To mark International Women's Day, the EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs will launch tomorrow, for the fifth year in a row, a Gender Drawing contest designed to raise awareness on women's conditions and rights in developing countries, through the involvement of children. He will also inaugurate a joint EU/UN photo exhibition in Timor Leste with the Special Representative of the UNSG Ms Ameerah Haq. Commissioner Piebalgs will reaffirm the European Commission's steadfast commitment to improve the rights and chances for women, as well as the representation of women in developing countries to speed up progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: “Timor Leste is a remarkable case in developing world when it comes to empowerment of women. 30% of Members of Parliament are women and there are important legislations in place, for instance against domestic violence. But the world still has a lot of work to do before the gap between men and women disappears. Women comprise more than half the world's population, but they constitute 70% of the world's poor, and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write.
As a Commissioner for Development I am trying to take into account women's interests in all the aspects of development policies. Any project we conduct, be it in agriculture, education or health should have a clear objective to enhance women's engagement and empower them to further actions.
As I am travelling around the world, I can see that if women are healthy, educated, have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their communities and nations will flourish.
With this in mind the EU launched the Millennium Development Goals initiative. It is designed to reward progress of the countries that are most advanced in developing effective strategies to meet the MDGs, and to support efforts of the others to bridge the gap of the most off track MDGs, notably related to women.
Finally, the EU is making stronger efforts to combat victimization of women in conflict situations. At the moment, and for already several years, some of the most unacceptable abuses in the world are the repeated acts of sexual violence taking place in the conflict zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each day, women and girls are victims of the cruellest acts of brutality. We have to act to stop impunity and support the Congolese authorities in their efforts to raise awareness and bring criminals to justice.
On this special day, I want to make it clear: there will be no human and economic development without a sound respect of women's rights and conditions. This is a fundamental part of the development policy that I wish to champion, providing rights and security to these women. It will be one of my priorities in the coming months and years".