I have always held the firm conviction that development cannot happen if half of the world’s population is left behind. Gender equality is about human rights and giving every woman and girl all over the world a voice and a choice. But it is also about smart development, and smart economics, because our success in empowering women and girls will determine our success in eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development for all.
At the start of my mandate, when I pledged to be the European Commission’s most vocal male feminist, I set about putting gender equality at the heart of all the EU’s development programmes and projects. This is why I made it my mission over these past five years to make our programmes more “gender-proof” and “gender-sensitive” in an effort to tackle deeply entrenched social norms and behaviours through EU development support.
I also poured my heart and soul into tackling the scourge of gender-based violence. It is simply unacceptable that in this day and age, still one in three women have been victims of some form of violence, that 650 million worldwide were married as children and that more than 200 million girls have been subject to the horrifying and unconscionable practice of female genital mutilation. We needed bold and determined action to take this head on and say enough is enough.
The Spotlight Initiative rose to this difficult challenge. The European Union teamed up with the United Nations, under a unique model of partnership, to spearhead a truly global movement to end gender-based violence all around the world. With regional programmes and investments in targeted countries, we joined forces with partner governments and civil society to make sure all our actions - at all levels - mutually back each other up and strive towards the same shared goal of ending gender-based violence.
In many ways, the challenge has been enormous. We took on all forms of gender-violence - from femicide and domestic violence to sexual violence and harmful practices - across different continents and different cultures. But I am personally very proud of what has been achieved in the short space of time since we launched Spotlight just two years ago. So far, 13 countries in Latin America and Africa have already started implementing Spotlight programmes. And already 320 million euros out of an initial investment of 500 million have been allocated.
For me personally, Spotlight has been an eye-opening human experience. I have been moved by the incredible people I have met along the way. Many of these people are survivors who have been through unimaginable trauma. But their resilience and strength in the face of darkness and sadness has inspired me beyond measure.
Spotlight is not just about making change in the short-term. It’s about changing attitudes in the long-term. It is upon us all to ensure that the next generation of boys grow up to never associate masculinity with control and violence, and that the next generation of girls grow up safe and equal, with a voice and a choice.
For a summary of my work on Gender, please view this fiche.