Although the European Union is a world leader in gender equality and has involved remarkably in recent decades, gender-based violence and stereotypes still exist: in the EU, one in three women has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence.

What is gender equality? Why is it important to talk about gender equality?

Gender equality means equal rights and freedoms for equal opportunities for participation, recognition and empowerment of women and men in all areas of society, political, economic, professional, personal and family.

Today, talking about gender equality becomes fundamental, for a variety of reasons: the participation of men and women in the market continues to be unequal; in private companies and public administration, management positions are mostly held by men, despite the fact that more women have higher education than men; professions tend to remain feminine and masculine; there is still the stereotype that women are primarily responsible for carrying out domestic tasks and providing care for the family; psychosocial barriers to women’s access to political positions and participation in civic life in general persist; increasing female participation in the business world is important not only for the support of families, but also for women’s own personal development and especially for the global economy; gender mainstreaming challenges conventional policies and the allocation of resources, recognizing the strong interconnection between women’s relative disadvantage and men’s relative advantage.

In this sense, equality between women and men is a human rights issue and a condition of social justice, as well as a necessary and fundamental requirement for equality, development, and peace.

What are the EU strategies to reduce gender inequality?

On 5 March 2020, the European Commission presented a strategy outlining various actions to achieve Gender Equality in the period of 2020-2025.

This strategy focuses on five strands: neither violence nor stereotypes; living a prosperous life in an economy based on gender equality; taking up leadership positions fairly in the society; integrating the gender perspective and promoting an intersectional perspective into EU policies; and funding measures to make progress on gender equality in the EU.

The central objective of this strategy is to end gender-based violence, gender discrimination and structural inequality between the sexes so that men and women, boys and girls can have equal opportunities and equally participate in society.

The Commission also proposes additional measures to prevent and combat specific forms of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment, sexual abuse of women and female genital mutilation.

In relation to gender-based violence, the Commission characterizes female genital mutilation, forced abortion, forced sterilization and early and forced marriage as forms of gender-based violence and serious violations of women’s and children’s rights. To reinforce this measure, the EU will present a recommendation on the prevention of harmful practices, addressing the need for effective preventive measures, education programmes, the strengthening of public services, the strengthening of prevention and support measures and a victim-centered access to justice.

About victims’ rights, the Commission will develop and finance measures to combat victims, including training and capacity-building for support services.

In the context of combating violence and harassment at work, the Commission will continue to encourage Member States to ratify and implement the ILO Convention on the elimination of violence

and harassment at work. In addition, by the end of 2020, the Commission intends to put forward measures on wage transparency, as well as initiatives to help women play roles in public life and be economically independent, both in innovation projects and leadership positions.

However, the Commission stresses the importance of eradicating trafficking in human beings and the sexual abuse of children, particularly in relation to immigrant and asylum women, where the Commission will encourage Member States to focus on actions to support women’s needs in this field.

Also, in this context, the EU has launched a #WithHer campaign, designed to challenge harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women around the world.

EU Gender Equality Campaign – #withher

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent, and devastating human rights violations in our world. This occurs in all countries and in all contexts.

Humanitarian emergencies, natural disasters, and a global pandemic put women and girls at greater risk of violence, and the current COVID-19 crisis is no exception. According to UNESCO, 2.6 billion people are currently confined to their homes to slow down the spread of COVID-19 but being at home does not always mean being safe.

The #withher campaign is a digital engagement campaign for the European public. This campaign builds on the Spotlight Initiative, a global partnership between the EU and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. This initiative aims to raise awareness and challenge the harmful gender norms and stereotypes that perpetuate violence against women.

As such, this initiative at European and global level seeks to engage citizens in recognizing and confronting prejudice and violence within their own community and beyond, to end all forms of violence and to improve the lives of women and girls in our world.


Associaçao para o Planeamento da Familia, “Igualdade de género”. Available:

ONU NEWS, “Objetivo 5: Igualdade de género”. Available:

European Commission (2020), “Gender Equality Strategy: Striving for a Union of equality”. Available:

European Commission (2020), “A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025”. Available:

European Commission, “#WithHer: Creating a world where women and girls are safe and free”. Available:

European Commission (2020), “Stand #WithHer and help end violence against women and girls”. Available:

Spotlight Initiative, “I am #WithHer, are you?”. Available:

UNESCO (2020), I am #WithHer, Are you?”. Available:

Written by: Maria Luisa Pereira

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