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International Partnerships

Empowering women and girls

Gender equality is one of the European Union’s core values. All people, in all their diversity, should be free to live their chosen life, thrive socially and economically, participate and take a lead as equals.

Women and girls are key agents of development and change. Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is vital to building fair, inclusive, prosperous and peaceful societies everywhere.

EU Gender Action Plan III

The Gender Action Plan III 2021-2025 sets out the EU’s political and operational roadmap towards a gender-equal world.

Under it, EU action should challenge the structural causes of gender inequality by taking a transformative approach, and contribute to empower women and girls as drivers of change. Particular attention should be paid to women and girls facing multiple forms of discrimination.

The Gender Action Plan III focuses on five pillars:

  • Making gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment a cross-cutting priority of EU external action. By 2025, 85% of new EU actions should contribute to achieving this objective, with more actions including it as a main objective
  • Working together with EU Member States as Team Europe at multilateral, regional and country level, and fostering partnership with stakeholders, CSO, women’s organisations
  • Accelerating progress by focusing on key areas of engagement:
  1. Ending gender-based violence
  2. Sexual and reproductive health and rights
  3. Economic and social rights and empowerment
  4. Equal participation and leadership
  5. Women, peace and security
  6. Green and digital transformations
  • Leading by example, by striving for a gender-responsive and balanced leadership, more capacity and expertise and a reinforced network of gender focal points
  • Putting the focus on results, accountability and transparency through qualitative, quantitative and inclusive monitoring.

The EU Gender Action Plan III follows the EU gender equality strategy 2020 - 2025, which calls for the EU to scale up its contribution to reach Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality) in all internal and external policy areas.

Background: GAP I and II

In 2010 the EU adopted its first Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Development (2010-2015). It aimed to ensure a stronger leading role of the EU in promoting gender equality and women's empowerment in development, as well as ensuring adequate human and financial resources. By 2015, almost half of EU Official Development Assistance was contributing to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

By November 2015 the Gender Action Plan II, ‘Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Transforming the Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations 2016-2020’ (GAP II) was adopted. It committed the EU to further strengthen the work to make gender equality a palpable reality for women and girls around the world. The thematic areas of action were: Ensuring girls’ and women's physical and psychological integrity; Promoting the social and economic rights / empowerment of women and girls; and  

Strengthening girls' and women's voice and participation. By 2019, 56.95% of EU aid was contributing to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Visual for the EU Gender Action Plan III

Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025

The EU’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out key actions for the next 5 years and commits to ensure that the Commission will include an equality perspective in all EU policy areas. The Strategy outlines how the Commission will deliver on the promise made by President von der Leyen that Europe provides the same opportunities for all that share the same aspirations. Key external actions on gender equality in 2020 include the launch of the third Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External Relations and the adoption of the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024).

Through the Spotlight Initiative, the EU will continue working to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in 26 countries across 5 regions. The #WithHer campaign will contribute to this by raising awareness of and challenging the harmful gender norms and stereotypes which perpetuate violence against women and girls worldwide.

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