In mid-September the third meeting of the China-EU High-Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD) Mechanism was held in Brussels, capital of Belgium and home to the headquarters of the European Union (EU). Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, co-chaired the meeting and delivered speeches.
The year 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the EU, the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the first year of the United Nations' post-2015 Development Agenda. It was the first time that women played a dominant role in holding an exchange activity, signaling a new era of exchanges between Chinese and European women.
Vice-President and Member of the Secretariat of the All-China Women's Federation (ACWF) Meng Xiaosi attended the meeting with a delegation of other women from the ACWF. Meng and EU officials held the first China-EU Workshop on Gender Equality and communicated with female delegates from Belgium, the EU and the Belgian Chinese Women's Federation .
The first China-EU Workshop on Gender Equality, themed "Beijing+20, Retrospect and Prospect" was held in the morning of September 15 at the Berlaymont building, which houses the EU headquarters. The ACWF and the European Women's Lobby (EWL), the largest umbrella organization of women's associations in the EU, co-hosted the workshop. Women leaders from China and the EU, officials from the European Commission, scholars, social activists, media outlets, well-known female entrepreneurs and observers of the European Commission shared information and exchanged ideas on the economic empowerment of women, notably the influence of the Internet on female employment, anti-domestic violence and how to balance work and family.
Meng said in her speech, "Over the past four decades of the development of Sino-EU ties, women have always been a powerful and creative force. In the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action during the past 20 years, China, a country with the largest female population, and Europe, a region known for the diversity of their women's movements, have made enormous contributions to safeguard women's rights and interests and promote gender equality. In the future, Chinese and European women should join hands to face new opportunities and challenges, and contribute more to gender equality."
Secretary-General of the EWL Joanna Maycock said that gender equality is a global issue, which no country could cope with perfectly. Europe and China confront many common problems. The year 2015 marks 25 anniversary since the establishment of the EWL and is also an important strategic year. The workshop deepens the exchanges between Chinese ad European women and further improves women's empowerment and gender equality in the future.
Amid the heated discussion at the workshop, eight experts from China and the EU shared the achievements on women's economic empowerment, anti-domestic violence and work-family balance. They also discussed current challenges and tactics to overcome them. Party Secretary and Vice-President of China Women's University Li Mingshun introduced several highlights of China's first-ever legislation on domestic violence and invited European scholars to make suggestions on the official website for the law.
After hearing the speech of Jiang Xiuhua, assistant to the director of the Women's Studies Institute of China affiliated to the ACWF, on the impact the booming Internet economy on women's entrepreneurship, the principal of European women's business startups said China did better than Europe in women's business startups, summarizing several reasons for the gap.
Balancing work and family life is a concern for all professional women. Chief Editor of the Marriage and Families magazine Liu Ping underlined the status quo and changes regarding how Chinese women balance their work and family life, striking a chord among the attending European scholars. In Europe, women did three times more house chores than men. Consequently, increasing the number of women in the work force poses an urgent issue. In addition, flexible working hours provide a way for women to balance work and family.
The workshop is the first of its kind since women-related issues were included in the China-EU people-to-people exchange mechanism. Its successful convocation brings about a fresh opportunity for Chinese and European women to cooperate and lays a solid foundation for them to launch higher-level and more pragmatic exchange activities.
Meng and the women's delegation also met with Zita Gurmai, president of the Party of European Socialists (PES) Women. As an important force in Europe's political stage, the PES has long been committed to promoting gender equality. The PES Women has therefore gathered a great many female elite from around the world who play an active and influential role across Europe. During the meeting, the two sides talked frankly about problems and challenges that women face. The Chinese side also dwelled on China's laws against domestic violence and women's reproductive health.
The Chinese delegation also visited the Women's Rights Resource Center of Belgium. Founded in 1995, the center is the headquarters of Belgium's women's federations and organizations and also acts as a women's research institute. It boasts a long-standing friendship with the ACWF. The two organizations set up a Sino-Belgian women exchange center in 2007, the first bilateral center of its kind in Europe. Meng said, "It is the special relationship between your organization and the ACWF that lets us feel at home in a foreign country. Although China and Belgium have different political systems and development levels, they face many similar opportunities and challenges in promoting women's development and gender equality." Both sides expressed their hope to increase bilateral women exchanges through diversified channels.
Before leaving Belgium, the delegation attended a fellowship activity held by the Belgian Chinese Women's Federation. They expressed their willingness to join hands to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
During the five-day visit, the members of ACWF's delegation felt the friendship and hospitality of the local people and were fully confident in the future of Sino-EU women exchanges.
(Source: China Women's News/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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