EU looks to Africa and its women this weekend in Valencia

Spanish Presidency website. The Fifth Meeting of Women for a Better World, to be held in Valencia on 27 and 28 March under the Spanish Presidency of the EU, will be opened by HRH The Queen of Spain and closed by the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Four main issues will be discussed over the two days of the event, which will be preceded on Friday by the informal meeting of the EU’s ministers of equality. The issues will be education, healthcare, female representation in positions of power – empowerment – and economic development.

The First Vice-President of the Spanish Government, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, said the fact this event coincides with Spain’s presidency is a “good opportunity” to make “Europe focus on both Africa and women”.

“Valencia will become the capital of equality”, she added, pointing out that the idea for this event arose five years ago in Maputo, with the goal of promoting equality and Africa, “one of the pillars” of Spanish foreign policy.

Prior to Valencia, the Women for a Better World meetings have been held in Mozambique (2006), Madrid (2007), Niger (2008) and Liberia (2009).

Heads of State, ministers and defenders of women’s rights

Well-known figures from five continents will be attending this fifth meeting, and various audiovisual messages will also be recorded for the event by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the actress and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman.

Representatives from 49 of Africa’s 53 countries will attend, including the President of Liberia, Ellen Jonson Sirleaf; Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wangari Maathai; the holder of the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, Graça Machel; and holder of the Prince of Asturias Award for Sport, Hassiba Boulmerka.

The President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and the former commissioners Margot Wallstrom and Benita Ferrero will also attend the event, while the American continent will be represented by the former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and the soprano and human rights activist Bárbara Hendricks, among others.

Asian delegates to the Valencia event will include Cambodia’s Somaly Mam, and Fatana Ishaq, from Afghanistan, both of whom have received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation.

A total of 53 ministers will attend in addition to De la Vega herself and the female Spanish Ministers of Equality, Bibiana Aído; Health, Trinidad Jiménez; Culture, Ángeles González Sinde; and Housing, Beatriz Corredor, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ángel Moratinos.

De la Vega explained that the meeting will agree on the Valencia Statement, which will include “specific commitments” to Africa ahead of next year’s meeting on education, health, empowerment and economic development.

Bearing in minding that gender equality is one of the key areas of the MDGs Partnership of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, but also a issue considered in most other partnerships.

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