In the Euromed Ministerial Conference in Barcelona in 1995 it was declared, for the first time, that civil society was one of the main actors for achieving peace, security and development on both Mediterranean shores. In 2005, ten years after this first Ministerial Conference, there was also a meeting in Barcelona, where one of the main topics discussed was: why, in the ten years that had passed since the Euromed Ministerial Conference, where different issues were addressed, had a Ministerial Conference never been considered to strengthen the role of women, given that this is one of the main factors in the development expected within the so-called Barcelona Process? For this reason, in December 2006, under the Finnish Presidency of the EU, the first Ministerial Conference was held in Istanbul, entitled “Strengthening the Role of Women in Society”.
As Ambassador Senén Florensa recalls in the foreword, four conferences have been held since that first meeting in Istanbul in 2006 and, although in the almost twenty years that have elapsed there has been a series of legislative changes and improvements adopted in the different countries of the Mediterranean region, they are still far from adequate. Respect for women’s rights and promoting gender equality are among the keys to building the society of a tomorrow that, unfortunately, does not seem very promising today, although the ministers of the forty-three UfM member countries undertook to make this principle a reality during the four conferences to strengthen the role of women in society. In the fifth conference it will be necessary to strengthen the commitments made.
In 2014, the Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation (FFEM), together with the IEMed, began drafting the first monitoring report of the Mediterranean conferences, working with civil society and taking into account the improvements made in the different countries, as well as everything that remained to be resolved or that, in reality, had not been done. All this was highlighted in the second report of 2018 and also in the special issues of Quaderns de la Mediterrània published in 2006 and 2013.
The Euro-Mediterranean Women’s Foundation and the IEMed have helped follow these advances with two monitoring reports that take a qualitative approach. By deepening the analysis of the realities of certain territories in the southern Mediterranean, these reports raise questions, point out obstacles and formulate ideas in order to expand the rights and opportunities of women and vulnerable groups, especially the second report, entitled The Expectations of Euro-Mediterranean Women: Civil Society Findings and Ministerial Commitments. It highlights a series of aspects that must be considered in order to ensure solid trans-Mediterranean alliances, and that involve bringing national laws into line with constitutions or stopping up the legal loopholes that, even today, allow discriminatory practices against women and clearly attest to the existing political, economic and educational barriers. These practices and barriers show that gender-based violence rests on a patriarchal mentality that perpetuates discrimination against women; as well as pointing out the need to educate and raise the awareness of the actors involved in order to reduce the enormous deficiencies that exist in the legal provisions aimed at changing the mentalities, attitudes and behaviours of those responsible for applying these provisions, such as lawyers, police officers, companies, educators and the media. All these aspects are stressed throughout the dossier.
Issue 34 of Quaderns de la Mediterrània presented here, with the dossier “Mediterranean Women Breaking Barriers”, is actually the third monitoring report we have devoted to reflecting on what should be considered in the 5th Ministerial Conference “Strengthening the Role of Women in Society”, to be held in Madrid in October 2022.
This issue features around thirty contributions from academic women and active representatives of feminist associations, as well as local managers. The writers, in addition to some veterans in these tasks, include young women of the current generation, better educated and also committed to human rights. These articles, as well as expressing the state of the issue in specific countries of the region, provide a set of recommendations that may be useful to policy-makers, local authorities and feminist associations, and to all those who wish to help break down these barriers that lessen women through androcentric or patriarchal perspectives, one of the greatest difficulties in changing mentalities.
The topics discussed from the outset in the ministerial conferences always focus on the participation of women in public and social life, the political and economic sphere, and the fight against stereotypes and all forms of violence against women and girls. As Anna Dorangricchia, Project Manager at the Gender Equality, Social and Civil Affairs Division of the Union for the Mediterranean, states in this dossier, the Ministerial Declaration, which is expected to be adopted on 26 October of this year, is based on three main thematic areas: economic empowerment of women in the context of regional crises, gender equality and climate change, and violence against women and girls.
The general frameworks of reference will include the New Agenda for the Mediterranean and its Economic and Investment Plan, as well as the commitments made by the European Commission in the framework of the EU Gender Action Plan in its external relations (GAP III) launched in 2020.
In this respect, the report we have prepared based on the different contributions has five main themes, most of which include topics concerning the empowerment of women from various specialised approaches: 1) Towards Political, Economic and Technological Leaderships; 2) Women Journalists and Communicators, the Great Challenge; 3) Gender-Based Violence, Covid-19 and Civil Society Initiatives; 4) Breaking Stereotypes; 5) Women Creators and Artists. This dossier closes with the interview with the Moroccan feminist writer and journalist Fedwa Misk, and the “Cultural Overview” section with the speech that the American philosopher Judith Butler delivered in Barcelona on 27 April 2022.
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.