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#GirlsTakeover European Commission First Vice-President

11 October 2017
[BRUSSELS]: On 11 October 2017, Ritah, from Uganda, will become First Vice-President of the European Commission, symbolically taking over the role of Frans Timmermans.

Ritah will spend the afternoon shadowing the First Vice-President, and will “takeover” a speech he is due to deliver at the Gender Equality Index 2017 Conference taking place in Brussels.

The action is part of a global #GirlsTakeover, organised by Plan International, which sees girls and young women around the world step into positions of power mark the International Day of the Girl (11 October).

The “takeover” of First Vice-President Timmerman’s position is part of a movement involving over 600 girls and young women in more than 60 countries, who are uniting to demand a political and social revolution against the discrimination which holds them back in private and public life.

“The #GirlsTakeover action is an emphatic statement of girls’ power and potential. When girls get equal opportunities and equal chances in life, they can transform their lives and their communities,” says Alexandra Makaroff, Plan International’s EU Representative.

“But too often they are held back by prejudice and injustice. It’s time to break down these barriers and create opportunities for all girls to be who they want to be.”

Being heard and heeded

Together with Plan International, the #GirlsTakeover participants will call for girls’ rights to be a global political priority, encourage other girls and young women to step forward as leaders and decision makers, and to have their voices heard.

“Many people consider girls to be inferior to boys, and girls’ opinions and ideas aren’t always listened to. We need to change this, and change the mindset about what women and girls can do,” says Ritah.

“If somebody told me I couldn’t do something because I am a girl, I’d tell them to give me the chance to act. It is not our gender that acts and performs, it is the ability and strength of our mind.”

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

First Vice-President Timmermans, whose portfolio covers better regulation, interinstitutional relations, the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, also holds horizontal responsibility for sustainable development.

Achieving gender equality is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that were agreed by world leaders in 2015 and which promise to transform the world by 2030. However, without a seismic shift in political and social attitudes, this goal, alongside others, cannot be realised.

“I hope that today's action will not only help to empower the girls and young women participating, but also inspire many others. There should be no door closed and no positon of power out of reach for women. Both in Europe and around the world we are determined to make the Sustainable Development Goals a reality, including the goal of gender equality," says First Vice-President Timmermans.

A global movement

The takeover of First Vice-President Timmermans is one of several happening in Brussels during the European Week of Action for Girls, which takes place from 09-13 October. Other positions being taken over include Linda McAvan MEP, Chair of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, and Heidi Hautala MEP, Vice-Chair of the Group of Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

Other high-profile individuals participating in the #GirlsTakeover globally include the Prime Minister of Canada, Prime Minister of Finland, President of El Salvador, the Secretary General of the OECD, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, and the CEO’s of Google Australia, Ikea Switzerland, and Accenture Netherlands.

Editor's notes

First Vice-President Timmermans, #GirlsTakeover participant’s Ritah and Maria, and Plan International EU Representative Alexandra Makaroff are available for interview.

Media contacts

Plan International                                                        
Louise Hagendijk
Communications and Campaigns Officer 
Plan International EU Office
Tel: +32 (4)70 59 80 62
Email: louise.hagendijk@plan-international.org   

Facts and figures

  • Hashtag: #GirlsTakeover
  • As of July 2017, women make up 34% of managers in the European Commission and over 32% of European Commissioners are female (9/28).
  • Only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians are women. As of January 2017, only 18.3% of government ministers were women.[1]
  • As at March 2015, only 10 out of 152 elected Heads of State worldwide were women, and only 14 of 194 governments were headed by women.[2]
  • More than half of companies working in the materials and IT sectors have no women among their board members.[3]
  • In 2016, globally, women held only 15% of the world’s board seats[4]
  • Fewer than 3% of CEOs heading the world’s 500 leading corporations are women.[5]
  • Less than 1% of parliamentarians globally are women and under the age of 30.

The European Institute for Gender Equality’s Gender Equality Index 2017 Conference will be livestreamed here.

Plan International’s report, Unlock the Power of Girls Now, released on 2 October, argues that gender equality must be the social and political issue of our time. Read the full report at plan-international.org/girlsnow

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. Through our actions, we will contribute to ensuring 100 million girls learn, lead, decide and thrive. Founded 80 years ago, we are working in over 70 countries worldwide.

[1] Inter-Parliamentary Union. “Women in national parliaments, as of 1 June 2017”. 
[2] UN (2015) Power and decision-making:https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/downloads/Ch5_Power_and_decision_info.pdf 
[3] Ibid.
[4] Deloitte 2016 Women in the boardroom: A global perspective – 5th edition 
[5] Fortune (2017) 2017 Fortune Global 500 List of CEOs: http://fortune.com/global500/