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Brussels, 7 March 2014
International Women’s Day – Statement by Commissioner Piebalgs
Ahead of International Women’s Day (8 March), I’d like to once again underline that the EU will not rest until all forms of violence and discrimination suffered by women and girls are eradicated –wherever we work. In my travels around the world, I have seen with my own eyes how societies which do not give women equal rights and conditions cannot hope to achieve true development of their countries. Men and women are equal. It's as simple as that. And yet, sadly, we still have a very long way to go before we will truly be able to say that gender equality exists.
And that’s what EU-funded development programmes in partner countries do, too. We make sure that EU projects in developing countries take women into account, in everything we do; from agriculture to education, health to microfinance. We have already achieved good results – enrolling 300,000 new female students in secondary education and providing almost 17 million consultations on reproductive health, for example.
Yet, gender violence remains a shocking and abhorrent issue which is putting a real brake on this progress. Just this week I have been to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the prevalence and intensity of sexual violence is thought to be among the worst in the world. I got a chance to discuss this issue with Dr Denis Mukwege, the Director of the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, where thousands of rape victims have been treated, thanks also to EU support. As the world’s second largest donor, the EU has a crucial role to play in helping those women and girls.
Every day, thousands of women and girls all over the world are victims of violence, including sexual abuse, trafficking and early and forced marriage. I find this simply incomprehensible, and it’s clear that we need to continue to do all we can to combat this scourge. There will be no human and economic development without the sound respect of women's rights and conditions.
The EU will remain committed to giving women the rights and conditions they deserve. We will do it through new programmes, like the one announced this week to tackle gender-based violence in the DRC, which will include activities like training for teachers, information and awareness campaigns, the creation of a database and early warning system on gender-based violence in schools.