The European Development Days - putting the F for Feminism in the MFF
08 June 2018
Brussels played host to the European Development Days this week- a huge 2 day conference bringing together around 8000 people to discuss new ideas and solutions to the world´s most pressing challenging. For me, this conference was all about giving a voice to speakers from developing countries and this year that was a real emphasis on changing the lives of women and girls.
Some of the most striking conversations I had this past week were with the Child Ambassadors from World Vision who were speaking out against child marriage. I met Meghla, a young woman from Bangladesh, who managed to escape forced married at 13 and has now set up her own campaign to stop other children being forced down this path. Child marriage often happens as a response to extreme poverty, particularly a lack of value placed on girls, though boys can also be victims, as I heard from 13 year old Sulev from Albania. It is damaging and can have profound health issues on girls and young women who all too often go on to have multiple children at a young age. Next month the European Parliament will be launching its own campaign to eliminate child marriage as part of our drive to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Change and empowerment come in many forms. As well as tackling harmful practices to women and girls, we must ensure they have access to skills and training to provide a sustainable future for themselves and their families. Which is why the role of how digitalisation can empower women in developing countries was a big theme of the conference. Its potential is game-changing. Over half the world´s population still has no access to the internet, mostly in developing countries and mainly women and girls. So it was good to hear about innovative projects like mAgri who use mobile apps to help isolated farmers throughout Africa market their products and AgriInfo who use drones to map crop and weather risk patterns in Tanzania. These projects are transforming the lives of women and girls and their wider communities, but they are all too often small scale with short-term funding.
What became particularly clear this week is that we are fast getting to the point where if we are to deliver the 2030 SDGs on time, we need to stop talking warm words and actually start scaling up these projects. This is where the EU comes in. The EU is now preparing its next spending round - the multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021- 2027. We need to add a capital F to the MFF - F for Feminist - so that the EU really delivers for women and girls. This is something MEPs will be looking for in the new Development programmes, which the Commission is due to put before MEPs and Ministers next week in Strasbourg.