The EU-UN Women partnership launched an initiative to end gender-based discrimination and violence against women in the Western Balkans and Turkey earlier this week.
Representatives from the EU, UN, Western Balkans, Turkey, the European Institute for Gender Equality and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe convened at the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council to discuss solutions for eliminating the discrimination and violence that women and girls face. The resulting three-year initiative, “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds,” will work to protect women in Turkey and six countries in the Western Balkans: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Montenegro and Serbia–with a focus on women from the most disadvantaged groups. The initiative will address structural inequalities by considering the intersections of gender, age, disability, race and ethnicity and zooming in on the multiple levels of discrimination that different women experience.
As part of the larger efforts of the EU Year to End Violence against Women, the initiative builds on the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, which was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in 2011 and came into force in 2014. Additionally, the women’s movement and grassroots organization in the Western Balkans and Turkey have advocated for women’s rights for years, and these advocacy efforts have played an important role in bringing the issues of gender inequality and violence against women to light.
Through the “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” initiative, Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy Enlargement Negotiations Genoveva Ruiz Calavera says, “we will work together to support national governments and civil society, to accelerate protection, prevention and response to violence against women.”
“Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” drew from these influences, as well as the Beijing +20 review and UN Women’s 2014 preliminary assessment of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the six Western Balkan countries and Turkey, to finalize its solutions. The UN Women assessment revealed that “strong patriarchal structures, unequal power relations between women and men, and the lack of political will of governments remain major obstacles to the full implementation of legislation” that attempts to eliminate gender inequality.
In order to counter the effects of these societal institutions on women, the implementation of the initiative’s solutions will take place primarily through women’s organizations. As part of this partnership, the initiative’s aims include aiding these organizations in holding governments accountable for carrying out its legislation and challenging and transforming gender-based stereotypes. It will also work to increase access to services for survivors of violence.
2017 is the European Union year dedicated to ending violence against women. Through the “Implementing Norms, Changing Minds” initiative, Director for the Western Balkans at the Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood Policy Enlargement Negotiations Genoveva Ruiz Calavera says, “We will work together to support national governments and civil society, to accelerate protection, prevention and response to violence against women.”
According to the European Commission’s Non.No.Nein campaign to fight violence against women, 55 percent of women have experienced sexual harassment, one-third have experienced sexual or physical violence and one-third have been psychologically abused by a partner. In the Western Balkans and Turkey, as the Beijing +20 review and the UN Women assessment have concluded, this violence has been exacerbated by the rise of increasingly patriarchal norms and the emergence of different forms of violence against women that are part of deeply-entrenched societal structures.