The need for a follow-up to the Euromed Ministerial Conferences to reinforce the role of women in society

The need for a follow-up to the Euromed Ministerial Conferences to reinforce the role of women in society

By Maria-Àngels Roque, director of the international biannual journal Quaderns de la Mediterrania.

There is no doubt that currently it is women and young people who are most involved in producing the changes that affect not only each of the countries that make up the Mediterranean, but also at a planetary level. Civil society is what we have seen manifest in the squares of many countries both in the north and in the south to promote those social, economic and environmental changes, which, today more than ever, are a priority and if women are not counted . cannot be performed.

I would like to focus on an aspect that I consider very important and I am referring to the ministerial meetings of the Euromed zone that have to do with “Strengthening the role of women in society”. The first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference was held in 1995, in Barcelona, ​​where for the first time there was talk of the need to count on the civil society of the countries on both banks so that the peoples could share more democracy, a greater development and lasting peace. It was a sweet moment in the relations between the North and the South and the idea was reached that just as the countries of the East were being helped, it was necessary to take the South into account, but in this statement it did not appear at any time that women were necessary to achieve these objectives.

Ten years after the First Euromed Conference, in 2005, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland commented on the strangeness that in the different ministerial conferences of a sectoral nature, none had been held on women’s rights in this region. For this reason, he said that in the second half of 2006, when Finland held the presidency of the Council of the European Union, they would promote the first Ministerial Conference to strengthen the role of women in the Euro-Mediterranean area. And so it was carried out, at the beginning of December 2006 in Istanbul. Later they would come: Marrakech, in 2008; Paris, in 2012; Cairo, in 2017, and Madrid in 2022.

Tools and objectives to overcome challenges.
Undoubtedly in these almost two decades there have been legislative changes in the countries of the southern Mediterranean and especially the associations have had an important role in the dissemination and training of women.

Since its founding, the Instituto Europeo del Mediterráneo (IEMed) has oriented its gender approach based on two basic pillars: firstly, the contribution to the establishment of trans-Mediterranean alliances and, secondly, the support for local initiatives that have another . class of effects in the region. In 2014, it became one of the founding members, as well as the headquarters of the Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation (EMWF), a network of networks that brings together more than five hundred and fifty women, from thirty-five countries in the region . Mediterranean The Foundation works to contribute to the fight for equal rights for all the inhabitants of the region through a series of advances in the political, economic, civil and social spheres. The eradication of all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls is one of the pillars of their work. In this line, it also deals with the transformation of imaginaries with gender prejudices, so widespread throughout society.

Today, the Foundation works to achieve its objectives thanks to a trilingual platform (English, Arabic and French) and aims to establish itself as a meeting point where initiatives on gender issues can be shared so that these can be disseminated and have a greater echo in the region Its approach is based on weaving networks and closely following the work of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which includes the twenty-eight member countries of the EU and fifteen Mediterranean partner countries, through a transdisciplinary approach of multiple action.

Analyze the needs and concerns of local associations, collect scattered data on gender issues, establish work dynamics in collaboration with associations, local administrations, academics and journalists to produce actions aimed at drawing up policies and maintain transregional dialogues, also form . part of the Foundation’s agenda together with the IEMed. Likewise, work is being done on the follow-up of the ministerial conferences on the role of women in society. These meetings serve to identify common challenges when it comes to achieving a safer and more equal Mediterranean space, since although there are legislative changes, there are also many reservations and gaps to overcome. In this sense, combating all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls has always been a priority objective for all participating states; an objective that will be reached through a series of measures that must address prevention mechanisms, offer support services to victims, promote education that can favor changes in the patriarchal imaginary and reinforce the role of society’s associations . civilian

The governments have the responsibility to attend to the problems of the populations they represent, as well as the solutions that may arise in the neighborhoods, cities and regions. Therefore, it is essential to establish fluid and constant communication channels between political leaders and civil society. The participants in the ministerial meetings also emphasize the importance of establishing follow-up mechanisms to ensure that the commitments undertaken are carried out and meet their objectives. By delving deeper into the analysis of the realities of certain territories in the southern Mediterranean, the reports made from civil society raise questions, point out obstacles and formulate ideas in order to expand the rights and possibilities of women and vulnerable groups.

It is worth remembering that, despite the efforts made in recent years on the part of the states in legal terms, provisions are still lacking, but also resources so that the provisions initiated can be truly implemented in some Euro-Mediterranean countries. It is also necessary to involve local governments, as well as associations, in the defense of women’s rights from the ground, because both actors know very well the specific situations, problems and aspirations that must be addressed to achieve societies . more equal on both Mediterranean shores. In addition, civil society produces numerous data and studies that must be considered and added to the work of public institutions. EMWF and IEMed continue to build around these experiences. The analysis of the conclusions and the data collected and debated in a participatory way allows a better application of the policies adopted in the ministerial conferences by the participating partners. Although the problems persist from many perspectives, many other practices and initiatives have benefited from the attention, understanding and diffusion that they have received throughout the region, always with a view to achieving the change of mentalities that will allow the full implementation of women’s political, economic and social rights.

The Euro-Mediterranean space is very diverse and changes very quickly, but gender-based violence is still a constant threat in all its territories. Analyzing and understanding the various origins of this violence is fundamental, with a view to eradicating its multiple ramifications, which means paying attention to the specificities of each context in order to be able to approach each action from a multifocal point of view. Adopting a point of view based on human security helps us to understand gender violence as a threat that, until now, has marked the lives of many inhabitants of the region, since it reconfigures the traditional notion of security – linked with fuerzas militares—toward a more individual-centered perspective. Thus we can come to understand the ways in which gender violence unfolds and intersects with other threats within the complex Mediterranean realities. The international legal frameworks, such as the Women, Peace and Security of the United Nations, can only be effective if they are really based on deep social analysis, and if they take into account the resilience that, as the scenario of the pandemic, always guide our world and our region forward.