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27th Sep 2021

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Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future

  • Women and girls' empowerment is crucial for the political agenda of our EU-Africa Partnership (Photo: Renew Europe)

Today we often talk about the need to establish a relationship between equals in our partnership with Africa.

This paradigm needs to be more than a declaration of good intentions.

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  • (Photo: Renew Europe)

The EU Strategy with Africa launched by the European Commission last year and the related parliamentary report recently adopted, focus precisely on the importance of going beyond a donor-recipient perspective.

We need to engage in a constructive dialogue at all levels, look to the continent with honesty, humility, and the conviction that we have a lot to learn from each other.

Such dialogue within the parliamentary dimension of our relations is key for our work at the parliamentary delegation for the relations with the Pan-African parliament.

Our permanent political dialogue on topics spanning from access to vaccines to EU-AU trade relations, represents a unique opportunity to strengthen such ties and foster political and human exchanges that will allow us to better understand each other.

In such contest, Renew Europe will host a high-level seminar on "Europe & Africa - Rebuilding the Future" on 14 April, organised by our political group Renew Europe.

This seminar intends to open up a conversation with our colleagues of the European and African liberal parties to discuss the main challenges of our relations with Africa, ahead the EU-AU summit in 2021.

One of the panels that Renew Europe has the pleasure to host pleasure to host will focus on how gender inequalities affect human development and the need to foster women and girl's empowerment in the continent.

Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a fundamental right, it is critical to build the future of our sustainable societies. Empowering women and girls benefits economic growth, social progress and human development.

In the past 20 years, we have seen significant progress in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNDP and based on the Human Development Index, this region has experienced more rapid growth than any other region.

However, in many areas such as employment, there are still large inequalities as women are systematically denied the same work rights as men, even if it there are more women in the labour market than ever.

Furthermore, women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis is bringing several steps back in the advancement towards gender equality.

In the labour market, women have lost income and pushed out of the labour force at a higher rate, while taking on a greater share of care work with their family. In the healthcare sector, safe maternal and child health are at serious risk in already strained health systems.

The disruption of services has led to an increase in maternal and child mortality, as women do not trust going to hospitals and health centres, for the increased risk of contracting Covid-19.

For the same reasons, safe access to sexual and reproductive health is also under serious threat due to the pandemic. Not to mention the setbacks in the progress achieved in the eradication of violence against women and harmful practices such as FGM.

Lockdowns and restrictive measures resulted in the loss of prevention and protection services to victims, and have generally interfered in the persecution of the crime.

Finally, education is one the most critical areas of concern. Not only could the closure of schools mean that girls will not have the opportunity to complete their educational cycle.

By dropping out of school, girls are actually more vulnerable to domestic violence, facing child marriage and early pregnancy, and being exploited for child labour. UNESCO has projected that 11 million girls may never return to school following the pandemic.

We cannot afford a lost generation of girls.

This is the reason why women and girls' empowerment is crucial for the political agenda of our EU-Africa Partnership.

We need to join our efforts and act united to encourage women's empowerment. It is a matter of full enjoyment of human rights for African women, and it is key for the economic growth of the continent.

Discrimination and the absence of equal opportunities for African women have great negative impact on the continent's prosperity. Africa is the continent that is and will keep growing the most in both population and GDP, while being the world's youngest continent. Women and especially girls have a great transformative potential.

The more women will be denied equal opportunities, the more Africa will be poor.

This is why we must always remember the words pronounced by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan already over 20 years ago: "Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance".

Author bio

Soraya Rodriguez has been a Renew Europe MEP since 2019. She is member of the Committee on Women’s rights and Gender equality and the Committee on the Environment, Public health and Food safety.

Barry Andrews MEP is a Renew Europe member of the Committee on International Trade and is a member of the Delegation for relations with South Africa, and a substitute member of the Committee on Development.

Charles Goerens MEP is the Renew Europe coordinator in the Committee on Development. He is also the vice-president of the Committee on the Constitutional Affairs.

Disclaimer

This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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