The following article was co-authored by the EWAG young advocates and the Permanent Representation of Austria to the European Union:
Why the EU-Africa Partnership has to champion girls’ rights
The European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) can’t forget girls’ needs and rights – especially with the impact of COVID19
In 2021, more than 300 million girls under the age of 18 live in Africa, and this number will increase by 20% by 2030. Girls represent not only the future of the continent, they also have an essential role to play in its present.
How can we make sure that girls’ rights will be at the forefront of the EU-Africa Partnership’s agenda?
A few weeks ago, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the AU-EU Summit will take place next February 2022. More than ever, the EU and the AU need to bring young girls to the core of the Partnership and address COVID-19’s impacts.
The coalition of 9 NGOs organising the European Week of Action for Girls (EWAG) and the Austrian Permanent Representative to the Political and Security Committee (PSC) try to answer this and more.
Austria as well as the EU have recognised the need for an ambitious and inclusive EU-Africa Partnership.
Austrian priorities for the EU-Africa relations and girls’ rights work hand in hand
The priorities of Austria for the EU-AU Partnership are many: from green transition to digitalisation, from sustainable growth to education – in line with the EU-Africa-Strategy of March 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made all these priorities even more urgent and has highlighted the necessity for a strengthening of multilateralism and the global rules based order. The time has come to bring our partnership to the next level”, claims Ambassador Christina Kokkinakis.
Girls and young women are among the ones who are paying the highest price for the pandemic.
17 year-old EWAG young leader Dora from Zambia explains: “Girls have been particularly affected by lockdown measures resulting in increased gender-based violence and child pregnancy”.
The Partnership should draw special attention not only to respond to but also to prevent cases of sexual and gender-based violence.
Girls’ rights are at the core of Austrian priorities, within and beyond the scope of the Partnership.
As Ambassador Kokkinakis clearly explains, “The promotion of women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights and the fight against discrimination are longstanding objectives for Austria.”
Very recently, Austria has signed the Compact on Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Assistance and has pledged funds for new projects amounting to 11,4 million euros for women and girls, amongst others, in Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.
For girls to truly thrive in life, they need to have access to digital tools and develop digital skills.
Education is the most effective way for girls to gain these skills and helps foster their active civic engagement.
Ambassador Kokkinakis highlights that “we need to ensure a human rights-based approach to new technologies and that women and girls do not fall victim to a digital skills gap and that the benefits of the digital generation are equally available to everyone.”
EWAG young advocates believe that young people’s voices should be heard not only because it is their right, but also to ensure that decisions are fair, representative, and effective in addressing their needs and expectations on issues that concern them.
In the words of Mwanaima, 23 year-old EWAG young leader from Tanzania, “Young people need to be part of the discussions around the EU-Africa Partnership, and need to be heard!”.
Girls need to have a seat at the table – and the commitment and work of Member States like Austria can help make a difference.