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together for a feminist europe

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) General Assembly took place in Brussels in June 2017 entitled "Together for a Feminist Europe: Our future starts now". Liliane Seidman, ICJW Chair of the European Region, and Eliane Sperling, ICJW representative to the European Women's Lobby, sent this report.

The opening session was held at the magnificent historic City Hall of Brussels introduced and welcomed by Edith Schratzberger-Vécsei, President of the European Women’s Lobby. The topic was “Loud and United”, a public event with the EWL Observatory on violence against women and girls. The key note speaker was the American feminist Gloria Steinem who emphasized that the USA and Europe were fighting for the same cause and against the resurgence of the Extreme Right. For her it’s a question of connection between controlled reproduction and women’s control of reproduction. The event was followed by a demonstration organised together with the Belgian women’s organisations and “La Marche Mondiale des Femmes” to raise our hands and voices to demand political action to make Europe a peaceful place for all women and girls. 
 
The first day of day of the EWL General Assembly focused on Right Populism and Women’s rights: supporting a Feminist resistance in Europe. The guest of honour was Frans Timmermans, First Vice-president of the European Commission. He considers himself as a feminist and talked about women’s rights regressing due to the actual situation in Europe. He wants to involve men to accept equality and emphasized the need for 4 months paternity leave not transferrable. One of the main ideas behind the Commission’s reform of parental leave law is to boost the rate of women in the labour market.  
 
He raised the problem of migration where women and girls are the main victims. He talked about how women & girls must be educated in Africa: this is a strategy survival in order that they live in a better world. A huge budget should be assigned to that particular cause. 
 
To confirm his full engagement, Frans Timmermans is organising a colloquium on 22 November at the European Commission. It will be about women’s rights: freedom and equality. He emphasizes that democracy is conditional to human rights and women’s rights. The battle today is “to go forward”.  
 
Hungary, France and Germany talked about the impact of the problems of the extreme right of their country. Abortion is still forbidden in Malta and Ireland and highly limited in Hungary and Poland. Women’s organisations are fighting for women’s issues but they need more financial, political, local and European support and engagement. This concerns most of the European countries who need to feminist groups in their projects. 
 
The EWL secretary general Johanna Maycock presented the Implementation program of EWL’s Strategic Framework:  2016-2020. It’s about the “Member’s engagement strategy”,  at different levels and within different contexts (local, national, European Union and international), to focus on structures, tools and resources and to use the EWL Living Room to communicate internally with other members sharing news, calls for actions and updates. 
 
The second day was about the result of elections for vacant seats on the EWL Board and the financial situation and budget 2017-2020. Johanna Maycock was very proud to announce that for the first time EWL has a surplus with their income from different sources. The largest % comes from the European Commission and private donors. Therefore we managed to cancel last years deficit. 
 
At this GA meeting, once more the EWL reiterated its commitment to fight for the rights of women in all areas making sure that impunity is on the European agenda when it comes to violence generally and most particularly against refugee women and girls.