(29 August, 2013) It will be with very heavy hearts that the EWL Secretariat will bid goodbye to Marie-Anne Leunis, who has been an integral part of the EWL since our inception over twenty years ago. Unfailingly positive, with an encyclopedic knowledge of our membership, Marie-Anne will be very much missed here in rue Hydraulique. Marie-Anne recently wrote a piece about her time in the European Women’s Lobby, and shared some of her fondest memories about her two decades of work for women’s rights and gender equality in Europe. We’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Marie-Anne for everything that she has done to build the European Women’s Lobby, and wish her a very happy retirement.
My name is Marie-Anne and I started to work at the EWL in 1992 as a temporary employee. I must admit that at that time I didn’t have a clue about feminism! As a woman I thought I knew, but I quickly understood that many things still had to be done and that not all women have the same rights as men. So I’m very grateful to our 1st Secretary General, Barbara Helfferich for having taken me on as a full-time staff member in 1993. I also had the chance to start with the ‘newly born’ EWL that was created in 1991. At that time there were only four staff members, including the Secretary General - it was a fantastic learning experience.
When I now think back to those times, even if it was much easier to work in the early nineties than now, mainly because the economic crisis was not as important then as it is today, we can’t forget that for the EWL it has always been a struggle to survive. I remember the yearly call for tenders from the European Commission with the fear of not being selected and of
having to close down! Unfortunately the same situation may be at our door given the uncertainties about the next EU budget, therefore it is vital to work hand in hand together to avoid this situation. When I think of the billions of Euros distributed or granted every year by the European Union, I have always asked myself why such a small amount is put aside for women’s organisations. Even if women in Europe have already gained a lot since the last World War, there is still a lot to be done. I’m thinking in particular of the problem of violence against women and trafficking,
which is increasing a lot unfortunately all over Europe. The EWL is also working on many other issues to facilitate and improve women’s daily life, such as maternity and parental leave, equal pay between women and men, more women in decision-making positions, rights for migrant women in Europe etc . . . the list goes on!
One of my functions at the EWL is to keep in touch with our member organisations all over Europe. At the beginning it was a small group that has increased over the years with the entry of new Member States in the European Union. We have now national member organisations in 31 countries as well as 20 European wide organisations. We work closely with all of them to try to achieve our goals but this is not an easy task, each country and part of Europe is so different and each country has its
own needs and priorities.
My best memory of my time at the EWL is certainly the trip we made to China for the Bejing fourth World Conference on Women in 1995! There we could see that women are working hand in hand together to improve their daily lives, to seek their rights and freedom not only in Europe but worldwide! Now that I have worked for more than 20 years at the EWL, at the end of the summer, it will be time for me to retire and to take enjoy more good times and rest.
I would also like to take this opportunity to ask you to stay a Friend of the EWL for as long as possible and also to ask your friends and relatives around you to support the work of our organisation. Even if our work and the outcomes are not always visible immediately, things move slowly and if we all work together the final result will of course be more significant.
Together we can make a difference!
I will certainly miss you all but look forward to staying in touch.