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Women’s Socio-Economic Empowerment conference in Spain
The Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean organised a project-oriented international conference entitled “Women’s Socio-Economic Empowerment: Projects for Progress” on 26 – 27 March 2014, at its headquarters in Barcelona, Spain, as mandated by the Third Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Strengthening the Role of Women in Society.
The two-day international multi-stakeholder Conference gathered some 200 participants from 35 countries, including governmental representatives, civil society and non-governmental organisations, international organisations dealing with gender equality, private sector representatives, think tanks and university networks.
The Conference aimed at:
- Identifying priority initiatives, programmes and funding in the field of socio-economic empowerment of women in the region;
- Developing stronger synergies and coherence among key stakeholders
- Encouraging the submission of regional project proposals to the UfM Secretariat;
- Bringing Northern and Southern Mediterranean funders and project promoters on the ground together to develop partnerships
- Launching projects and announcing project-based partnerships.
Outcomes of the Conference
The Conference identified major needs and challenges for advancing women agenda in the Euro-Mediterranean and analysed public policies and private sector development programmes for women empowerment. Three workshops allowed participants to share concrete proposals and recommendations on ways to improve the value chain for income generating activities, facilitate transition from education to work and improve women’s access to decision-making positions.
Participants exchanged experiences, success stories and discussed recommendations on how best to address women empowerment and gender equality. Four main elements were highlighted:
- Recognising the critical role of governments but also the necessity of involving civil society, participants highlighted the need to work with an integrated approach to enhance gender mainstreaming
- The cultural dimension, including the influence of education sensitive to gender equality and the role of media in the process of mentality change, was equally emphasised. Involvement of men is critical
- The pace and scope of action must be increased and lessons taken from the lack of progress achieved on many issues in the past
- Gathering forces and energy, networking and creating synergy are necessary to respond to the challenges
The Conference provided an opportunity to officially launch a call for new projects. In addition to the 25 projects already in the UfM pipeline, 10 new projects have been received, from civil society, organisations and Governments. The Secretariat will continue working with all project promoters on preparing the projects for funding and implementation.
Three UfM-labelled projects were presented:
- The project ‘Skills for Success: Employability Skills for Women’, promoted by AMIDEAST was officially launched. It will take place in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.
- Promoted by the Association of Organisations of Mediterranean businesswomen (AFAEMME), the project ‘Young Women as Job Creators’ launched officially its second phase of implementation during 2014 in Albania, Egypt and Tunisia, in addition to Morocco, Jordan, Palestine and Spain. A joint UfM-AFAMME Award to the best business idea resulting from the project’s seminars was presented to a young women student from Jordan.
- The UfM labelled project ‘Developing Women Empowerment’, promoted by the Foundation of the Women of the Euro-Mediterranean, presented its goals and missions and announced its official launch in the second half of 2014.
The funding agreements with the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Flemish Department of Foreign Affairs were signed for an amount of approximately €1 million, covering projects and initiatives carried out by the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean in the field of gender equality.
Through this Conference and its follow-up, the UfM secretariat plays the role of a platform for the creation of partnerships and the launching of regional projects in the Mediterranean region. Next steps include:
Launching a comprehensive mapping of key players, initiatives and funding in the field of women empowerment in the Euro-Mediterranean region
Studying all project proposals, encourage the submission of new regional proposals, and submit those responding to the UfM criteria for labelling
Facilitating the networking of all participants present in the Conference
Organising a series of seminars and workshops on specific issues such as job creation, creating value in the production of handicrafts, social and solidarity economy, social security, education and vocational training, and women’s access to positions of responsibility
Planning a subsequent project-oriented conference on women empowerment to ensure a permanent dynamic and a continuity of the process.
Key elements of the Conference
The Euro-Mediterranean regional approach: change agents working for women’s advancement from 35 countries represented; all eastern and southern Mediterranean countries represented;
An operational perspective that interlinks public policies and the project dimension
A multi-stakeholder and interactive approach building on the diversity of perspectives, with the presence of 86 NGOs, 53 governmental members, 20 international organisations, 23 research institutes, think-tanks and Universities and 20 from the private sector
Exchanges and networking among major funders and programme managers working on the ground: about 60 bilateral meetings took place on the margins of the Conference.