In recent years, significant but still uneven progress has been made in promoting the rights of women and girls. Gender equality is one of the fundamental values of the European Union. However, we note that there are still several obstacles to the empowerment of women and girls.
Across the world, the pandemic is having a significant impact on women and girls and exacerbating existing gender inequalities.
Ultra-conservatives in Europe continue to seek to limit women's hard-won rights by trying to control their bodies and autonomy.
To address all these inequalities, the European Union has introduced the new EU Action Plan on Gender Equality (GAP III) as a tool to empower women and girls.
In the drafting of the report on the Third EU Action Plan for Gender Equality, I am working closely with my colleagues in the FEMM Committee as shadow rapporteur to help strengthen the empowerment and independence of women and girls. To this end, I have tabled several amendments to strengthen the Gender Equality Action Plan.
Firstly, I have emphasised that violence against women is the most serious form of inequality between women and men and that it is the responsibility of all states to fight it relentlessly.
Secondly, I insisted that the principle of intersectionality must be included as a basic principle in the Gender Equality Action Plan.
The European Union must take multiple identities into account in its policies and recognise that women and girls in all their diversity are not equally affected by gender inequalities because these are reinforced by other factors such as origin, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Moreover, full autonomy cannot be achieved without the right to universal access to sexual and reproductive health for all women.
With some governments in Europe and around the world wanting to restrict access to reproductive sexuality, it is essential to continue to support civil society fighting for the right to bodily autonomy.
Another important pillar for empowering women and girls is access to education. Not surprisingly, girls are the biggest losers in this area. Many were kept out of school during the pandemic. It is therefore essential that we invest in the education and training of girls and women.
Of course, we must not forget the women and girls living in conflict areas. The situation of girls and women in refugee camps is very worrying. National and peace policy strategies must include the gender dimension and fight impunity in order to put an end to these barbaric practices. The inclusion of women in peace processes in general is essential.
The European Union must accompany women and girls in their quest for autonomy and completion so that they themselves can be agents of this change. This health crisis must be an opportunity for all of us to build an equal generation with women and girls who have access to education, sexual and reproductive health, peace and security.
We need transformative female leadership to address the unprecedented challenges of our time.
We will only achieve this metamorphosis if we change the way we make decisions and policies through the inclusion and participation of all women and girls.
But this is not just a women's issue. Gender equality is a struggle for social justice in which men also play an important role.
The empowerment of women and girls is necessary to achieve gender equality and thus enable them to live in a more inclusive and peaceful society.