Ms. Lilian Halls-French, Co-President of IFE-EFI participated at the Hearing of the committee on "Women as agents of change in the Southern Partnership States” on 19th of February, 2018 at the European Parliament, Brussels. The Hearing aimed at exploring in which ways women are and can be agents of change in the Southern Partnership States. It also looked into the specific difficulties that women face in these countries and how root-based organizations tackle them.
Ms. Lilian Halls-French introduced Euromed Feminist Initiative’s work in promoting women’s rights, gender equality, combating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and ensuring women's role and meaningful participation at all levels of political, social and economic reconstruction processes in the whole Euro-Mediterranean region.
She emphasized the role of women's rights movements and organizations in the southern partnership countries and valued their efforts to achieve democracy and social justice as well as the impressive progress they made in the previous years. In her speech, she shared the Tunisian experience and appreciated the efforts of Tunisian women movements and organisations to attain equal rights and gender parity in the Tunisian constitution. In addition, she praised the Iraqi government’s positive step in adopting the first national action plan (NAP) for the implementation of UNSCR 1325 which is pivotal in fighting gender-based violence, increasing women’s participation in the decision making and enhancing gender equality in Iraq.
She answered the question: how can women be agents of sustainable changes , highlighting the importance of a structural dialogue with decision makers and legislators, initiated and led by the civil society and in particular by women’s rights organizations, for creating policies that address gender gaps and the root causes of discrimination. Moreover, she underlined the importance of international solidarity and the vital role of the connection between the feminist movement and all the other components of the democratic movement, the trade unions, political parties and democratic movements in promoting gender equality. She stated that the issue of women as agents of change was raising the question of men as status quo keepers …of existing structures of power. Is the question is to empower women or that men leave a part of their power? Lilian Halls-French took clearly some distance with the dominant speech on women empowerment, stating that EFI was not using it , as first , it puts de facto once more the responsibility of the unbalance of power on the shoulders of women ( thus in need to be” empowered “) second this notion “empowering women” is now quite often used as a substitute to “acting for gender equality”.