU policy documents, such as the Gender Action Plan and the EU guidelines for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child. This coherence is important in order to recognise the interdependence of human rights and strengthen the EU human-rights based approach.

Girls Get Equal Freedom both offline and online
Girls and young women increasingly use digital technology and online platforms to express themselves, including as a form of political participation. Therefore, we believe it is of major importance to apply a gender lens to digital technology. Digital literacy, as well as girls and young women’s protection from online violence and harassment are key to support their empowerment and their freedom of expression.

Through these recommendations, we urge the EU to ensure the protection and promotion of women and girls’ rights in their policy-making and actions. In addition, next to gender-transformative, human-right based policy-making, we encourage the EU to continue engaging with civil society, to support and partner with youth and women’s organisations defending women and girls’ rights. Only by collectively making these efforts, we can ensure that children’s rights and especially those of young women and girls are respected worldwide.


[1] UNFPA World Population Dashboard, 2019.