[Brussels, 18 September 2019] In June 2019, European Women’s Lobby (EWL) members came together in Brussels for our annual European Women’s Forum (EWF), which is included our General Assembly. The event gathered more than 100 feminist activists forfour days of strategising, sharing and mobilising for women’s rights.This year, at our General Assembly, EWL members approved a motion to make some additions to EWL’s Internal Rules – one of these additions guaranteed continued full membership for existing EWL members even if the country they represent changes its formal relation with the EU. This change to our Internal Rules means our UK National National Coordination remains a member of the EWL regardless of Brexit.
EWL General Assembly and the change of our Internal Rules
The General Assembly is the main decision-making body and EWL’s highest authority. It is composed of delegates from our full members, including National Coordinations and EU-Wide Organisations. This year, the possibility of Brexit required us to reflect on a motion requesting an additional paragraph in the Internal Rules that would guarantee continued full membership for an existing member of EWL in good standing regardless of a change of a country’s formal relation with the EU – these provisions were not foreseen in the EWL Statutes nor our Internal Rules. The motion was unanimously passed by our General Assembly who showed great support and solidarity with the UK Joint Committee on Women, EWL’s UK National coordination. It was an emotional moment for many members.
Our President Gwendoline Lefebvre from France added “Sisterhood and solidarity are the core values of our Feminist Movement. The UK National coordination is one of the founding members of the EWL. Today this motion concerns our British colleagues but tomorrow it could concern other colleagues. We must show support and keep our sisters with us, making sure that solidarity and sisterhood of our Feminist Movement go beyond the political context”.
Emma Ritch, Director of Engender Scotland adds: “Engender has been proud to represent Scotland in Europe as part of the UK Joint Committee on Women, and are delighted that this relationship is set to continue for many years, regardless of political changes in the UK. The European Women’s Lobby offers a vital space for us to work with other national women’s coordinations to amplify our voices on advocacy, collaborate on campaigns at a national and European level, and push back against the rise of populism that is undermining women’s equality and rights.
Brexit continues to be a concern as the unclear direction of the UK on its review of domestic legislation post-Brexit puts the future of women and girls in Scotland in a precarious position. While women’s voices have so often been ignored in these constitutional discussions, it was incredibly moving to see women from across Europe holding their voting cards high in support of continued solidarity and sisterhood with the UK. We are looking forward to continuing to work with our sister organisations, both across the four nations of the UK and throughout Europe, for a feminist Europe.”
At EWL, we believe that as a feminist cross-border association, we must continue to support and work in solidarity with our sisters in the UK, regardless of whether they are a European Union member or not, and this applies to all our National Coordinations. Catherine Fookes, Director of the Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales, commented: ‘We are delighted that the feminist movement in Europe has voted to keep the UK in the European Women’s Lobby whatever happens to the UK’s status with Brexit. The network is a huge benefit to us in the UK and will help us ensure we can safeguard women’s rights here post Brexit.’
Emma Johnston from the Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform (NIWEP) also expressed her joy at the solidarity shown at the General Assembly: "Working with sisters across Europe, as four nations of the UK and on an island of Ireland basis has been crucially important to us in Northern Ireland throughout all the years of EWL. It has supported us in building sustainable peace, securing women’s reproductive and health care rights and working to the goal of ensuring women’s substantive equality. For the women of Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole it’s of utmost importance that we continue working collaboratively with our sisters across all of Europe and the European Women’s Lobby is vital as a European Network to focus on all aspects of a flourishing feminist Europe".
Written by Teodora Nguen, former Membership & Communications Intern