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Active Citizenship and Women brought to the table in the European Parliament

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The Platform Women & Society of Fedactio organized a panel titled 'Active Citizenship & Women' in the European Parliament with the partnership of member associations Golden Rose, Damla, Inspiration and Koza.


Myriam Wauters (coordinator of Federatie Wereldvrouwen), Beatriz Camargo (researcher ULB), Aviva Dierckx (vice-president of Vrouwenraad) and  Fethiye Akyazi (president of Damla) were the experts of the day. Betty Cleeren (journalist RTBF) was the moderator of the panel hosted by MEP’s Philippe De Backer and Annemie Neyts. De Backer announced during his opening speech that he was glad to welcome event, because this topic is also on the agenda of the EP. As a liberal politician he was satisfied with Fedactio’s choice to bring  both rights AND obligations to the table. After the welcome speech of De Backer, Elif Alduman addressed the audience on behalf of the Platform Woman & Society of Fedactio and explained the functioning  and objectives of the Platform and its member associations.

Following the speeches, Fethiye Akyazi took the floor as the first speaker. The president of Damla talked about active participation of women on the local level. She bespoke the role her association plays in the encouragement of women’s participation in society. Moreover, Akyazi stated that their activities have a positive influence for women who are trying to improve their Dutch. Damla supports the social cohesion between the different communities in Limburg and is trying to fill in the gap between these communities by organizing, among other things, Cultural Nights where a foreign culture is in the spotlight and is acquainted with "the other".

Aviva Diercks is vice-president of Vrouwenraad and her work involves women issues on the national level. Her experience shows that participation and citizenship are natural phenomena. Individual women who have something in common, group themselves and take action. Those structures evolve into associations and organizations later on. Both the individual and the structures are required to acquire women’s rights. According to Aviva Citizenship & Women are a perfect duo because women are standing close to the daily life.

Beatriz Camargo is researcher at ULB. She confirmed that there is lot of work to do on the level of men and women’s equity. Camargo further stated that the ‘natural’ structures should be questioned in order to move on.

Myriam Wauters of the Federatie Wereldvrouwen accused the society of ignoring women’s achievements during her speech.  Studies show that women are active citizens and most of them are members of an association, neighborhood committee or board. For women of foreign origin there is greater barrier because she is depicted by a stereotypical image. When it comes to conciliation both Belgian as migrant organizations are hindered. The Federatie Wereldvrouwen is trying to intervene in this issue. “Politics can break with stereotypes, but refuses to do it”, claims Wauters. For instance, the conciliation grants for Equal Opportunities have been largely abolished.

After the interesting presentations by the panelists, the debate could start. Issues such as ‘how can we sensitize men to the importance of the active role of women?’, ‘Why did the women of the first generation fight harder for the education of their children in comparison to present day women?’, ‘ Are the women in Belgium free to choose between career or children?’ were put on the table.

The panel ended with a speech by MEP Annemie Neyts. She warned the participants to remain vigilant, because the freedoms acquired today, are not necessarily acquired forever. Finally, she said she was glad to see that women are present in various fields of the society and by this referred to Catherine Ashton and the Pakistani Malala.

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