France’s commitment to gender equality around the world (08/03/2018)
Gender inequality continues to be an issue around the world, and has even worsened in some regions. To address this problem, France is enhancing the effectiveness and consistency of the gender actions in its development assistance and external action policies. Its third international strategy on gender equality for 2018-2022 is a steering tool that has been designed to coordinate actions over the next five years and improve the situation of women worldwide. This strategy reflects the French President’s international commitment to making gender equality the main focus of his term.
Women and girls are the first victims of poverty, conflict and climate change. Given their place in society, they are exposed to difficulties and discrimination in all fields and across all regions.
Sexual violence as a weapon of war
Not all countries are characterized by peace and stability. Global warming, tensions due to natural resources and socio-economic inequalities are all sources of crises and conflict, where women are often the first victims.
In some countries, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war to strike terror into populations.
Women’s right to control their own bodies
Universal access to sexual and reproductive rights is essential for the empowerment of young women.
• Laws still prevent many girls and women from accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, jeopardising their fundamental right to control their own bodies and contribute to the social development and progress of their countries.
• Abortion-related complications are the third-largest contributor to maternal mortality. These deaths could be prevented by ensuring the availability and accessibility of high-quality services.
• Girls who marry before turning 18 are rarely able to negotiate with their husbands to use protection during intercourse. They are often under pressure to prove their fertility, at risk of sexually transmissible diseases (STDs) and marital violence, and less likely to receive sexual education.
Demographic issues and women’s rights
In the 47 countries with the highest demographic growth rates, the expansion of the economically active population could be a real opportunity for development, as long as these young people (both boys and girls) are healthy, educated and able to access high-quality employment.
The five focuses of France’s international strategy all aim to make gender equality central to the initiatives of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, including in development cooperation, economic diplomacy, soft diplomacy, cultural diplomacy and education cooperation.
1. Setting an example
Given the importance of setting a good example, the Ministry will accelerate efforts to encourage equality and parity within its teams and those of its agencies. Specifically, it will:
• Increase the number of women in managerial or ambassador positions;
• Raise awareness of and train all agents on gender-related issues;
• Systematically incorporate gender equality in the strategies and actions of the 12 agencies under the Ministry’s supervision or joint supervision.*
2. Strengthening political leadership in the equality field
To enhance political advocacy in the gender equality field, gender-related issues must be incorporated into all themes (regardless of whether they are development-related) in all international forums. This is especially relevant for education, vocational training, social integration, humanitarian strategy, climate issues, economic issues, demographic issues, and sexual and reproductive rights and health. The strategy also supports the inclusion of gender equality issues in discussions during bilateral political meetings and actions by diplomatic posts.
3. Increasing financing for actions supporting equality
To enable the Ministry to take action in this field, the amount of official development assistance (ODA) set aside for equality actions will increase. Specifically, 50% of all funding granted by the French Development Agency (Agence Française de Développement - AFD) will go towards projects that include goals seeking to reduce gender inequalities.
4. Increasing the visibility of actions supporting equality
Increased visibility starts with the adoption of communications without gender stereotypes. The Ministry and its agencies will seek to use both genders in their messages, portraying a balanced view of society. Visibility also involves developing indicators to evaluate the actions carried out and ensure they are effective.
5. Supporting civil society and spreading results
Using platforms to spread results between development actors, the strategy seeks to encourage discussions and the sharing of lessons learned between NGOs, the private sector (as part of corporate social responsibility initiatives), researchers and the authorities. Given French NGOs’ ability to leverage change in the gender equality field, their expertise and visibility will be strengthened in terms of gender and women’s rights.
* French Development Agency (AFD), Expertise France, Institut Français, Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), Campus France, the French media cooperation agency (CFI), France Médias Monde, Atout France, Business France, French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), France Volontaires and the Research Institute for Development (IRD).