All efforts to promote economic development in the Mediterranean will be worthless unless women are further involved. For the General Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean this is a fact and almost a profession of faith. Its strategy on this issue is based on four pillars. The first of these is the implementation of projects directly focused on women's socio-economic empowerment. Its second aim is to mainstream the "gender" dimension across all Union for the Mediterranean projects. Thirdly it aims to establish partnerships on this topic with its partner institutions and financial backers. Finally, the UfM intends to fully play its role as a platform for multi-stakeholder discussions between the 43 Member States, to create synergies and lead to exchanges of good practice.
It is in this inclusive spirit that, every year, the General Secretariat of the UfM organises a high-level conference to bring together numerous organisations from the South and North of the Mediterranean.
This year the UfM's General Secretariat aims to do more and better. It is organising two significant meetings leading up to the conference, bringing together the governments of UfM members and key regional stakeholders. This will be an opportunity to take stock of achievements since the ministerial meeting in September 2013 and initiate regional dialogue aimed at identifying the operational and specific measures to be taken to transform ambitious political commitments into success on the ground.
According to Delphine Borione, UfM's Deputy Secretary General for social and civil affairs "the Mediterranean basin continues to be the area where women are least integrated into the world of work. Only around 23% of women participate in the labour market. This has a direct impact on GDP. Ensuring equal participation of women in economic life would increase income in North African and Middle Eastern countries by more than 25%. The theme we have chosen for this conference is therefore, at the same time, a major social issue for the development of societies, a question of human rights but also an issue relevant to the "smart economy"".
"Building bridges between training and employment"
Delphine Borione takes the digital sector, backed up by relevant figures, as an example, to highlight the reality of the situation. "A study by the European Union shows that increasing women's presence in this sector would increase European GDP by €9 billion," she points out.
We also need to reflect on stereotypes of "women at work" and on access to training. "We have to build bridges to establish better links between training and employment, to increase women's presence in private sector companies and to foster entrepreneurship and create new opportunities for women, for instance in the digital sector", adds Delphine Borione.