International women’s day 2012 recognises how crucially important women are to ending hunger and poverty in rural communities. The EU can help empower women to play a stronger role in developing their communities.
The EU is committed to gender equality – both within its borders and beyond.
Ensuring women have equal political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights is a question of justice, but it is also essential for boosting growth and reducing poverty in developing countries.
That's why gender equality is one of the UN’s millennium development goals – targets for helping the world’s poorest which the EU supports.
As the world’s second largest aid donor, the EU demonstrates its values and commitment to equality at the grassroots – through every project it funds.
In Mexico, the EU has helped the government reform the country’s justice system, including strengthening laws on violence against women.
In India, the EU has supported a programme to provide quality education for all children between 6 and 14. This support includes helping girls from marginalised communities attend free residential schools.
The fight against genital mutilation
EU support has helped save thousands of girls around the world from genital mutilation. About 3 million are mutilated each year.
The EU is working with UNICEF to change social norms by talking with and educating people living in rural communities in Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Senegal and the Sudan.
The joint programme has resulted in hundreds of local communities announcing an end to the practice. Senegal is close to becoming the first country in the world to do so.
The EU and UNICEF also fund a programme to discourage child marriage in India, where it is illegal. In poorer regions enormous social and economic pressures force many families to defy the law.
Bablu who lives in a small village in the Indian state of Rajasthan was 13 when, under pressure from the local community, her family agreed to an early marriage.
However, the EU-UNICEF programme helped convince Bablu’s father that it was in his family’s best interest to let her continue her studies instead.
“I did not want to get married,” said Bablu. “I thought my life would be completely ruined.”