“Equality is essential for sustainable development”

29th November 2018 | Panel Discussion | Berlin, Germany

In honour of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Parliamentary State Secretary Dr Maria Flachsbarth hosted “Crossing Borders and Pushing Limits. Women refugees between trauma management and empowerment” on the evening of November 29, 2018. In the course of the panel discussion, participants talked about the challenges of and opportunities for supporting, protecting and empowering women and girls forced to flee their homelands. Following the debate, State Secretary Flachsbarth opened an exhibition on approaches to gender equality in German development cooperation. Around 120 guests from politics, the scientific community and civil society attended the panel discussion and exhibition opening.

BMZ Head of Department Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflicts Pramila Patten and EmpowHERment founder Taffan Ako Taha led the panel discussion. The panellists were in immediate and complete agreement on one central point: equal participation of women at all levels is absolutely vital to sustainable development and peace.

Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven stressed that equality represented a great opportunity, as a society in which 50 percent of humanity could not participate equally wasted tremendous potential. She appealed to the audience to "join us in this fight once you leave this room."

Taffan Ako Taha related the tremendous struggle women and girls faced in coming to terms with the trauma suffered during war. In refugee contexts in particular, discrimination and violence prevented women from leading self-determined lives. The families of victims and perpetrators alike were often housed in the same refugee camps, she added, making it absolutely crucial to take integration problems in refugee camps seriously.

Pramila Patten pointed out that escape did not usually mean the end of traumatic experiences, as women were subjected to various forms of violence during all phases of flight. She pointed to extreme poverty and inequality as the primary driving forces here. As a result, she added, women were repeatedly forced to exchange sexual acts for money, protection or food. Patten called for a coordinated multi-sectoral strategy to provide sustainable solutions.

In her closing address, Dr Maria Flachsbarth highlighted the violence and oppression systematically taking place in the context of flight, and added that equality was absolutely vital here. The Parliamentary State Secretary emphasised that victims of sexual violence needed justice, an economic perspective and security, as well as psychological and medical support.

This is where German development cooperation comes in, and the BMZ works in a variety of ways to strengthen the social position of women and girls. Since the “No violence against women” 5-point plan was adopted in November 2017, the German government has addressed the situation of women and girls in all negotiations with partner countries. At the same time, programmes for protecting refugees are being fine-tuned to better meet the special needs of women and girls. Germany is also taking its upcoming two-year seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council as an opportunity to demonstrate greater commitment to gender equality with a particular focus on protecting women from sexualised violence in the context of conflict and crisis situations.

Gender inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the world outside the refugee context as well, as gender-based discrimination limits opportunities for everyone and hampers a country’s development. Following the moderated discussion, Parliamentary State Secretary Dr Maria Flachsbarth opened the "#ClosingTheGenderGap - Sustainable Development Requires Equality" interactive exhibition. The over 100 attendees viewed videos, photos, music and digital projects that showcased the approaches and methods used to promote gender equality in German DC projects. The exhibition is still on display in the BMZ’s Lichthof in Berlin and will travel around Germany in the coming months.

Picture above: BMZ - Thomas Imo/photothek.net. From left to right: Taffan Ako Taha, Pramila Patten, Dr. Maria Flachsbarth, Katie Gallus, Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven

Digital Development Debates – Archive

The Future of Labour Is Not Pre-Determined

Interview with Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the situation of labour rights worldwide.

» more

Morocco’s Solar Bet

Morocco’s new solar power plants are expected to support 1.1 million people and hopes are high for a boost in job creation. Yet obstacles still remain.

» more

Women Entering Tech

The Organization ChunriChoupaal does not accept the male bias of the tech industry. Neither in Europe nor in Pakistan

» more

Europe’s Working Poor

In some parts of Europe, garment workers earn less than their Asian counterparts – even if they work for big brands

» more